Interview: Jeremy Hardy

KATIE FORSTER interviews Radio 4 funny guy and self-confessed grumpy old man JEREMY HARDY.

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If you are ‘one of those people’ who listens to Radio 4, then you may have heard Jeremy Hardy’s dulcet tones on I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue or his socialist comedy on Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation and The News Quiz.

He also has a long running stand up career, and managed to squeeze in a chat with The Tab before he appears in Cambridge on 3 October.

Hi Jeremy, how are you?

Ok thanks. I took drowsy hay fever tablets by mistake so now I’m half asleep.

Why should we come and see your show?

My demographic won’t survive another harsh winter so I need to recruit younger people who can sustain me in my twilight years. I do have a few younger fans, but Radio 4 is kind of geeky I suppose.

I grew up listening to Radio 4.

I was one of those people too. I used to listen to the kind of shows that I’m on now.

You went to university in the golden days of free tuitionIs it harder to be a student these days?

It must be. People must wonder if there’s any point. I was a bit disappointed that the student riots against tuition fees didn’t go very far. A little bit of kettling and people lost their nerve!

How was student life in your day?

Basically it was just a way of not being ready to grow up and have a job.  We’d drink all night then go to this curry house that was open until 5am. I did start working in my last six months though and realised it was actually very interesting. I do regret that I had all those resources and documents at my disposal and didn’t take it terribly seriously.

Your political views are an integral part of your comedy. What gets your goat?

I’m just trying to stave off despair at the moment. I support people like UK Uncut and Occupy and I hope they will take over and I can relax, because my generation’s blown it. I’m not going to sleep in a tent outside St Pauls in the winter, but I did do a gig in a squat in Bank. They liked me but I felt like a vicar in a youth club.


Do you believe in the fabled British sense of humour?

I’ve met Mr Bean fans in the Atlas Mountains. People like stuff that translates. I think there is definitely a British sense of humour that revolves around the structure of the language, but it is different from the American sense of humour. Their comedy tends to be quite swaggering and I think ours is more self loathing.

Why do you think there are so few female comedians?

I know women who struggle to get one sentence out without being abused by the crowd. Comedy used to be very fringey and audiences were quite thoughtful and well-read. But now you get stag nights and that sort of thing. There are a lot of comedians telling jokes about rape which would never have happened when I started 30 years ago. Sandi Toksvig is the chair of my news quiz on Radio 4 which is great but we’re always pushing to have as many women on as possible.

Has stand up become too mainstream?

It’s very much directed towards being rich and on television now. Comedians are into losing weight, getting fake tans and their teeth veneered. We were all just weird people without proper lives, whereas nowadays people leave the oil industry and banking to try stand up.

What advice would you give to students who want to go into comedy?

Don’t get too comfortable with your audience of fellow students because you’ll get a horrible shock when you venture outside. Learning technique makes for much more slickness and professionalism but it also smooths the rough edges off people. I want to see someone who’s a bit mental, or really passionate, or really nice, or really angry.

Which of those words best describes you?

Can I say sleepy? I guess I’m kind of angry and cranky, but bewildered and knackered as well. I’ve got loads of new stuff in the show and it would be nice to see some young faces. God bless my age group, but they are a bit fragile.

Jeremy Hardy is performing at The Junction on 3 October.