Glenn Wool has a comedy career that spans twenty years with television and live engagements over five continents. That is a lot of material, so this year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe he wants to share his favourite tales and jokes from over the years with you. Martin Walker asks the questions.
A lot of the big comedians still don’t write their own jokes – they just don’t tell anyone. They’ve realised there’s enough money in keeping a slightly chubby nerd in a room somewhere writing their jokes for them. This is all not true and I have no proof of it.
“It’s a greatest hits show. It’s a good way in for people who don’t know my comedy as well as a treat, I hope for fans.
So fans will be able to come to your Edinburgh show and hear their favourite stuff?
“Possibly. It depends what their favourite stuff was…”
Do you do requests?
“I did do one, I was in Leicester and yeah it was just a bunch of people that were really big fans. The problem with it was that quite often they would yell out the big punchline at the end. ‘The one where you sent your girl to the wrong address!’ Well, that won’t sneak up on anyone now.”
Yeah, that ones’ gone.
Will the Edinburgh show be commercially available?
“I’ll put it down on a CD at least. Frankie Boyle saw me perform it when I was touring – I’ve done a little tour before Edinburgh – and he reckons I should put it down on an album and just release it, you know. Even though the material is from other shows, when you start hanging it together they kind of take on different lives.”
Might you get some fans going ‘I preferred the original version’, or others going, ‘that’s it, the definitive joke’?
“I guarantee you if you give somebody and opportunity to complain about something they will.”
You’ve been living in the UK too long mate.
“No, I think it’s the lasting remnants of the empire. You taught the world to moan.”
What made you want stand up in front of people and start telling jokes?
“Well, I always wanted to be a comedian from when I was very young, around twelve I think. I mean, before that I wanted to be a minister or a professional wrestler so I felt that stand-up comedy combined the two.”
Are you a fan of wrestling?
“Yeah, I watch a bit of it. I’m not a Brendan Burns sized fan. You know, because Brendan does the shows with wrestlers. I’ve met a few of them. I went on vacation in Japan this year. So I just tweeted out to all my friends on Twitter ‘Gonna be in Japan for two weeks, is there anything I’ve got to see?’
“Colt Cabana, quite a famous wrestler that I met last year at the Edinburgh Festival tweeted back that his friends were actually wrestling in Tokyo and I should go hang out with them. So, long story short, cut to me with six professional wrestlers in a Japanese restaurant just getting loaded on beer and telling road stories. And oh my God, are wrestlers ever similar to comedians!
“It was almost a perfect night, just going back and forth with some of the mind bendingly funny stories. It’s always funnies when it’s wrestlers because they’re kinda nuts. Some very tragic stories too.
“They told be one story about this guy, he had been in the WWE at some point and blown it with too many lines of coke and one too many steroids. Life had not treated him well and he ends up working in a 24-hour gas station somewhere in Idaho or someplace like.
“Then some dude comes in, at 2am, methed out of his head and sticks a shotgun in his face and goes ‘Gimme all the money or I’m going to blow your head off’ and he goes ‘Do it. Just shoot me for god’s sake, I’ve got a kid that I ain’t allowed to see, but I’m working two jobs just to make enough money. You think you can threaten me with that? Do it!’ And the guy goes ‘Just give me the money.’ ‘You can have the money, it’s not about the money, but you’re gonna shoot me.’ And he lived. You can write that down. Apparently that is a true story that has not been embellished, although upon retellings it is unclear if he felt he was being pranked.
“As I said, Brendon Burns likes a bit of wrestling because I go over and I sneak a bit of wrestling in, you know, in his presence. Yeah, but he watches every night where I’m more a twice a year man. Although I did go and see those guys wrestle in Japan and that was really interesting.”
I must admit I was into it as a kid, watching what was the WWF and Hulk Hogan and all, but my mum would always come in and say ‘It’s all fake, it’s all fake,’ and after a while that just got to me and I started doing something else.
