The hairy comic celebrates the great sidekicks of history in his 2017 Edinburgh Festival show.
Hello. How are you today?
I’m pretty peachy thanks – the sun is out, it’s my second wedding anniversary and it’s seven days before the election, so literally anything is possible.
At this stage, how closely does your programme blurb match the content of your show?
In so much as they both contain words, grammar, punctuation and an emphasis on style over content, they’re a dead match.
Have the momentous events of 2016 affected your act in any way?
Absolutely. I’m terrified. As one of the liberal metropolitan elite, I’m officially one of the bad guys. How the hell did that happen. I woke up on November 9th and genuinely discussed with my wife what our escape plan would be in the event of nuclear war – an improvised Anderson shelter under the shed isn’t going to cut it.
Who are you sharing a flat with this festival and how will you help each other survive the month?
I’m continuing my record of never sharing the same flat twice – I’m in with excellent sketch/character/improv wizard Nick Hall of Three Englishmen fame and two of the Delete the Banjax lads. I think it’s healthy to be the token stand-up.
Surviving the month should be easy enough. I’m less convinced of our chances of making it to the end of the decade unscathed…
Any shows you’re particularly excited about seeing?
Fin Taylor’s show last year was astonishing – the language, imagery and sheer fucking pace and anger were a joy. He did a preview at my club, The Good Ship, that was well on it’s way to being that show’s equal.
Other than the great shows, what else are you looking forward to about your trip to Edinburgh this year?
I’m playing guitar, piano, banjo and – hopefully – the melodica in a kids band for a show at the Pleasance. Never done anything like that in my life and playing live music terrifies me. I’m sure children will be an easy-going audience. Also can’t wait to re-acquaint myself with Mary’s Milk Bar, where I had a staple breakfast of chocolate ice cream last year, meet up with old pals who I’ve not seen for a year and climb Arthur’s Seat at an unfeasible time of the morning when well over the drunk-climbing limit.
What celebrity death hit you the hardest in 2016 (mine was Wogan)?
How long have you got? Bowie knocked me all the way for six and back, not least because it made Blackstar just astonishing. To be able to know you’re dying and turn it into art was one of the most incredible things I’ve witnessed (can you witness things with your ears?) Then listening back to the album before that and the lyrics are so obviously those of a man who’s just been diagnosed. The music was so good it took me a while to realise how sad I was.
Gene Wilder and Muhammad Ali got to me too and, weirdly, Carlos Alberto, the Brazilian footballer. He scored one of my favourite goals of all time and it just felt weird that someone part of such a vibrant moment isn’t around any more…
Here’s a space to write about anything you want. Go for it.
There was a young man from Malay
Who went to China one day.
He was strapped to the tiller
By a sex-crazed gorilla
And China’s a bloody long way.
Ben Van der Velde: Sidekick
Laughing Horse @ Espionage
3-27 Aug, 8.45pm