Interview: Eric Lampaert
Eric Lampaert (Lamb Pear) is French and quite good at comedy (Latitude New Act Of The Year 2010, T4 Rising Star 2012). He’ll be popping up to Yorkshire for Laughter Lines | Leeds Comedy Festival later this week, but before all that he found the time to talk to Pete Starr about writing actual jokes, the best breakfast in Leeds and how his striking looks gained him national fame of one sort or another via FRONT magazine…
PS: At Laughter Lines you’re treating the people of Leeds to a work in progress show; what will that entail and what can people expect?
EL: It’s just going to be simply an hour of fun, straight stand up. Because I’m not going up to Edinburgh this year, there’s not going to be any themes. The audience aren’t going to learn anything from it.
PS: You took your debut hour up to Edinburgh last year – how was that?
EL: It was rubbish! No it was ok, it was nice. It was fine. A lot of the reviews were nice to me as a performer, you know they were sort of like ‘you’ve got it’ and were really positive about me as a personality and rated my ability to improvise; but all of them were critical of how my show was structured and even the amount of jokes, ‘cos I‘m used to improvising a lot of my stuff. But basically they all said the writing was lacking and you know when the audience wasn’t quite on board with me playing around; I didn’t have much material to fall back on. I like to think every show was completely unique and a lot of the time the audience had a great time as I did as well, but there were times when it was a bit shambolic.
And that used to make for fun and quite memorable show at times, but it doesn’t make for a consistently strong show, especially at the level I am. I really look up to Ross Noble but I can’t forget that Ross Noble does write a lot and he’s got a massive audience. This is no criticism of him at all, but he knows he can get away with stuff and that’s because his audiences already love him. But yeah, he writes loads and I never used to do that, I never used to really write. So if I improvised a bit and it went well, awesome. But if I improvised and it went badly then I had nothing to fall back on. So essentially that’s what I’m now working on – the stuff to fall back on. So up at Leeds, I’m still going to improvise and muck about with the audience, but am also going to do proper jokes.
PS: Reviewers have this fascination with the rules of comedy and the like, don’t they?
EL: Ha ha, yes, they do! I mean for example there was one show where there was only 16 people in so I got everyone on the stage and did the show in the round which was plenty of fun and everyone had a bit of a unique time. But at the same time I need to show people that I can do it, as in a proper show, if that makes sense?
PS: So are you working on that aspect of your performance for the future?
EL: Yeah, obviously. I’m not going up this year so it gives me a bit of time to work things out for a really strong hour in 2013. I’m actually quite looking forward to not doing Edinburgh. I’ve done it for the last four years: the first year I worked in a bar, the second year I sort of hovered around, the third year I shared an hour with Joel Dommett and last year did my first solo hour. It’s quite nice to know that I can take a break and really get the second hour ready.
So yes, I’m going to be back up for the 2013 Fringe. I think that will be a really big Edinburgh for me. I kind of already know what it’s about and I’m going to tackle some of that at the Leeds show. It’s basically about the fact that Mexico has stolen my face…
PS: The comedy scene in the North is really flourishing at the moment – do you get to gig up here often?
EL: Not all the time, but every time I do come up it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air. I really do enjoy it up North. Maybe I’ve just been lucky with audiences but every time I’ve come up the audiences are just so up for it.
I mainly perform in London, which is great because I get to gig loads and I get to try out plenty of new material because there are so many little clubs – but sometimes the audiences are such a bunch of cunts. They’re sat there like, ‘Mate I’m in London, I could be doing 100 other things tonight – make me laugh!’
I know this sounds really patronising, but when I come up North, it feels like, ‘Ooh, the circus is coming along to town this week’ and everyone’s there to enjoy themselves. The audiences turn up and are on your side. I grew up with people telling me folks up North are a bunch of bastards, but that’s rubbish. I think they’re the best.
PS: Any specific gig highlights then?
EL: Yeah! I’ve gigged in Darlington with Hilarity Bites, which was great. The guy who runs that [promoter Neil Jollie] puts on some quality gigs, so I’ve really enjoyed them. I also done Leeds University with Alex Zane last year and I had a great time again – it was really lovely. But I tell you the one thing I love about Leeds -I’m sure you already know it – the day after the gig we went to Popina’s (PS: A legendary greasy spoon at the heart of Hyde Park – THE place to mope around looking hung-over in LS6) and I did the Mega Challenge Breakfast. God, it was amazing. I made it on the completion chart on the wall, I was well happy. The thing is, all you get in the end is a bloody key ring…
PS: Indeed; Popina’s is an institute. Do you ever read FRONT magazine? It got featured in there a few months back for its banging breakfasts.
