Ray Peacock interview
AD: Tell me about the character of Ray Peacock – where does he fit into all this?
RP: Ray Peacock was a character in Big and Daft. Not the Edinburgh shows but the live shows when we used to do the club nights. It was a character that Jon wrote – a shouty Yorkshire man who was trying to be Lord Mayor of London. I started doing that, and it just occurred to me that I was doing 20 minutes of stand-up in character.
One night Avalon called me and they’d had a drop out for an Edinburgh preview – it was either Rich Hall or Rich Herring who’d dropped out. I’d never done stand-up as an act before, so I just said yes and did an hour. I remember ripping the shit out of it. It was at Harrow Arts Centre and I smashed the fuck out of it. I’ve no idea if I actually did, but I blagged it for an hour and started getting booked on the Comedy Network, which is Avalon’s university tour.
So I never did an open spot; I didn’t do that. I was in a sketch group that become well known in the industry and other comics, so I was a comedian before I knew I was a comedian. I bypassed all that, maybe to my detriment, but I’m a far more solid comedian than I ever was back then.
It really wasn’t very good [at first] – it was just very confrontational. I was good at picking a fight and winning the fight. That was what I did. I was aggressive, confrontational, in character, and I would win it. It’s the sort of stuff I now can’t be arsed to do – if I get heckled – because it’s too easy for me. It’s child’s play for me to do that, so I just get very bored with that now.
AD: I found some old Fringe posters of yours, and it’s quite alarming how different you look while you’re performing as that character…
RP: Totally. Interestingly, though, I was far less angry in real life; I was far calmer. Now I’m quicker to a fight in my real life because I don’t have that outlet on stage. It was like when I was playing rugby, and my aggression levels were very low in real life. Now if there’s a row to be had, or a fight to be had with Tesco, I’m on it immediately. I get this surge of injustice that runs through me.
But yeah, if you look at pictures of me in-character as Ray Peacock it doesn’t even look like me I don’t think. It’s quite weird for me to look at those pictures; I don’t remember much about it to be quite honest. Eventually it got to the point where people were saying, ‘Mate, it’s just you in a hat!’ and they were probably right.
So I did Edinburgh and Beyond in 2005 – which was me, Russ Howard, Russ Kane and Reg D. Hunter, and we’ve all done very well out of it – and that was the last time I did the character. After that I kept the name and started doing stand-up as myself.
I won’t go into this too much, but the first time I heard the phrase ‘rapey cock’ was in 2008, and I’ve been performing as Ray Peacock since 2000. It’s the bane of my life and I haven’t got a sense of humour about it at all.
Matt Lucas said this to me, and it’s the first time anyone put it on these terms – he said to me, ‘The thing is, if people think you’ve done that deliberately it makes a massive statement about you and your act. It suggests that you’d hang your career on a pun that doesn’t even work, and is offensive. And the worst thing about that is that it couldn’t be further from what you do on stage…’
It’s career damaging, it really is. Yesterday I woke up to someone on Twitter stating, as a fact, that I found ‘rapey cock’ funny. They’re putting it out there that I’ve done that deliberately, which I obviously haven’t. It wasn’t even a thing. Nobody would’ve thought of that. It was only later on that my name was damaged by children using it as a punch line.
Matt maintains I should change my name, and it’s been an on-going discussing. Obviously it’s too late for Edinburgh, but Matt maintains I’m not well known enough that I could change my name and it would damage my career. But I also don’t think Matt understands quite how big the podcast is, and how big Peacock and Gamble was, and all of that…
Ray Peacock was a real man; he was a greyhound trainer. The name came about because Jon had been to the races, and he’d seen that name on a board and thought, ‘That’s a brilliant character name.’ So that’s basically how I ended up with it.
AD: We touched on this briefly in the last question, but the whole crux of your new Edinburgh show (Here Comes Trouble) is that you have this uncontrollable urge to misbehave – why do you think that is?
RP: It’s an exploration of that, and what drives someone to that. What it does explore, and is increasingly exploring, is someone of the negatives to that as well. The show does have some very funny bits in it, but it also touches upon the downside to this in that it’s genuine behaviour.
My life isn’t a sitcom, some things backfire and end up costing me financially or in well-being, so it touches on that a bit. I’ve always been quite happy wrong-footing people for a little bit; once you’ve charmed them you can talk to them on a slightly deeper level then.
There is a conclusion to the show, so I can’t fully answer your questions because that’s the end of the show…
It’s a stupid trait, however it has provided me with some of my funniest moments – being mischievous certainly plays into what I do.
With stand-up, I leave enough space in it [so I can play around]. I did a preview last night and it was an hour and forty. Honestly, I didn’t realise it had been that long. I thought I’d done an hour and ten, and I came off going, ‘I’ve got to get ten minutes off that’, and a mate I was there with said, ‘You’ve got to get forty minutes off that!’
And it flew by. I had a skip through notes yesterday about the silly things I’ve done in my life, and I thought I’d throw them in there to see if they worked – and the annoying thing was they all did. Everything worked, so there wasn’t even anything obvious to cut. This is a week and a half before Edinburgh.
I’ve been doing Here Comes Trouble in various guises for years, and then I’ve added half an hour yesterday that is now more appealing to me because it’s new and it works – so I’ve fucked myself really. I don’t know what to cut. I’m going to do it again tonight and see what can go. I need to be a bit ruthless because I’ve got to be.
AD: That’s a good situation to be in, though…
RP: Absolutely, but it is a different stress. I’d rather be in this position than currently trying to panic-write 20 minute. There’s one time in a thousand when that will work, so it’s a far better thing to chop stuff out. But you also worry that last night’s show was so much fun, and so good, with an audience that wasn’t fans by the way, but it was also quite well structured over an hour and forty. So when I chop, and chop, and chop, do I then damage the structure of the show?
But I’ve got to do it – I can’t afford not to do it. I certainly can’t overrun by that much every night; it’s already breaking me financially.
The beauty of this is that after Edinburgh I’m touring a bit. It’s not a full tour, it’s like a mini-tour, and that’s two halves of forty minutes – so last night at least put me at ease over that. I’ve got the tour show ready, I just need do a ‘best-of’ for Edinburgh.