Mark Liu Interviews Ben Pope
Legendary Tab columnist MARK LIU gives the new Footlights President a grilling.
You’re Footlights President next year. Is there a lot of pressure?
Yeah. I live in fear that someone is going to discover how terrible and unfunny I really am. It’s weird: I’m a student with control over a worldwide brand that has shaped the face of British comedy and entertainment. Shouldn’t an adult be in charge of this? This morning I sat on the floor of my room and ate Boursin with a teaspoon. It’s all a bit daunting. But at the same time, it’s one of the most exciting things to happen ever. I can’t wait to get started.
It must be hard following in the footsteps of Asian president Phil Wang, especially without being Asian. In fact, I’ve noticed there are no Asians in Footlights this year. How does this make you feel?
I feel that might be a leading question. After all, the only Asian who applied was you, Mark. And your application was just a load of graphs showing your youtube hits.
50,000 is a lot more than 0. If you had to go to some mystical comedy desert island and could take four other Cambridge comedians, would you eat them?
That’s hard. Most Cambridge comedians are pretty lean. Lean and depressed. The antithesis of a Happy Meal.
I don’t see the connection. What’s the biggest compliment anyone has ever paid you?
Someone once said my style was like Dylan Moran’s. Which is literally the best thing anyone could say to me. Then they said I looked like Boris Johnson. So it’s swings and roundabouts really.
Again, I don’t see the connection. BNOC and ex-union President Francesca Hill once reviewed you and said “Single Ben? Call me.” Do you get a lot of female attention and does it make you feel objectified?
Dodged the question. Why don’t any Footlights members have Tab columns like I do?
Errr. I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe they’re just not as cool as you, Mark.
They probably prefer to prance around on stage. Now, be honest. Is your name just a stage name? Is your real name actually Benedict Pope? Seriously?
I don’t know my real name. I was raised by wolves. Catholic wolves.
You did a one hour show at the beginning of Michaelmas called Um. Did people get bored of you talking for an hour straight?
They clapped at the end. Maybe they were just being polite. Awkward.
Cambridge audiences are very generous. You have a show this Saturday called Three White Guys. Isn’t that a bit exclusive? Why not make it Six All Round Funny People of Different Gender and Race, like Friends?
Ah, you see, Friends suggests that in some way I get on with the other guys on stage. Three White Guys allows us the rivalry and hatred which has defined our relationship, whilst also describing our race and gender. We like to go for accuracy.
What’s the best joke you’ve written?
Why would I bungee jump into a river full of crocodiles?
No punch-lines please. Save it for your show. Finally, what advice would you give to any wannabee comedians out there? Is it as easy as it looks?
I think the important thing to remember is that everybody here is still learning. We’re all students, no one has infallible judgement. I’m not really qualified to give advice to be honest. Nonetheless, from what I have learnt: do as much as you can, and (importantly) watch as much as you can. Whether you go on iPlayer or youtube or you buy DVDs or go see live shows, absorb as much as you can. You’ve got to learn the rhythms and the rules before you go and be Stewart Lee.
And write as much and as often as possible. And audition for things. The more time you spend on a stage or behind the mic (and, crucially, in front of an audience), the better you will be. Comedy is unique as a form of entertainment/artform in that the feedback is literally immediate. But, hey, what do I know?
Good question. Feel free to comment below about what you think Ben Pope knows. In the meantime, I will return to the ivory tower of my Tab column. Goodbye.