EL: Yeah. Well, basically, I was in FRONT. You know the back page where there’s ‘The Cuntdown’? (A monthly feature where readers submit entries for the Top Ten Cunts, along with their reasons for inclusion) I made number 5 on the Cuntdown!
In all fairness I was quite keen that I made it on there. I’m always game for a laugh. I didn’t mind being on there; what did annoy me was how poor the submission was! The guy that nominated me, he should be on the bloody Cuntdown for such a rubbish submission. All it consisted of was that I was ‘a weird looking cunt’. You could do so much better than that. Sure, I’m a cunt, but be more poetic for God’s sake.
PS: How very Gallic! I’ve seen you a couple of times now and on both occasions you have been ruthless with hecklers or anyone being rude in the audience. Are you always like that or was that just a couple of days when you thought – ‘I’m not having it’?
EL: I guess I am ruthless when people are rude but, for example, I don’t do Jongleurs type gigs because it’s not want I want to have to do; I don’t want to have to be ruthless with people in the audience. I want people who are there to enjoy themselves and people are more than welcome to chip in. I enjoy getting heckled and I love it when people get involved in my shows ‘cos it makes that gig unique to both them and me, which is nice.
But when people come into a club and then sit and talk, I think that is really rude and when I’m compere I try to bring it down really slowly. As a compere, it is your job to keep the calm and keep the peace, but still put them down a bit. I’ve never soured the atmosphere to the point where it can’t be recovered but, you know, hopefully if they get destroyed then they don’t do it again. I don’t know, it’s just polite if you’re in a (comedy) club. It’s not just on stage though; if people are rude to me in everyday life then they are going to get some comeuppance…
PS: Has that policy ever come back to bite you on the arse?
EL: Absolutely! Yes. You know Paul Sweeney? He mentioned how it was a very French thing to do. (Obviously I’m French.) But it did make me laugh when he said it, and it’s very true; how British it is just to ignore someone talking in your gig. I try and handle these things well, but if someone pisses me off they tend to know about it. On stage it can be very funny, which is great, but in everyday life it tends to cause a few more problems…
PS: You spoke earlier about your ‘unique gigs.’ Can you give me an example of a particularly odd or memorable one?
EL: There’s been a few. I did one in Abergavenny once which was a more memorable one – sort of following on from the last point really. I was on third and there was a group of lads who were being rude throughout. They were rude to the first act and the compere and then the second. Luckily, if you’re on later you can prepare a bit for the audience and you have some time to think and prepare for their rudeness. So I did this, not really with any jokes but more with an attitude.
I went on, and put one of them down, and won them over a little bit, and they quietened down. But then they came back and I was thinking ‘Fuck! You’re so rude!’ So I laid into them, and one of them was a politics student looking to go into politics. I took the piss out of him because, despite his career choice, he was grammatically very uninteresting and seemed to be very nervous when he was talking to me, but with his chums he was jabbering away fine. So I started taking the piss and telling him he was shit with words, which he was denying. Then I took it a stage further and told him that I could take him in a rap battle to prove it. This got the crowd going wild and his table of mates were strangely excited about this, so I let him on stage.
And you know, I’ve got a couple of lines I’ve always got in my head so I wasn’t making it all up; but I tried to improvise a few times and ended up coming out with some rubbish like, ‘Yeah mate, you know what? You are nothing, I’m gonna eat you up like a muffin!’ Nothing too clever, then, but he started acting like the big man and asked, ‘Well, isn’t it my turn now?’ Not expecting this, I was like, ‘Yeah, all right’ then gave him the microphone as if to say, ‘Good luck, mate!’
As it turned out, he was like a professional rap battler. He absolutely fucking slammed me! He was bringing out stuff about my t-shirt; it was clearly all improvised. He was laying into me about everything that I’d just said and did. It was one of the most memorable gigs ever and it kind of brought the whole audience together and united the gig. After that it was a really nice show!
I mean, they were still cunts, but there was a bit of friendship afterwards and I let him know he’d got me good and we hugged it out there on stage. That was one of my weirdest moments on stage.
PS: Is there anyone else you’re going to try and get to see at Laughter Lines then?
EL: I haven’t actually seen the full programme yet. I’m sure it’s going to be a great week – I’ll try and see as many people as I can. I’m doing this thing called PLEB, which sounds extremely fun (stand up meets TED talks). It sounds right up my street, so I’m really looking forward to that. But I guess it’s just great to support live comedy – I love supporting my friends when I can.
Those wanting to catch Eric Lampaert in West Yorkshire can do so this Sunday at The Packhorse from 7pm. All the details of his show – and more on Laughter Lines Comedy Festival – can be found here. Laughter Lines begins on Friday and will run until the following Friday (4th May).