Talk About A Revolution: Exclusive Q&A with comedian Simon Munnery
Multi award-winning comedian Simon Munnery returns to his revolutionary alter ego Alan Parker Urban Warrior, as heard on BBC Radio 1, seen on ITV’s Saturday Night Live, and read in a popular national music weekly. So what has brought Alan Parker back out of Munnery’s sizeable bag comedic tricks? Victoria Nangle spoke with the influential comedian to find omore.
Hello Simon! How are you today?
Hello Vicky. How am I today? Not bad, alright, getting worse. That is my standard response to that and all similar questions. Why? Many many moons ago I very briefly met Paul Cook, the drummer from The Sex Pistols, in The George Robey, Finsbury Park – long gone – who was having a quiet pint in the corner when I, sallow star-struck twenty-two year old, interrupted him and having established his identity, for want of anything better to say, bleated “Errr how’s it going?” or something. He looked up from his pint and said in one well-honed sentence: “You know: ducking and diving dodging and weaving can’t complain mustn’t grumble”, and returned to contemplating his pint. Beautiful.
I hope you are well.
What tempts the character of Alan Parker to cast his wisdom to the folk of Hove?
I’ll ask him. No, he says he doesn’t want to answer that question. He says the very idea of answering it helps foster the illusion of an artificial divide between the people of Brighton and the people of Hove. Alan wants to bring people together whatever their geographic differences and hopes to speak to the people of all of the abovesaid places and many more from outlying sh*tholes like Hassocks for example. That’s what he said, roughly.
What differentiates Alan Parker from Simon Munnery?
Alan is real and I’m not. Or the other way round. He’s someone I could have been, or still might become.
A decade ago I caught you as The Virgin Queen in Elizabeth & Raleigh. Fab-u-lous. If you could play your version of the story of another British monarch, inhabiting them in the same way, who would it to be and why?
A decade? Blimey. It was awful to begin with, that show – on the first night the radio mics were picking up taxi transmissions and had to be changed while we were on stage in our elaborate costumes. It did not go well. But it got better, and I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I’m not particularly monarchocentric in my outlook I must confess. I’m more a Luddites, peasants revolt kind of a fellow, but if pushed to play a royal I’d plump for King Lear. I have three daughters, I know how he feels.
Not being averse to a good prop build – what vital ingredient/tools should every comedy prop maker have in their arsenal?
Tis my contention that there is nothing of worth that cannot be constructed solely by cunning use of Cardboard and Gaffer. Also handy are masking, double-sided, scissors, knife, pliers, wire, stapler, paint and brushes, tubing, glue, plastic bags, elastic bands, powertools, nuclear weapons. I’ve got them, I don’t use them; it’s just nice to know they’re there.
You have been cited by many other comedians as hugely influential – but who has influenced you, and who was the last person to have an impact on your own work?
It’s nice to be cited, as they say, in the kingdom of the blind academics. Tis not only mere comedians I have influenced but also at least one computer game designer – ’twas my version of Asteroids in the mid 80s that purportedly inspired celebrated game designer Jeff Minter to enter the world of programming, simply by being so bad. He described it as “a pile of w*nk”. If I was him I’d see a doctor.
Who has influenced me? A chinaman sneezing. Poor, but topical.
Arnold Brown, John Hegley, Andrew Bailey and Jerry Sadowitz inspired me when I started.
It was me that last had an impact on my work: yesterday night at a gig I accidentally trod all over my props. It was a small stage and I’m naturally untidy.
What made you decide to start teaching comedy to others – and what do you think you’ve gotten the most out of the engagement?
It was suggested to me to run a course and I didn’t have a good reason not to, so I did it. I enjoyed it, learned about running a course by running a course, hopefully helped some people a bit, and may well do it again.
What is Alan Parker’s five year plan?
I’ll ask him. He says that’s for him to know and you not to find out. The whole world will know, in five years. It pays to maintain radio silence – that’s where Leonard Cohen went wrong; great singer songwriter but no military strategist, “First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin”? Logistical nightmare. Sure, you’ll have the element of surprise, or would have if he hadn’t written a song giving away the plan.
Boots or shoes – which is best? (Please show your workings)
Boots. Have you seen the mud out there? Phenomenal.
If you had to live in one museum in the world for a whole year – which would it be, and what would be the main attraction of it to you?
The Louvre. It’s in Paris.
Many thanks for the chat. Anything else you’d like to add?
You’re welcome. It’s been fun doing Alan again after all these years, and a steady trickle of new stuff keeps occurring to me so I’m really looking forward to the tour.
Simon Munnery: Alan Parker, Urban Warrior, The Old Market, Wednesday 12 February 2020, £14, www.theoldmarket.com/shows/simon-munnery