Colchester bound comic Hal Cruttenden’s mid-life crisis
Comedian Hal Cruttenden talks to entertainment writer Wayne Savage about his new show, being easily distracted and why he’s in no rush to return to the club circuit.
Honestly, I’m having a hard time picturing Cruttenden sat in his office listening to gangsta rap. Even he wonders if he’s having a bit of a mid-life crisis.
“I used to listen to Straight Outta Compton (the debut studio album by American hip hop group N.W.A) quite a lot when it first came out. I downloaded it and started listening to it again going ‘yeah, it gets rid of your anger doesn’t it’,” says the comedian, whose new tour Straight Outta Cruttenden comes to Colchester Arts Centre on September 26 and Cambridge Junction on October 3.
“It’s sort of about me being quite angry with myself, the world, with everything. Whenever I think I’m being angry and dangerous it always comes across as ‘he’s still so jolly and smiley’ - so perhaps it’s whiny instead,” he laughs.
“I worked it up in Edinburgh in August and it went very, very well; more five stars than I’ve ever had I think. I didn’t know the movie Straight Outta Compton was going to be playing at the same time - I hope I don’t have people coming in going ‘I thought this was a film and there’s no gangsters’.”
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This is his first new show since 2012’s Tough Luvvie, which finally finished this February. He recently recorded the official DVD in a very hot and sweaty Lowry theatre.
“I think I looked my sexiest then,” he laughs.
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The show sees him ranting about the real evils of the modern world, including oversharing on social media, the 5:2 diet, taking his wife to Saudi Arabia and how he fell out with George Osborne - Gideon as he was then - at school; personally blaming him every time he puts up the price of petrol.
I’ve caught Cruttenden on a particularly busy day. He’s preparing for a hush-hush telly appearance he’s not sure he’s allowed to speak about, has a corporate gig tonight and was waiting for a new tyre to be put on his car.
He confesses to being easily distracted. He’s had to rent an office because his wife prefers him out of the house when he’s working because he never gets anything done otherwise. Twitter and Facebook are his two main nemeses.
“I’ve just put Facebook on while we’re talking about it, I’m appalling,” he laughs. “Facebook and Twitter are terrible because you can do it right on the screen you’re working on... I worry about the long-term productivity of the world with so many distractions. People go ‘oh you don’t have a boss to tell you to work hard’ - If I did I’d probably be a lot more productive...”
Of course, staring at a screen for hours thinking “I need some jokes” doesn’t work either. It’s when he’s out and about, the things going on in his life; that produces the best fruit. Cruttenden sighs he can always rely on his 13 and 15-year-old kids for inspiration too.
“They’re so breathtakingly rude to me. I said to my youngest the other day ‘I’m a bit of a crap dad aren’t I’ and she said ‘I don’t really see you as a parent, that’s more mummy’s thing’. She tends to come out with lots of quips. I said ‘you’re very funny aren’t you’ and she went ‘yeah and I don’t have to sit in a room on a computer to be funny daddy’.”
Perhaps she should try opening for him at his next show?
“Yeah, there, feel the pressure,” says Cruttenden, who’s appeared on everything from Live at the Apollo to The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice laughing: “It’s great TV when the cakes are awful... You get some where you go ‘why are you doing that, why’s it okay to put that in a cake’.”
He’s enjoying stand-up more than ever and feels he’s getting better all the time. There’s an honesty to comedy as you get older, he says; adding that’s where the real, original laughs are.
“There’s old material I look up and go ‘oh that was funny’ then think I don’t want to do that any more because it’s not really very true, they’re exaggerations on truths, things you exaggerate for comic affect. The longer I go as a comic, the more I’m enjoying what I’m doing because I’m actually saying things I want to be saying; I even reveal quite how left-wing I am in this show - it’s not a show that should exclude anybody who’s an UKIP-er because it’s making fun of myself.
“I think as long as you’ve got a sense in comedy of going ‘I know I’m ridiculous but this is what I think’ then you’ve got a licence to say anything...”
The accomplished writer and actor, who’s recorded a pilot with Sue Perkins called Insert Name Here and has a third Radio 4 series in the pipeline, is bluntly honest about not wanting to return to the club circuit any time soon too.
“Touring is great. It’s that thing as a comic of trying to stay out of the clubs, even though the clubs are great. They’ve been my livelihood for years... I know people go ‘oh it’s great, you learn the ropes’ and it’s true but you’re also dealing with drunk people on a Saturday night.... That’s when club comedy becomes rubbish.
“The older you get, the more you don’t want to be entertaining a crowd (like that), (like) some 25-year-old’s stag do. It’s wonderful (not having to) go out there and just try to survive. I know people love those stories, ‘oh these comics survive these battles’ but actually it’s not good for creative, interesting comedy. Left field comedy - acts like Noel Fielding or Paul Foot - gets crushed by idiot club comedy.
“When people are there for a laugh and fun you really will get the best out of a comic. It’s a hard thing the whole club circuit... The more I think about it, it’s making me dread it, (being) back there one day. That’s my dream, to stay out of clubs forever,” he laughs. “They’ll go ‘we’re never letting you back in the clubs (anyway) after you slagged us off years ago’...”