“You know the last time I was on my way to Brendan’s to watch the wrestling – cause they start pretty late at night cause they’re live from America, the pay-per-views – I stopped, there’s a little gas station close to his place, he lives kind of in the middle of nowhere, and I stopped to pick up chocolate bars and chips for everybody and I had a lot of junk food, and the guy at the service station at around 11 at night, middle of nowhere, goes ‘So, all for you then?’ as a joke and I go ‘No, no, I’m watching the wrestling at my buddy’s place’ and he looks at me and goes ‘You know it’s fake, don’t you?’ And I go ‘You know you work at a gas station, right?’
“That’s how low a wrestling fan is on the pecking order, where a late night service station owner can make little witty barbs at us. Oh, Oscar Wilde!”
So what brought you to the UK then, Glenn? You were performing stand up in Vancouver and you decided to move to London?
“It was a long time ago, about seventeen years ago. I had this weird combination of things happen to me: I won ten thousand dollars on a scratch ticket and then a couple of months later I got into a car accident and it totalled my car and I had whiplash. I got the insurance money for the car and the insurance money for the whiplash and I had all that money from the scratch ticket. I’d been doing stand up for about three years in Canada and I’d just kind of gotten stuck in a rut on the same tours and just decided instead of buying a new car to take all that money and go to Europe for a while and see what was over there.
“One thing led to another. First place I went on stage was in Denmark, I was in Copenhagen and found a comedy club as I was walking around the streets. I did some time there and then got some gigs in, I think Norway, yeah, Norway and then I met Greg Campbell and Stewart Francis and I knew Greg was going to be over at the Edinburgh Festival but this is how green I was, I didn’t know what the Edinburgh Festival was, I was just ‘Yeah, I’ll come say hi!’ I ended up doing a gig, because they were doing a split bill, and they were like, ‘Do you want to come hang out and you can MC for the month if you want.’ So that’s how I got into the lumberjacks.”
We haven’t seen the last of the lumberjacks have we?
“No! Lumberjacks don’t die! “
Do you like to hang out with other comedians?
“Yeah, well, I’m in Frankie Boyle’s spare room right now. I don’t have a home right now, although I’m getting one in November, I’ve purchased a condominium in Vancouver.”
So you’re going to move back to Canada, are you?
“No. Well, sort of. I’m going to divvy the year up into four sections and I’m going to try to stick to this as much as I can: two months on, one month off. I’ve just been working too hard and I’m going to have to start taking more time off and I figure that if I know I have a condo to go to and I know I’m going to take a month off then I can justify the flights and I’ll be good.
“I’m going to be back in England more with this plan cause the four sections I’m going to give two to Europe, one to Australia and one to North America. It shouldn’t change anything, you’ll probably see more of me. I’ll just be flying a bit more. You’ll see me more and you’ll see me in better shape and refreshed. The last five years I have worked straight.”
And with working hard presumably you kind of play quite hard as well.
“Yeah, um. That used to be the way but my thing now is I can’t do that with my off time, I really need to rest. You wouldn’t believe how tired you can get.”
What do you do to relax?
Fair enough. I wondered if you maybe wrote a book, something creative but also restful?
“Yeah, no, like if I’m working, I’m working. I mean I want to write a book, I’ve got a few ideas, but it fits my holiday time. Although right now I was meant to be in the Alps, getting ready for Everest, doing some nice strolls and resting.”
You’re climbing Everest in September, is that right?
“Yeah. Actually, that’ll be the last Jacks thing for a while, cause Stewart and Greg will be on that too. But it’s not officially the Jacks tour, it’s Simon Evans and Rhys Darby as well – I believe someone else is there too but his name is eluding me. So we’re all going to perform a comedy show at the base camp of Everest.”
And you’re going up?
“Just to the base camp”
“It’s for chaaarity!”
That’s really cool.
“Yeah, I just went ‘Yes, I’d love to go to Everest!’”
It’s the kind of thing I would agree to if I got drunk, basically.
