Interview: Craig Campbell
JM: So, you’re heading to the North East soon?
CC: Yeah, I’ve got my own shows and of course I’ve been working with my old buddies Stewart Francis and Glenn Wool, which I never thought would be happening fifteen years down the fucking road.
JM: How different was it this time round?
CC: Oh they’re the same guys, same dudes. Both from a comedy point of view and a life point of view, the fact that you’re still working with guys that you were hanging with twenty years ago and having just as much fun doing it, that’s mind-blowing. I never in a moment thought that would happen – ‘See you in twenty years on a tour.’
There’s a similarity with Frankie [Boyle]. Met him in about ’94, and you’d never expect that in 2009 he’d say, ‘You wanna do 120 dates with me?’. It’s like, what? You still wanna be in a fucking room with me?!
JM: It must be quite a different experience touring in solitude and touring with a few buddies I imagine.
CC: Yeah, and the next one is coming up of course at Jesterval in June, and I’m up there in Durham [at the Gala Theatre] and Barnard Castle on my own tour, and what with festivals coming up, there’s never a dull moment.
I’m basically doing a show that they haven’t seen before but invariably through the conversation I have with the audience, something that they have seen before will come out. I’ll say, ‘If somebody has heard this 74 times before stop me! If not, I’ll do it with crazy energy.’ I’ve heard it a thousand times! If I had to do headlights in the daytime as you know it on tour I’d probably have to saw my own fucking head off, but I’ll try and add new information to it as I will tonight.
Retrieving this old information and mixing it with the new is a skill. I’m always amazed when I talk to my oldest friends back in Canada – I’m basically the chronicler of their fucking lives. I’ll be like, ‘Remember when we went ice fishing and you dropped the blah blah?’ and they’ll be like, ‘No.’ ‘For fuck’s sake man, you were standing there, and you had your red truck.’
You realise that people haven’t been doing what I do for a living. They don’t recall stuff, they don’t sit about and talk about their teenage years, it’s like a muscle they don’t use anymore. I have to constantly revisit that old stuff while pumping in the shit from last night and making it seem lucid and smooth – on stage you’ve got a little bird on your shoulder saying, ‘You kinda gotta tighten this shit up man before heckling starts.’
JM: I imagine that’s when the special moments happen – when you riff off something spontaneously…
CC: Yeah, I had a wild one in Liverpool last weekend. Basically at the end of the show some guy gave some jip to me; he was trying of course to be funny but it came out as hurtful and I was immediately knee deep in his mum with a couple of my biker buddies.
Then I kind of pulled back a bit and said, ‘Dude, I don’t want any part in this, I don’t wanna bring up shit I did to your family last night. Where are you coming from with this, are you saying you preferred the show you saw last time?’ He said, ‘Oh, I liked the mushrooms bit’ and it was like, ‘Ooookay, that’s what this is about, you’re heckling cos you didn’t hear a bit that you really liked and you brought someone along to see it?’ I basically watered it down to that.
It was a tiny bit obtuse, and first of all, fucking we’re on this planet for a fucking nanosecond so let’s not shit in each other’s mouths. The bit he was asking about got a really good response from that Dave’s One Night Stand show.
It’s basically a mushrooms story from aeons ago in Canada, about running into the cops when you’re fucking high on mushrooms. I just said, ‘We’re having this little moment now, the show has come to a grinding halt, this is my fucking encore, can I just give you a tiny bit of what I care about in this fucking world and this show – the piece of me that’s absolutely authentic to you?
‘And just so you’re aware, I’ll give you the background story of what actually happened on that night. And I can tell you that I didn’t take a couple of mushrooms, I only say that so it’s palatable to the people in the audience or the TV world, but I was actually ripped out of my fucking skull on acid!’
And then I told him the story I barely once in a million times tell about how the first time that I took acid was the first time that I had ever been tear-gassed, at a riot in a place called Penticton in Canada when I was quite young, because of all things, MC Hammer pulled his concert! So people just went fucking nuts and the tear-gas went off and I was on my first tab of acid.
That story is about fucking nine hours long but I managed to get it down to the required thirty minutes. And for me those are the special moments; from being in a near punch up with a Scouser I was able to tell him, whether he found it hilarious or not, this is what fucking happened that night!
Here I am, a fucking very young guy, I can’t breathe cos of the tear-gas, I’m terrified, too shit-faced to run, and in the most Canadian way, I know you wouldn’t do this in the UK, I know that nobody would be fucking mental enough to do this in the States, but my buddy and I decided to go to the cops!
We turned past the people running from the fucking cops and basically got on our hands and knees and crawled towards them saying, ‘Please don’t hit us, please don’t fucking hit us.’ And a cop came out of the line, lifted up his visor, he must have been near retirement, he had a big gold walrus moustache, and in near tears – that might have been the tear-gas now that I think about it – he said, ‘I don’t want to hit you.’
He said, ‘If you come with me I’ll make sure no one hits you, I don’t want to hit anybody, I wish none of this was happening’, and we fucking crawled off with this old fucking cop and sat in his cruiser through a riot man, blitzed on acid, as shit went on around us, and once shit calmed down we just sort of wandered into the early morning hours.
JM: Your friends must remember that story?
CC: You know what? It was with a guy I’ve almost had no contact with since then, it’s a real shame, he has absolutely gone to ground of all my buddies. He was like my childhood friend from when I was two years old; he just doesn’t communicate with anybody anymore. He had a really tough upbringing, amongst the things I talk about; he had a Danish father who basically used to fucking beat him with a hose, and the worst of anything I’d heard growing up – killed his dog to punish him.
CC: One of the nicest dogs I ever knew in my childhood by the name Pepsi, cos of its cola sort of colour. Shane didn’t clean his room and fucking boom, in the garage. His dad was a psychopath maniac man.
JM: How can you make that funny?
CC: It’s tough. Well, I can tell ya, I tell it when I’m in Denmark! I tell them. I come from a point of view that, when I was younger I used to try and save people’s feelings, but now I’m just like, ‘What the fuck?! Why would I lie to you?’ I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I feel absolutely comfortable in just being like, ‘You know how twisted this is? This twisted.’
JM: Well that’s what humour is for isn’t it, to joke about the bad things in life?
CC: Yeah, you can only imagine somewhere like Denmark – they have that sort of dark sense of humour where they just sort of understand like, ‘Fuck, that’s our parents, famously brutal.’ Basically I just say, ‘Here’s what I know about you guys…’
JM: It’s funny how we do that isn’t it? Based off one experience, that’s the whole nation sussed – so all across Denmark there’s dads killing dogs; ‘Tidy your room or the dog is gone.’
CC: Totally! What else am I gonna do? I adopt that shit first in my mind. Or, I can make some shit up that doesn’t have any relevance. Fuck it, ‘I’m here and here’s my story. This is what I know about you, let’s have a giggle.’
Of course, honesty tends to be the best policy when I’m on stage. That’s when the TV cameras go down, the mainstream element of stand-up goes away, and you’re just like thirty people in a dark room being really fucking honest with each other. To me that’s the humanity of it.
It doesn’t matter if I’m a Calgarian and they’re a Scouser or you’re a fucking Geordie, it doesn’t fucking matter at all, we’re in this boat man, and the best that I can give you is my dead honesty as I look you in the eye. Whether you fucking laugh at that or don’t, whatever you chose to do with it, I’m just telling you, I’ve got nothing to gain from this and I’m not doing this for popularity.