Interview: Mike Wozniak
Mike Wozniak is currently touring the UK with his 2013 Edinburgh Comedy Award nominated show, Take The Hit. Radio Teesdale’s Peter Dixon caught up with our favourite stache-modeller to talk about the show, character comedy, the demise of BBC Three, working with Greg Davies on C4 sitcom Man Down and more.
PD: Hi Mike. How are things going on the tour?
MW: Lovely, thanks. It’s a tour that’s been scattered over many months but I’ve had a lovely time. Just having a lovely time really.
PD: I’m interested to know, what’s on your passport? What do you call yourself as you do so many different things don’t you?
MW: Tricky one. Just sort of general unfocused good-timer, I would say. I have a nice old time doing what I do, I bloody love it. And, yeah, I guess the word comedian kind of encompasses all of it.
If I get employed to do some acting or some writing it’s comedy. No one has ever trusted me with the serious stuff, partly because there’s this great big stupid moustache in the middle of my face.
I will occasionally shave it off to try and show casting directors, the man has range. And they say, well no we’ve got people without a moustache thanks very much, we want to hire the moustache and not you, cheers. So it’s all comedy stuff in one way or another.
PD: You’ve done a fair amount of writing for other people as well. Do you find that enjoyable or do you prefer writing for yourself?
MW: The writing I’ve done has been for people I like very much and they’re often sort of mates as well as being colleagues in the comedy world. So it’s always good fun and it’s certainly less pressured, I think.
I don’t know that I necessarily prefer one or the other. If someone asked me to write them a script I’d very happily do it. Most of what I do write, though, is for me or for me and associated people. It can be quite a fun task to write for someone else, and not in your own voice as well, for other projects. So I’ll take it all on. Unfocused, as I’ve said. Whatever comes my way I’m very happy to do.
PD: Your new show, Take The Hit, was nominated for Best Comedy Show at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. Tell us about that…
MW: Edinburgh’s a funny one because it’s just so vast and you just have to take up something that you love and you’re happy to stand by. And the show I took up in the first couple of weeks was a bit of a struggle if I’m honest.
I mean, I was at The Stand in Edinburgh which is just a completely wonderful club and I love it, but it was a very early show. It was on about ten past noon. It was very difficult to persuade people to come, and the first couple of weeks were very quiet. And the first reviews, really, in those couple of weeks, were quite ambivalent.
There were a few people who just sort of didn’t really get what was happening. The show is all about my mother-in-law moving in and trying to get around to doing an actual show. And I think there are a couple of reviews who sort of took it all as a sort of a genuine event, a man having a genuine melt down rather than a comedian trying to do a piece of entertainment for some people and they sort of protested at this strange mess.
But yeah, about two weeks in, Chortle came in on the list and they liked it and then some bums on seats began to follow and it sort of whipped up into a its own nice little buzz which was lovely. I was extremely thrilled with those last couple of weeks.
PD: And doing a sort of character piece like that, is that more of a challenge than doing regular stand-up or telling stories? Do you have to put more of a thought-process into it?
MW: I think it’s probably much harder to do proper stand-up to be honest. The closer that you’re talking about something in your own genuine voice I think the harder it is because extraordinary bizarre things don’t really happen to normal people that much and most people are quite keen to hide their ugly side or their transgressive thoughts.
I hugely admire people who can stick to their guns and just be a sort of normal human but just an extremely funny human. Whereas for me I find it easier to sort of detach slightly and be a sort of clown. Maybe it’s a cheap get-out in a way but I’m more comfortable there.
PD: Do you have a master plan?
MW: There is no master plan, I can tell you that. There is no plan whatsoever. I don’t think I’m bright enough for a master plan really.
What I write tends to be just what kind of tumbles out. So this show happened to be what was on my mind. It’s sort of based on real events.
It certainly wasn’t a pitch for a TV format or anything along those lines. And in terms of other characters, when I do lots of other characters it tends to be as part of this sketch team that I’m part of. We’ll just sort of write for the medium that we’re given.
And, yeah, I just sort of work away and gig away and scribble away and get the odd acting job and things. Nice things just sort of happen, basically. So I’ve absolutely no idea what I’ll be up to in five years’ time. I’ve got no idea. I might be on a cruise ship. Who knows?
PD: It must be fun working with Greg Davies. How did your part in Channel 4’s Man Down come about?
MW: Oh he’s great, yeah. He’s ridiculous and he’s a lot of fun and Roisin Conaty is a lot of fun as well. We’re sort of good mates now really. They’ve been mates for a long time and it was just a very happy environment to work in.
Greg and I had met each other a few times on the circuit and whatnot when he’d be headlining something and I’d be doing some sort of newby 10-minute slot somewhere. And they just brought me in and I just had to audition for it and I think something just kind of clicked. I certainly don’t regret it; I hope they don’t.
PD: You’ve a number of sketch show clips on the internet. One very funny one I watched one today featured you playing the part of Sherlock Holmes. How did the series of clips come about?
MW: They’re great, yeah. They all came from a pilot that was written by a bunch of guys called the Dawson Brothers who are completely fantastic. They just put a small cast of us together to do these sketches.
It was a TV pilot so it was intended to be a full half-hour thing and they were hoping it would be made into a series. That didn’t happen sadly.
Someone needs to give them their own show because they’re just phenomenal. They know how to make a television programme. I was just a hired gun for that but I was very happy to be part of it.
PD: A lot of these things we’ve mentioned were on BBC Three. A lot of comedians – Jack Whitehall, Russell Kane, etc. – have come out and said moving the channel online would be bad for comedy. You’ve made a real success with clips on the internet and they are still there to see. What’s your view?
MW: The online thing has been important for a few years as a way for people to experiment whether they’re just doing it themselves, and they’re YouTubers or whether it’s the BBC online thing or Comedy 4 Blaps. All this kind of stuff, it’s great.
So definitely I would support there being more of that because it’s a good breeding ground for talent and for people to learn. I think it is a shame that they’re going to lose their TV broadcasting because it takes the edge off a bit.
And also, I mean, it sounds very dry and boring and mercenary, but it just means productions have got less cash. So it won’t cost any less to hire a really good film crew, like that Dawson Brothers’ pilot we were just talking about.
The people that were involved in making that, the crew, these are phenomenally skilled people with expensive kit. It costs a lot of money to get them together. So to get something looking that good on a much lower budget will be tricky. So I think that is a shame. I think there’ll be slightly less space for people to learn.
But who knows what will happen? Maybe something else will emerge. In the meantime, us comedians, we’ve just got to plough on and hope for the best. I think everyone’s worried about it. I think it’s very reasonable to be worried about it. But we just have to plough on.
PD: You say you don’t quite know what you’re going to be doing in five years’ time, but what are your short or medium-term plans? Are you planning on going to Edinburgh this year?
MW: I was, but I can’t this year because we’ll be making the second series of Man Down. I’m very, very, very excited about that. We’re going to be filming all through August and a bit of September – so that puts Edinburgh out of the picture.
So that’s the big one for me this year. And then there’s a few of us making a second series of a radio sketch show that we’re making in June/July. And then beyond that is the abyss, basically. Who knows, you know – gigging and scribbling and hopefully more fun stuff.
Mike Wozniak: Take the Hit comes to The Witham in Barnard Castle on Saturday 26 April. Nish Kumar supports. Tickets are priced £8 are available from funnywaytobe.com.