Ticking over mm
Motorrnouth Ben Elton is back on the road, but in no danger of burning out his engine, he assures Andrew Burnet.
Think of Ben Elton. and you‘re tempted towards cliche’s about hyperactivity. The 37-year~old writer and comedian comes to Glasgow this fortnight carrying some baggage. Isn‘t he famous for his rocket-fuelled delivery? Hasn‘t he got his fingers in enough pies to resurrect Crawford’s Bakeries“? is he not. m‘lud. that archetype ofdysfunctional 80s manhood. a . . . workaholic?
‘I wouldn‘t say that at all.‘ he responds without hesitation. ‘In fact it‘s not a question of saying it. I'm not it. And I would know best.‘ he adds with that blend of warm tone and cool logic that make him such a convincing monologuist. So. yes. he has written four novels. three plays and eight sitcoms. the latest of which he also
Ben Elton: no substitute for hard work
comedy routines. But he's also been in the business for some time. ‘l think your career gets all kind of crunched up.‘ he says. of the public perception of him as proliﬁc. ‘I do work pretty hard
or nine hours a day. I don‘t know anyone in the arts who does eight or nine hours' work a day. I certainly don't.‘
In a sense. Elton has been in the entertainment business all his life. He was a compulsive am-drammer in his youth — his appearance as the Artful Dodger in Godalming Theatre Group's l973 production of Oliver! was. he says. ‘As exciting as anything I‘ve ever done.‘ He puts it all down to his compulsion forjoining things. ‘lt might sound pious. but I genuinely enjoy being part of a community.‘ he confesses. ‘I do love a properly-run municipal facility. An efﬁcient bus that‘s on time to me is a thing of beauty. considerably more so than [assumes grave. John Hurt voiceover timbre] the Nissan Pisspor. . . it's a
‘I do love a properly-run municipal facility. An efficient bus that’s on time to me is a thing of beauty.’
driving machine: (lrive il.‘
Elton loves the teamwork involved in producing Thin Blue Line; but in the end he always returns to solo work: writing and stand-up comedy. to which he has just returned after a three-and-a- half-year absence. And the basis of a good show? Perhaps you've guessed — hard work. ‘Two hours of brand-new
hours packed with interesting ideas.‘ Like most comedians. Elton has an apparent spontaneity which can usually be put down to intensive preparation. ‘Obviously you hope there will be an area where something special happens on the night and a new idea will appear, but you can only improvise from strength. If you just wander off and you‘ve nowhere to go. believe me. the improvisation will soon degenerate into party-game non-entity.
‘Something like Whose Line Is It Anyway is great. line. good fun — but it doesn‘t lead anywhere. That kind of improvisation is irrelevant to me. I make observations on things that have occurred to me and they rnetarnorphose into a kind of chain. Every night is a little bit different. but I'm proud to say that actually every night is very similar as well.‘
So there you have the Elton doctrine: work hard. but not too hard. And don‘t forget to play hard too. He apologises for the croak in his voice: ‘I was on the Murphy's after the show last night.‘ But it‘s not like the good old days when he toured with Rik Mayall. getting legless every night. These days he's more likely to spend time off Munro- bagging with his wife. ‘And I'm not saying that because l'm talking to someone in Scotland.‘ he adds. ‘lt is one ofthe things i always think about when I‘m sat in a bloody hotel bar in God-knows-where after a gig wondering what the fuck I‘m
because I like to. but you know. artists are much indulged in that if they do any work at all people go. “oh. how splendid of them." Most people who are lucky enough to have a job do eight
produced (Thin Blue Line. the police satire starring Rowan Atkinson); he has appeared in Kenneth Branagh‘s film of As You Like II. hosted Sararrlay/l’rir/a)‘ Night Live and performed countless
doing . . .‘
Ben lflron. K ing 's Thea/re. Glasgow: The 26/Werl 27 Nov; Usher Hall. Edinburgh. Sun 9 Mar [997.
stand-up comedy is never an easy thing to put together.’ he says. with a craftsman’s pride. ‘I work incrediby hard to make sure that I‘ve got two
FROM TFIE CREATIVE TEAM WHO BROUGHT YOU LAST AuTUMN’s EXHiLARATiNB PRODUCTiDN DP PEN ETRATDR
THE jTRDN THEATRE COMPANY
63 TRONGATE. GLASGOW GI
DIRECTED BY PETER MACKIE BURNS
WITH MATTHEW PIDGEDN AND NEIL MCKINVEN
Two men called Dave meet. Dave and Dave fall in love (though not necessarily with each other). Dave and Dave fall apart and then one Dave dies. in between they form a hilarious double act . . .
Sat 9-Sat 30 Nov 8PM mono". showsnkts. £7.50/£6 conc. E4
SPECIAL OFFER for THE LIST readers 2 tickets for the price of 1 for Tue-Thur performances
The List l5-28 Nov I996 55