Paul Foot is premiering his new show Dissolve this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe before touring the UK this autumn.
A veteran comedian, Paul is renowned for his famously eccentric and captivating on-stage delivery and absurdity, now accompanied by some “harrowing but funny – I am a comedian after all” personal experiences.
Here are the five moments that have shaped the performer he is today.
Hayes Gagster of the Year Award
In 1997, I won some prestigious new act competitions at the Edinburgh Fringe, but the one that sticks in my mind is winning the totally inconsequential inaugural (and last) Hayes Gagster of the Year Award.
During the presentation they made a big song and dance about the £100 prize money. After my triumph, I went to collect my £100 winnings. The organiser told me that, although I had achieved a huge success, unparalleled in the area of Hayes in modern history, the competition had been a commercial failure and there was therefore no prize money.
I said, “But you told the whole audience about it. I'm the Hayes Gagster of 1997, for frig's sake!”
He reluctantly gave me £100. It was an important lesson in negotiation.
Also, as the awards never happened again, I am still, 26 years on, the reigning Hayes Gagster of the Year. No one can take that away from me.
Perhaps on my 50th year reigning, I shall return to Hayes in triumph. I’m sure the people of Hayes will be absolutely blown away.
Last Comic Standing
I'll always remember performing in the US television programme, Last Comic Standing, a sort of X-Factor for professional comedians from around the world.
The semi-finals were in a large theatre in Las Vegas, with 15 million people watching on television. I was introduced and came to the stage to do my four-minute set.
I used to suffer with terrible stage nerves, and I was shaking from the start and this only got worse when I realised I was getting no laughter. I soon realised why: the microphone wasn't working.
The stage manager tried to usher me into the wings, while they sorted it out; the audience seemed nervous and concerned for me. Suddenly, something kicked in inside my head and I thought, “I need to put this audience (and myself) at ease. I need them to know that I'm not overawed by the occasion.” I returned to the stage and spent a minute or so doing multiple bows and generally acting silly, while they laughed.
When, a couple of minutes later, I was reintroduced, I received a rapturous welcome, the ice had been broken, and my set went down so well that I got through to the final of the competition.
After that I never got stage nerves again. After going on in front of 15 million people with a broken microphone, and still making the gig work, I thought, you know, 146 people in Bolton – 34 of whom are a bit hostile – doesn't really worry me any more.
In 1998, I performed at a club in Prestwick that was renowned for being rough. Prior to this, all the other comedians on the circuit had laughed at the prospect of me playing there, as they considered me totally inexperienced, with humour too weird and unsuited to the place.
My expectations were low as I took to the stage and so I must have just relaxed and it went unexpectedly brilliantly. I even had fun ridiculing various tough-looking audience members.
Afterwards, a man came up to me and said, “Oi, mate! I'm the kickboxing champion of Scotland. You took the piss out of me – and I loved it!”
We enjoyed a few drinks together after the show, mainly Malibus; as the kickboxer explained to me that, since he was the alpha male of his town, he had nothing to prove, and so didn't need to bother with beer and could just enjoy the coco-nutty rum flavours.
Booed off stage
In 2007, I was booed off at some holiday park gig on the south coast somewhere. I say booed “off”, but I refused to leave, continuing to do my comedy despite a massive amount of boos and hate.
Someone filmed it, and put it on YouTube, attempting to destroy me, but it turned into a sort of cult touchstone, where it got loads of views from people who really like me and thought the whole thing was brilliant, watching me battle and refuse to back down in the face of a load of abuse, and they all started commenting saying how great it was, and it turned into a big argument in the comments section, and the person who posted the video hated this of course, so took it down.
But luckily we suspected this might happen so saved a copy before they did, so we can see it here: youtube.com
Never Mind the Buzzcocks
The first time I appeared on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, I'd never even watched the programme and knew next to nothing about pop music. Though this might seem to the untrained observer like a severe disadvantage, it actually meant that I approached the show in a way that people previously hadn’t, and just made up answers about pretend rock bands and popstars that didn’t exist, which was a big success.
I was also the first guest to ever leave the desk and personally inspect the line-up parade at close range like a top detective/sleuth trying to work out who the imposters were.
It was the obvious thing to do, really. I don’t know why everyone hadn’t done that. Anyway, the rest, as they say, is history – ie. the programme got axed and everyone lost their livelihoods.
Dissolve is Paul Foot’s most personal, surprising and ground-breaking show to date. Paul will be playing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August and tickets are available here. He will then be on a UK wide tour with Dissolve, tickets available here.