So you thought comedian SEAN HUGHES was cute and cuddly, with a heart of something sweet and sticky. Not if his latest, rather nasty novel is anything to go by.
Words: Brian Donaldson
‘AND THEN I put my penis up this Alsatian.‘ It’s not exactly the kind of thing you expect to hear from a sensitive. cuddly. take-home-to- your-ma-without-fear-of-disinheritance kind of bloke like comedian Sean Hughes.
Not to worry. he is describing the kind of
unreal violence he would rather not read in fiction. What Hughes prefers is what he calls the ‘real‘ violence contained in his second novel The Detainees.
‘I tried to avoid that desire of violence that a lot of writers have.‘ says Hughes of his book. billed as a psychological thriller. ‘The rape
'What interested me was the thought of what would happen if you were shagging someone you didn't like and then you found out your mother died. I'm more interested
in a head fuck.’ Sean Hughes
scene is nasty but very real. What interested
me was the thought of what would happen if
you were shagging someone you didn‘t like and then you found out your mother died. so I just took that idea a step further really. I'm more interested in a head fuck.‘
There are a fair few of those in The Detainees. his first ‘serious’ work of fiction after Sean '3‘ Bank and The Grey Area —— both an extension of his telly work. Drugs. protection
rackets. memory. revenge and violence are all there. as the life of Dublin-based antiques businessman John Palmer is tossed into turmoil. Terror. fear and horror ensue when childhood tormentor Alan ‘Redscr‘ Bulger worms his way back into Palmer‘s life.
This is all some way from Hughes‘s startled bunny impersonations and Morrisscy fixation. but devotees shouldn‘t fret — the comedian hasn‘t lost his sense of humour or ability to know what an audience wants.
‘l think it‘s tedious when writers have reams about chiselled ears and noses — I never pay any attention to that when l‘m rcading.‘ he says. ‘l‘m very anti what people are wearing and what kind of chair they‘re sitting in. Just get me to the action.‘
Of which there will be plenty on stage as he brings his new show Alihis For Life to Edinburgh. marking a diversion from his previous Festival appearances.
For one thing. the run is more sustained than the one or two-offs Hughes has been performing. ‘Mainly because I couldn‘t handle the late-night drinking and then going into detox for a while.‘ he says. And another thing . . . "l‘his show is more of a narrative.’ he insists. ‘I just wanted to get away from cat
Sean Hughes: no more apologies
and dog jokes. The way my stand-up was going. I did generically funny stuff for the first twenty minutes to show I could still hack it and then get into the meat of the act. Now. I‘m making no more apologies. just straight into a story.’
And straight out of the medium which made him a student-household name. ‘Tclevision just doesn't interest me at the moment.‘ says Hughes. ‘The medium is just getting crapper as time goes on. i really can’t be arsed.‘
But Sean. this means celebrity cold turkey —— less people recognising you in the street. ‘My ambition isn’t to be well-known.’ he says. ‘A couple of guys on a moped recognised me and were going Sean ’3 Show, Sean 3' Show and then they threw an egg at the car. ljust wanted to know why two guys would have an egg on them at night. Did they go out going “keys. wallet. egg”‘?‘
In Sean’s world. they most probably did.
The Detainees is published by Simon And Schuster on 2 Sep. Sean Hughes (Book Festival) Post Office Theatre, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, 0131 228 5444, Mon 18 Aug, 3pm, £4 (£2). Hughes is at Waterstone's. 13 Princes Street. Sat 23 Aug, 2pm, free. Alibis For Life (Fringe) Sean Hughes, George Square Theatre (Venue 37) 0131 650 2001. 15-29 Aug, 8.15pm, £9 (£8).
15—21 Aug 1997‘I’HE usr2s