e catch up with Andy Parsonsas he prepares to set off on a37 date tour of his new show‘Citizens!’. Kicking off at the end of JanuaryAndy is touring the length and breadth of the UK through into May. In “Citizens!”,the promotional blurb declares, Andyillustrates how as citizens of the world wecould change it, if we really wanted to - if only we could be arsed. But what exactlywill the show consist of?“I’ll be instructing people that they havethe power to do things,” Andy ex-plains, “and then whipping them upinto a frenzy… Fully understandingthat the next day they’ll do absolutelynothing.”It’s a timely subject for him to behandling as we’re constantly remindedthat the world is undergoing greatchanges right now, changes that arehaving a massive effect, and equallythe world is waking up and recognisingthat there is plenty more that urgentlyneeds change.“We live in exciting times.” Andycontinues, “There’s a black man run-ning America and we now own most of our own banks. Some pretty amazingthings have happened in the last sixmonths… And someone’s closed downa Dorset Lapland after a Facebookcampaign. There are things afoot! If people really care about things theycan change things, it’s all about ‘whatdo you care enough about’, and ask-ing those sorts of questions.”Indeed people power can be animpressive and wonderful thing, if thepeople can be bothered. The recentAmerican election saw masses of people turning out to vote who wouldnever normally have made the effort.Is Barack Obama a change Andy canbelieve in?“He’s done a lot in his first 100hours or so… He’s signed off to closeGuantanamo bay, he’s bringing thetroops back from Iraq, he’s going toput global warming at the top of theagenda, he’s saying that science willbe at the forefront, he’s going to lookat the emissions schedule. There area lot of things he’s already said he’sgoing to do in the first 100 hours.Things Bush had no chance of doing,and was in fact doing the complete op-posite for the last eight years.”And in other news… The financialcrisis and the worldwide bankingsystem; again a topic very much of themoment and certainly something inneed of change. Does Andy think thecurrent catastrophe will bring aboutchange in the banking system?“I think they may effect change inthe short term. I think there will besome regulation. There was a timewhen I was growing up when thosebespectacled bastions of society, the bankmanagers, everybody looked up to them,but now most people haven’t a clue whotheir bank manager is and nobody’s gotmuch respect for banks at all. It’s goingto take a long time for them to rebuild therespect if they succeed at all.”Whilst the decision was not ours, we’reall effectively contributing to help sort outthe economy now with tax-payers moneybeing injected into the banking system totry and alleviate the crisis. Does he havefaith in the government’s rescue efforts?“Well a couple of amazing things havehappened haven’t they? One, GordonBrown was supposedly dead and buried,and then after a massive worldwide crisis,biggest worldwide crisis for twenty years,possibly for longer, suddenly his approvalratings are well up again! Secondly, thegeneral feeling was that we were spendingfar too much money and that they were go-ing to have to cut back on the bulk ser-vices… and then suddenly when we’re tightfor money he’s throwing money at it!”Andy’s new stand-up show, “Citizens!”,as you can see comes with an exclama-tion mark and it seems quite fitting for aman who’s on stage delivery seems to lendevery sentence an exclamation mark. Hisexcitable ranting style is unmistakeable andsomething of a trademark these days; butdeep down within is Andy an angry person?“Yeah well I suppose that’s true of every-body isn’t it, we read the papers and wefind out what’s been happening and you’rethinking ‘how has that happened?!’, ‘howare they doing that?!’, ‘why on earth didthey think that was a good idea?!’ and youknow it all spins off that.”Whilst we all keep up with the news fromtime to time and like to read a paper, Andyhas been keeping a close eye on all thingsnewsworthy throughout his comedy career.More recently his angle on topical eventshas been seen on Mock The Week wherehe holds a regular spot, but his satiricalsword was sharpened many moons agoas a lead writer on the classic ITV pup-pet show Spitting Image and contributingsketches for BBC radio show ‘Week End-ing’. Does Andy ever ‘switch off’ and take abreak from keeping a constant professionalawareness of the news?“Well its quite nice to go on holidayand not know what’s happening, but thensometimes it’s quite nice to come back fromholiday to find out what’s been happeningand go ‘ooh I didn’t know that had hap-pened’. You go away for a week and there’salways a lot that’s happened; people havedied, people have resigned, you know vari-ous things have occurred… I do gigs everyTuesday night, a show called ‘The CuttingEdge’ in London [weekly topical comedynights at the Comedy Store]. So in someways you’ve always got to be on top of what’s been happening that week.”Comedy wasn’t an immediate career choice for Parsons, but his passion for humour began to take hold whilst studyingat Cambridge University where he met hislong time comedy partner Henry Naylor.The two of them have worked extensivelytogether as well as enjoying nine seriesof their own show on Radio 2 ‘Parson’sand Naylor’s Pull Out Sections’. It was theacting bug that brought them together andthen later saw them both taking importantroles in the running of Footlights, but it wasLaw that brought Andy to Cambridge in thefirst place.“I had absolutely no interest in doinglaw from day one. I’d done scienceA-Levels and I hated science A-Lev-els. They didn’t let me do English atuniversity because I’d done scienceA-Levels, and so it had to be somesort of crossover topic and that wasLaw, but I had no intention of ever practising it.”Joining the ever growing list of well-known Footlights alumni, AndyParsons and Henry Naylor were ClubSecretary and President respectivelyfor the year 1989-90, with other no-table names such as Sue Perkins andBen Miller rising through the ranksbehind them.“I didn’t really know much aboutFootlights until I was there, and in factreally what kindled my interest in someways was the National Student The-atre Company, I managed to get up toEdinburgh with them for a couple of years, and that was much more whatstarted me off on that path as it were.”Comedy has found itself newsworthyof late, with Mock The Week also be-ing dragged out into the scrutiny of thetabloid’s morality guardians followingthe infamous Ross/Brand affair. It’s aninteresting time to be a comic, particu-larly when working for the Beeb.“ The BBC has got to put out stuff for all tastes and for the
todecide what should be on the BBC Ithink would be a mistake. The fact thatthere were two complaints after theoriginal [Russell Brand] show and thenafter a concerted campaign for twoweeks you’ve got 40,000 complaintsfrom people who hadn’t been of-fended… But they might be offended…And of course off they went and foundout they were offended… It didn’tseem the right way to go. But it’ll beinteresting as far as I’m concerned, interms of, if and when Mock The Weekreturns, how that will affect all theseproducers who have to tick boxes…It’ll certainly make putting together atopical TV comedy show a more pain-ful experience.”Mock The Week came ‘under fire’when the
highlighted aFrankie Boyle joke broadcast shortlyafter the Ross/Brand affair exploded ina mini-scandal that’s been widely deridedfor its delayed reaction, the show havingfirst aired eighteen months previously.“You’re always gobsmacked when peoplecomplain about stuff that happened some-time in the past, it seems remarkable. Butbasically it’s just people trying to sell pa-pers isn’t it and in some ways it’s a shamethat were just giving them extra publicity byrepeating the name of their publications.”Andy Parsons is on tour now. See
for dates, venues and booking information.
Ian Phillips got topical with the star of Mock The Week and The Lost Weblog Of Scrooby Trevithick ahead of his new UK tour...