LH: You’re just back from the ‘O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships’ in Texas how did that go?
DW: Texas was brilliant – I didn’t win, but I got quite far and it was a massive laugh, it was a bit of a cultural exchange of punning. Before I left my Mum said “Texas when you land”, but I was in a State when I arrived there. My friend and I tried to sneak into a Rodeo dressed as Dinosaurs, but the Bronco saw us.
(Click here to view a video of Darren in action at the ‘O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships’)
LH: They didn’t always understand you?
DW: I could write a whole essay about it. It was quite funny because beforehand I got a long email from the guy organising it, saying:
“ I don’t think they’re going to get you here, but you should come anyway”.
I re-sent that, which was a bit Fwd.
It’s more like a spelling bee than stand up – they just rattle them off in quantity – they don’t stop for laughs – it’s just about getting as many of them out there as possible, and then I turn up dressed as a chicken…
On top of that they had trouble understanding my accent. I was in a bar and said, “Excuse me, can you tell me where the toilet is?” and the barman said [Texas Accent] “I got the excuse me bit….”
The girl that won did a pun on every US president chronologically – it was brilliant, though it obviously helped if you knew every single US President… Chronologically.
My favourite President is Berocca Bama. He’s so full of vitality.
LH: Any plans to go back – now that doing it once has set a president?
DW: I’ll probably go back, but I’ll be dressed as a bee. I’m good at spelling bee.
LH: Did winning the UK pun Championships have any effect on the career?
DW: The best thing that has come of it, is that I’ve now got a publisher for the book I was already working on – it will have 1000 jokes and 300 drawings. It’ll be in shops in November. Which is novel.
LH: Any more puns about people purchasing your written material and you’ll be brought to book.
Do you consider this your best year in Comedy so far?
DW: Technically yes, but I’d say 2013 was amazing for me, having done my first 30 minute solo show. To be honest, any year is better than 2001, when I worked for an American clothing retailer. That was my Gap year.
LH: Do you find the run up and time in Edinburgh daunting at all?
DW: Yes, a little bit – I’m doing a whole new show of new material this year – and my material is really exhausting. I remember Trevor Lock seeing me do 20 minutes a couple of months ago and saying “You’ve got a whole hour – you just need to slow down!”
The worst part about Edinburgh is finding a hard drive reliable enough to record all my footage. It’s 25 gigs.
LH: You should have tried London to Edinburgh cross-country – that’s a hard drive…
So you’re just sticking to the thirty minute format for now?
DW: It works for me. If someone saw an hour of me doing this it would be totally exhausting – for me and the audience!
I told some people that there would be a 'Matt Damon' joke every 60 seconds and they believed it.
One Bourne every minute.
LH: Right, I’m giving you an ultimatum…
But they’re laughing?
DW: Yes, it works really well, but because it’s so much content, I think an hour would be too much to take in! I want my hour show to be an ‘hour show’ not an hour of my set. I’m also doing the hour show with Leo Kearse – Atella the Pun , I’m doing the Big Value Showcase at Just the Tonic again too.
LH: Would you have a theme for the ‘hour show’?
DW: Yes, but my concentration span is so short, so I’m going have to work hard at that style of show.
LH: Why Puns?
DW: Well, I don’t just do puns, I actually started out doing surreal stuff – I didn't even intend on doing comedy, I just thought I’d give it a go for a bit – maybe a week or a month – I just wanted to see how it would go, if I could do it, but now I can’t stop doing it.
But I did just start off just trying to be weird – I’d go on stage, put on a pair of underpants and just scream ‘BRIAN!’
I then started putting in puns and at first people were saying “Oh, God” – but I’d never written a single joke four years ago, now I’ve got 2000.
I never used to appreciate audiences who didn’t like puns, but now they’ve groan on me.
LH: How’s Brighton treating you?
DW: Chicken meow has had two outings – the first show was a bit rocky – the first time I was running the show out – the second one went fantastic with brilliant reactions, so I’m looking forward to the next two at the end of the Brighton Fringe.
The great thing about this show was that so many people came to see me after seeing me last year they were back again ‘Chicken Meow’.
I’m looking forward to the next two at the end of the May.
That reminds me, a bunch of Morris Dancers asked me to go canal boating with them. I said “I wouldn't touch your barge with a may pole.
LH: Well, morris dancers to have a lot of stick to put up with...
How tall are you?
DW: 6 foot 8 – I think I’m the tallest on the circuit along with Greg Davies. I never mention my height in my set. Weirdly I don’t get heckled about it, but I do get it in the street. That’s where the show ‘I am a Giant’ came from. People would come up to me and just ask me ‘How tall are you?’ ‘Do you play basketball?’ “Are your parents tall?” so in the end I got these business cards printed with ‘I am a Giant’ on them – nothing else – no contact details – and I’d give them one of these, they’d laugh and then I’d just walk away without saying a word.
It's nice being a Giant but I think I’ve got an obsessed fan. She's beanstalking me.
LH: That’s just another tall story isn’t it? Who or What made you get started in Comedy?
DW: I’ve always been obsessed with comedy – watching Monty Python, Spike Milligan, the Fast Show, Big Train, and Limmy – which is the thing best on telly – it’s on BBC Scotland.
I just did a workshop and I didn’t really think I’d do it – I just thought it would be nice to have my mates come and see me do a five minute set. I was just inquisitive and it went from there.
LH: You rely on technology for your show – has it ever let you down?
DW: It did at first – I tried various ways to set it up – I had a foot pedal which I had to bend down to and because I’m so tall it took so much time bending down that it didn’t work. Then I switched to a remote control, but it meant I had to remember the order of all the sound cues – if I skipped a bit the tracks would be out of sync.
Now I manage to incorporate the sound cues into the set, with the sound board and that works.
LH: Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
DW: Sound-check obviously, I write jokes on the back of my hand, because I have a terrible memory – and I have a terrible memory.
LH: Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
DW: I have a terrible memory.
LH: What do you do when people say “Tell me a joke”?
DW: I say “Give me a subject” – It doesn't bother me. Then I continue telling jokes and they move away to the other side of the room.
LH: Who’s your comedy hero?
DW: I look up to Tony Law, Paul Foot, Kevin Eldon, Harry Hill – more the surreal side of things – alternative comedy side – I don’t think there’s enough of that on Telly.
People watch TV stand-up and expect that when they go to a comedy club. When you get a truly original act, the audience are afraid to laugh because they haven’t seen it before.
LH: If you could make Leo Kearse [Darren's comedy partner for Atella the Pun] stop bullying you on Facebook, would you take the opportunity?
DW: No because it makes him look like a maniac. While he was in Australia he was still managing to fall out with people half-way around the world.
LH: Most embarrassing comedy moment?
DW: There have been a few deaths…
Another weird thing – during Edinburgh 2012 a couple of bloggers came along after seeing me in London – after the show they came up and said “That’s a five star review!”
During 2013 they came back again to see me doing the ‘Giant’ show , sat in the front, the show went pretty well, but they hated it – they didn’t laugh and walked out at the end without saying a word – no five star review that year!
Darren Walsh is appearing at "The HobGoblin in Brighton on 30, 31 May @ 8pm
Darren’s shows in Edinburgh are Chicken Meow @ The Hive @ 7pm, 31st July – 25th Aug (Except 12, 16,17,18 Aug)
Darren’s book “Human Beatbox” will be hitting the bookshelves in November 2014
Interview by Lewis Bryan © 2014 Laughing Horse Comedy /Lewis Bryan
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