Interview: Terry Alderton

‘Because of the voices there is a lot of randomness going on and sometimes it gets me into real shit.’ AMY JEFFS talks to comedian TERRY ALDERTON. Possibly whilst he’s wearing a strait jacket.

Comedy Comedy Roadshow Edinburgh Fringe gollum southend Terry Alderton The Junction

Terry Alderton, the ‘Southend boy’ who tours the globe with his spry and spontaneous comedy, is coming to Cambridge. Once a youth player for Southend United, he is now a comedian who has performed as far away as Australia and India. Among numerous other televisual conquests, he has starred in Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow. His open, friendly face and cock-eyed grin cannot but promise a good evening.

Terry Alderton’s shows are crowded both in the audience AND on stage. What I mean is that he does not work alone, in the conventional sense. He has two Gollum-esque voices in his head, who, constantly critical of the show and the audience, frequently interrupt his stand-up. A highly novel and innovative approach to comedy.

‘I decided to reinvent myself in 2005,’ he reflects, ‘Everything was dead. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing anymore. I wasn’t really saying anything interesting on stage. If I believe in my heart that I have done something interesting then I am happy with it, even if the audience doesn’t always seem to get where I am going.’
Does the idea for the agitated alter ego stem from some deep-seated childhood trauma? Terry pauses for thought. ‘I did have an imaginary friend when I was younger and I still have that kind of craziness going on.’

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHMT11RSDoE

Terry Alderton on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow

Terry Alderton did perhaps, have a bit of a traumatising childhood: ‘I’ve always been a bit of a cry-baby, still am if I’m honest. I would cry at the drop of a hat,’ he admits. At school the teachers saw him as stupid and disruptive and so he used humour to counteract this. It transpired that this was more than effective; ”Teachers would call me out of the class and say, ‘you’re not in trouble but could you just do that impression?’’

His new approach has been a roaring success and the venues he now performs at are a far cry from the comedy clubs of his debut. Each country, each culture, is a new source of inspiration. ‘I observe where I am and, without making light of it, will bend it into my world. I got a nice little twangy routine out of India. Particularly in Mumbai, I saw it and I also threw most of it back up again…charming.’  Expelling grim images of a particularly aggressive curry, I move on. What does he expect to encounter in Cambridge?
He brushes this question aside. ‘UK audiences change with the weather…literally. After all these years, you just play your game. They can enter into this thing or they can just sit there saying this is bullshit. I’ll start spinning the plates but we’ve all got to keep them there.’

Despite all my best efforts to find some fatal flaw, I am getting the distinct impression that Terry genuinely enjoys what he does. He is artistically stimulated and a contented, charismatic man. Maddening!  But the coming year promises shows every few days, surely it’s impossible to keep the material feeling fresh and exciting for him, as well as the audience? ‘I never do the same show. I always have a through line but generally muck around for the first half and then have more of a set for the second. Because of the voices there is a lot of randomness going on and sometimes it gets me into real shit. I think the voices need voices.’

Simple enough, put like that, but what about all that time away from home? Terry is married with a three year old son and I ask how he deals with the distance; surely here, he will reveal some kind of implacable internal struggle to nourish the tabloids?  Talking to him, it is obvious that as an ex-footballer he’s practised at keeping a steady eye on the ball. ‘You just learn to deal with little thoughts that pop into your head.’ He says breezily. ‘I could stay at home and get a decent living out of the comedy clubs or I could take the risk and struggle! At the moment I am artistically enjoying myself. If it fails the comedy clubs are still there.’

Yet, he remains unassuming and honest about the way performing makes him feel. ‘Different gigs make you nervous… London comedy club still gets me going.’ He feels a great sense of responsibility when confronted with a group of people who have paid to see him. He describes his thoughts before going on to a packed auditorium: ‘This is insane! I’m just some bloke from Southend! What are you doing paying to see me, you mad people?’ Fearful of sounding too modest, he adds, ‘Of course then the ego side says, ‘well of course they are!’’

Finally I ask if there is anything he would like the Cambridge students to know before his gig at The Junction. His answer is filled with his characteristic straight-up honesty. ‘Well not really. Just that I’d love you all to come, it is kind of an experiment but come with no pre-conceptions. Come and trust me. It’s lovely because your minds are so fresh and bright. Such a high ceiling of intelligence means I can really let it go.’

One has to speculate on what ‘really let it go’ could mean. A  jamboree of imaginary characters on stage? A circus conjured up by Terry’s mind? Who knows? Unpredictability is what makes this Southend boy just a little bit mysterious.

Terry Alderton is performing at the Junction on Friday 28th January. Visit www.junction.co.uk for tickets.