Fringe interview: Laurence Clark

An Irresponsible Father’s Guide to Parenting sees Laurence Clark tackling important issues like how best to balance crutches on his son’s baby walker to make him look like a Dalek!

Laurence starred in BBC One documentary, We Won’t Drop the Baby and recently featured on The One Show. He’s been shortlisted for Funniest New Comedian, is an Amused Moose Edinburgh Laughter Awards finalist and is currently developing a sitcom for Channel 4.

AAA caught up with Laurence for a chat in between Fringe shows…

How has your Fringe been so far?

I’ve had a great response to the first night of An Irresponsible Father’s Guide to Parenting. I haven’t done nearly as many previews this year as I normally do, so I was worried I wasn’t going to remember all of my 80 cues but I managed it somehow. However, I don’t think my older son Tom was too impressed that a group of teachers from his school came. There is literally no escape! Looking forward to doing it all over again tonight at 5.40pm.

Tell us about the show you’re in…

I’d never really thought about becoming a father. Growing up, I never saw guys with cerebral palsy with kids; which limited my own expectations and made me think I’d never be a dad. Besides, my younger self was way too selfish to look after a child. The most I’d ever managed was a cactus… and that died of dehydration. But when I first meet my future wife, Adele, she says I’d better be prepared for the fact she wants babies… which is a pretty strong opening line for a first date!

What’s the audience reaction been like?

Absolutely brilliant. The only audience member I’ve offended so far was a Catholic schoolteacher, but they are notoriously hard to please!

When did you realise you were funny?

When I would go to pub with friends at university and have everyone laughing.

Were you the class clown?

I was a weedy, geeky sci-fi nerd with cerebral palsy who excelled at computers. So it was a choice between class clown or punching bag!

Can comedians get away with saying things no one else can?

Comedy thrives on breaking taboos. Disability still seems to be considered a taboo, which is why you get so many comics doing material about it. But because I’m disabled I think sometimes there’s a preconception that my act is going to be worthy in some way and not particularly funny. Sometimes people say to me “you don’t do comedy about disability do you?” as if they think it’s going to be really depressing. However, no one would dream of telling Graham Norton to not do material about being gay. All stand-up comics use aspects of themselves and their experiences to create material and I don’t see why disabled comics should be any different. So I tend to use uncomfortable, socially awkward past experiences as inspiration – it can be very cathartic! Oh yes, and funny! Very, very funny!

Was there a comedian who inspired you?

My career advisor at school never suggested stand-up comedy as a potential career. Because I have cerebral palsy their advice was IT; as I could earn good money and never encounter access problems by working entirely from home. As far as disabled people go, computing has become the new basket weaving!

I really wanted to write comedy for a long time and was sending off scripts to the BBC and getting nowhere. I loved stand-up comedy and really wanted to give it a go but couldn’t see how someone like me could pull it off. Then I saw a show the comedian Dave Gorman use PowerPoint slides and was completely blown away. He made me realise that stand-up doesn’t have to be just one person standing on a stage talking to an audience for an hour. All my life I’d had stuff to say and a dark sense of humour which I’d inflict on those around me. Suddenly, this gave me an outlet, an entry point into the mainstream. My wife was also glad as now she wasn’t the only one expected to laugh at my jokes!

Are there any other shows on this year’s you’d recommend?

I saw the opening night of My Left/Right Foot – The Musical (Assembly Roxy, 18:10) by Birds of Paradise Theatre Company and National Theatre of Scotland, about an amateur dramatics company staging an all-singing version of the film My Left Foot. It’s absolutely brilliant, irreverent, hilarious, moving and thought-provoking. Grab a ticket while you can!

What’s on your hit-list to see?

Nina Conti, Rosie Jones, Gareth Berliner and Steve Day

What do you like to do in Edinburgh on your day off?

Have a lie-in, although I doubt that will happen as my seven-year-old Jamie will be up here by then and it’s quite hard to get back to sleep after you’ve been woken at 6pm by a small human jumping on your knackers!

Can you recommend a bar or restaurant in Edinburgh?

Amarone Italian restaurant on St Andrew’s Square – best place to eat.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen this year?

The cast of My Left/Right Foot – The Musical’ simultaneously ‘spazzing’.

Sell your show in no more than ten words….

A hilarious story of the ups and downs of parenthood.

Laurence Clark: An Irresponsible Father’s Guide to Parenting, Assembly George Square Theatre – The Box, 5:40pm, Aug 9-13, 15-26, www.edfringe.com

Photo: Steve Ullathorne

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