Interview: Adam Bloom
If you take a look at Adam Bloom’s website you’ll find a sketch of him holding a giant Rubik’s Cube. He’s not trying to be cool or quirky, honest; as Adam tells us, he thinks the cube captures a lot of his personal traits: “something slightly mathematically, quick-thinking, logical…a child of the 80s.” Ahead of his return to the North East in July, Radio Teesdale’s Peter Dixon caught up with him for a chat about his ever-changing life, his love of magic and whether he’ll be returning to the Fringe any time soon…
PD: Hello Adam. It’s been a while since we last spoke – how are things in your life?
AB: My life has changed quite drastically. I’ve left London, learned to drive at the age of 40, have a second child on the way and I have a two year old daughter. So in the last three years I’ve gone from being a central-London non-driver with no responsibilities to a family man with a house and a car. I find driving invigorating because I’ve gone 18 years as a comedian without being able to drive – so that’s a lot of train stations, waiting for connections and staying in hotels. Now I’ve got the freedom of walking out my door, getting in the car, doing the gig and getting back. I love it.
With regards to my daughter, it’s a hectic world, isn’t it? I can’t imagine what it’s like having one child screaming, then another child screaming and being on your own with them. What do you do? I can’t get my head around it.
And another thing I can’t get my head around: how much I love my daughter, then having another child, and finding the love for two! I know you obviously do – I know people with four kids and they love two of them.
PD: The first two usually. You’ve been making people laugh for a lot of years; but weren’t you doing magic at the age of seven?
AB: I was doing magic at seven and I wanted to be a comedian at 10. Magic was something I learnt to do and comedy was something I naturally did. I suppose the inventive side of my brain liked inventing magic tricks. You create a trick, you show your friends and then it exists; whereas comedy has to be performed to exist. You can write a joke but not tell anyone – then it doesn’t really exist. Stand-up needs a proper audience, whereas magic only really needs one person, so I had an outlet for my ideas through just a pack of cards and an imagination.
Then I really bit the bullet and got on stage; except I still did some magic in my set as a bit of a crutch to lean on because I needed the support of knowing that if I couldn’t make them laugh at least I could wow them. I gave up magic very quickly, though, because I needed to prove to myself that I didn’t need it…
PD: I noticed on your website that you think comedy and magic doesn’t work very well…
AB: When a magician does an act it’s obviously prepared – the trick itself is clearly a routine that they’re doing. I know that they’re variations of improvised magic, but the bottom line is when someone pulls out a trick you realise they’re doing something they’ve prepared for you. Therefore when they crack a joke it’s obviously the joke they’ve prepared to go with that particular trick; whereas stand-up has an air of spontaneity to it, especially when you’re improvising.
It even has an air of spontaneity to it when you’re doing material, because you suspend your disbelief that you’re just talking to a funny person. But I hate the contrived-ness that magicians have where they’ll do a routine that’s clearly robotic and rehearsed down to the detail; then they’ll throw away this spontaneous remark in the middle of it. I just think, ‘This is so robotic that we know you’re not thinking on your feet, you’re going through the motions of a clearly prepared routine.’ I just find that really awkward.
That was a very robust description, I know…
I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying I believe it’s rarely done.
PD: I know you’ve got quite an interest in the Rubik’s Cube – where’d that fascination come from?
AB: Well, I was a little Rubik’s Cube wizard as a ten year old. My wife pointed out that it represents so much about me: something slightly mathematically, quick-thinking, logical…a child of the 80s. And it captures all of those things in one image. My record is 29 seconds; the world record is five and a half seconds. It’s so depressing. You think you’ve mastered something and then you see someone who’s really mastered it; we all go through that, don’t we? It’s just another level. The Rubik’s Cube was my party trick.
PD: You were nominated for a Chortle award recently – that must have been pleasing…
AB: What’s exciting is that I’ve not had an award nomination or win since 1999. I won two awards in 1998, I had a nomination in 1999 and then nothing. Then last year I won an animation award – I did the improvised stand-up that was animated; then this year I got the Chortle award nomination. What’s exciting is that my list of things now has 2011 and 2012 on it, as opposed to 1998 and 1999, which has the impression of things kind of tailing off a bit. You could argue that they have in terms of my commercial profile, but I still love doing comedy.
People say awards aren’t important, but the bottom line is it means someone is acknowledging what you’re doing. No-one can deny that nice feeling. The nominations are an industry award, too. They’re voted for by the public, but the nominees are chosen by people in the industry. What’s nice is that people who study comedy for a living are acknowledging me.
I didn’t expect to win it – I expected Alun Cochrane to and he did – and at least I lost it to someone I hugely admire. That can’t be a bad thing.
PD: You’ve not been to Edinburgh for quite some time now. Is it a case of you not needing or wanting to go anymore?
AB: Not really, no! I gave up Edinburgh for Radio 4, then I got married, then I bought a property, and then I did it up, then I had a child. A wedding takes a year, a house takes a year, a child takes a year; the early stages of childhood require a lot of attention and it seems to be every year now that there’s something more important than going to Edinburgh. My second child is due on August 30th of this year, and there’s no way I’m going to Edinburgh and spending the second two weeks in a state of worry. My wife needs a second pair of hands around the house, too. There’s always something. I think I’ve let my Edinburgh career slip and that’s a shame; but at the same time I gave it up for two very good things: a Radio 4 series and my child.
You go to Edinburgh to get stuff like a Radio 4 series, and when you get that you think, ‘I really miss being in Edinburgh.’ Being in Edinburgh should really be about other things, though. It’s a bit like those big bearded bloke you get on University Challenge who knows everything. You think, ‘You need to get a job, mate.’
Edinburgh’s such an exciting place to be – and it’s a honing ground for ideas, which is great. I just think I became big in Edinburgh but not the rest of the world; and surely the objective of going to Edinburgh is to be known around the world. I’ve got friends who are really big in Edinburgh but unknown for the rest of the year. It’s a strange place to be. They kind of look forward to the festival all year round and then they live in this delusion of being hugely successful.
I think it’s quite dangerous. Comedians love being known. I don’t like being hassled in public, but it’s nice to know you can walk into a room and people know and appreciate what you do. In Edinburgh you spend a month of the year feeling like you’re really successful, then you get back to England on 1st September and no-one cares about you and no-one knows who you are. You have to earn their respect again. Imagine walking on stage already loved? You have nothing to prove.
PD: Are you finding it harder to cheer people up in the current economic climate or do you think it’s true that the comedy industry is recession-proof?
AB: There’s the theory that people need to laugh when they’re down and they’ve got money to laugh when they’re up; and I have to say I don’t see anything that disproves that. There are plenty of clubs that still do late shows, the weekend gigs are all busy. Edinburgh last year, right in the middle of the recession, saw record ticket sales.
It’s wonderful; about time I went back there, isn’t it?
Adam Bloom will be at the Newcastle Comedy Festival alongside Dave Hadingham and George Zach on Saturday 28th July. For tickets, see: http://thesagegateshead.org.