“Yeah, yeah, these kids need pencils or whatever the hell we’re doing it for. I think we’re doing it to send middle class English children on their Gap Year, I think, I don’t really know.”
I wanted to ask you about Frankie Boyle. How did you hook up with him?
“I’ve known Frankie for years from the circuit. I was supposed to be in the Alps, just sort of chilling out, my friends. They have a chalet and I could have still borrowed, but they weren’t gonna be there so my first instinct was to get a hold of Frankie and go ‘Let’s do another freestyle’ so we booked a studio and we’ve been in the studio all day. Now I’ve got two days off because he’s got to go to London and do a read but I’m just going to be in his house just sleeping for two days.”
I know you two have been touring and you have the podcast, but he had to pull out a couple of dates because he wasn’t well, is he alright?
“Yes, yes, he’s much better. But it was funny – this is how long we’ve known each other – the dates he was able to do, I had a horrible kidney infection and I spent the whole time thinking I was going to pee myself on stage. So if it wasn’t my kidney infection it was his migraines. Just two old men. My God, I didn’t know about kidney infections but it happens to women a lot more than it happens to men. Dear Lord, it really puts you in a bad mood. You think you’re going to piss yourself all the time, you feel like you’re going insane, and I’m just saying, ladies, if this is what’s wrong, you should have told us way earlier. I am now a feminist.”
Has your comedy changed significantly over the years?
“A thing I’ve noticed, because I used to do a lot of material based on how I look and the way I get perceived, is that I’m going back to doing the greatest hits material I’ve realised I’ve started dressing bit better. People are like ‘You’re not dressed that poorly, sir, that’s an American Apparel shirt,’ but I’m like ‘Yeah but you can imagine this bit!’
Do you and Frankie share the same sense of humour, because you’re quite different on stage aren’t you?
“No, I think we share the same sense of humour, Frank’s just a lot quicker to a punchline than I am. If you listen to the freestyling we have a very similar sense of humour where we’re never topping each other we’re constructing. Just today we did about three hours and we don’t go in with prepared material, just thoughts, and one will say to the other and then… My Lord we came up with a very good bit of comedy today. I won’t ruin it though.”
When’s it going out?
“It depends. We do about nine hours of recording then it gets edited down. The last one was two and half hours. It would have been longer too but the lawyers took a look at some of the things we said. Frank knows a lot more about libel than I do. Suffice to say he’s pretty aware of what you’re able to say and not to say.
It’s interesting because I speak to a lot of comedians and I speak to a lot of, how would you say, the older guard, the people who were performing in the 70s and they had a much looser view of ownership of jokes and comedy – they would swap each-others’ jokes around and they would perform the same jokes whereas now comedians are much more this is my set, my routine, my joke. That’s a change, I think.
“Yeah it is, it’s changed in that a lot of the big comedians still don’t write their own jokes – they just don’t tell anyone. They’ve realised there’s enough money in keeping a slightly chubby nerd in a room somewhere writing their jokes for them. This is all not true and I have no proof of it.
“You’ve never lived until you’ve read an official email from a lawyer that says ‘We’ve had the team work through and look through everything and I’m sorry boys but there’s just no proof anywhere on the internet that Redacted is a racist.’ You know you’ve been living life right when a lawyer has to write that.”
That’s your book, all these lawyer’s letters, that’s your book.
“There is now a large chunk of material about Redacted that’s not released and it’s called the Cancer Tapes because if one of us ever gets cancer it’s coming out!”
Well, I’m not going to wish for that, but, well…
“If it makes you feel any better I still haven’t quit smoking! So coming soon!”
Your kidney’s better right though?
“Feels better, yeah. It’s weird though, cause I was up staying at Frankie’s place when I was in the real throes of it and now that I’m back in here I’m getting sort of phantom pains. There’s one particular bathroom that I continually pissed in and now every time I piss in that bathroom I’m back in hell. On that note…”
Broadway Baby Listing and Edinburgh Fringe Box Office: http://www.broadwaybaby.com/shows/glenn-wool-wools-gold/701212