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Amie Mulderrig quizzes comedian Arthur Smith on his comedy and gets a laugh at his expense
THE last time I saw comedian Arthur Smith, he was on stage at the Harrow Arts Centre, using a local journalist’s story about filling out a lottery ticket as fodder for one of his wry observations.
“That wasn’t your story was it?” the 58-year-old rasps, when I remind him of the incident.
It wasn’t. But that didn’t stop me from pretending so on the night.
And when Arthur asked audience members to write down reasons why they were grumpy, so he could read them aloud, I used the opportunity to take mock offence at his critique.
“That’s quite a witty thing to do, very topical,” he chuckles heartily. “That was pretty sharp to claim you had written it to get a laugh.”
Nothing and no-one is safe from Arthur’s comedy; a blend of surrealism, sarcasm, social commentary and one-liners.
A well-respected stand-up comic, he’s also a radio presenter and makes regular appearances on television comedy panel shows – many will recognise him from his stint on Grumpy Old Men.
When he’s not on the comedy circuit he’s the self-proclaimed Night Mayor of Balham and takes his duties very seriously. “I don’t get up too early, I mooch around Balham and sometimes I’ll wear my mayoral chains. They were created by some lesbians who live upstairs.”
Thankfully Arthur, real name Brian, has found time to bring his unique form of alternative humour to Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Pub next week.
“Before I walk out on stage, I always think to myself, blimey, this is a bit nerve wracking.
“You have to focus like sprinters looking down the line. You’re trying to remember everything you want to say and forget it too, so that you say it spontaneously.
“I also always demand a chaise longue, an opium pipe and a copy of Racing Weekly in my rider. Not really, all I ever want is a cup of coffee, white, no sugar, please. That always seems difficult to get hold of.
“This Walthamstow set won’t follow the same format as the Harrow gig. It’s going to be in Chinese, it’s the way forward,” he chortles. “Come along, don’t come along, I don’t care. But if you don’t your life will be worthless.”
A self-confessed class clown, Arthur started his comedy career at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and spent the 1980s doing stand-up. His worst heckle, he admits, came courtesy of a punter from a Scottish backstreet boozer, who decided to tip a pint of urine over him.
He’s teetotal after a near brush with death from pancreatitis and he says he’s sacrificed a lot of late night dinner parties for his career.
“I can’t complain,” he says, “but my liver would disagree. There are not many jobs where you get to work and find everyone drinking, it’s quite rare actually.
“I suppose the upside of being a comedian is while you’re on the Tube on your way to work, I’m lying on my arse in bed on a Monday morning.
“But the high point of my career so far is managing to avoid Edwina Currie backstage at a corporate gig,” he sniggers. “The low point? When she knocked on my hotel room door.”
And, despite giving the impression he is always grumpy, Arthur says he isn’t really, except for two hours a day, “a natural response to the stupidity that services the world.”
So Arthur, what makes you laugh?
“Proud, self-important men falling over. Other people’s discomfort and misery too is pretty hilarious.
“As for who I think is funny, well, the funniest comedian of my generation has to be Lembit Opik.
“He only did a couple of gigs, but Jesus he was good,” he says, tongue firmly in cheek. “He didn’t have any jokes did he? Because of that it was comedy.”
Arthur Smith will be at Guffaw Comedy Club, Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Pub, Hoe Street, Walthamstow, on Thursday, March 7, from 8.30pm.
Details: 07971712019 or www.roseandcrowntheatrepub.webeden.co.uk