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Ed Aczel, © Ed Moore

Footnotes in History: An interview with Ed Aczel

1 May 2016 Tom Faber

Ed Aczel has won nationwide acclaim for his ‘anti-comedy’ performances which are unlike any other stand-up we’ve seen. With clumsy delivery and an apparently critical lack of confidence, Aczel has crafted a unique show by being so bad that he’s hilarious. We chatted to him ahead of the final run of ‘The Random Flapping of A Butterfly’s Wings’ at The Soho Theatre and a new show to be performed at this year’s fringe.

I have to admit to being a little confused about how to interview Ed Aczel. He seems the opposite of a media-ready character - stumbling, awkward and somewhat unreadable. Watching his comedy, where he explains jokes rather than telling them and often charts the gig’s success on a flipchart, you’re never quite sure if he’s that uncomfortable or if it’s a very elaborate ruse. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be interviewing the anti-comedian on stage or the man behind the act. By the end of the interview, I still wasn’t sure…

 

London Calling: You’ve got a show coming to The Soho Theatre, ‘The Random Flapping of a Butterfly’s Wings’. Can you tell me about it?

Ed Aczel: What kind of level do you wanna go to?

LC: Whatever level you prefer.

EA: It’s a stand-up show about... mainly laughs. It’s also a really odd, slightly existential, nihilist approach to how meaningless our existence is.

 

LC: Would you like the audience to leave the show questioning the meaning of existence?

EA: Not really. Ultimately all I want is the audience to enjoy themselves and conclude that I’ve concluded that everything’s pointless. I don’t think anyone will leave any the wiser. But I like to think it’s a show about the random nature of life.

 

LC: Is that a belief you’ve held for a long time or something that’s come along the way?

EA: For a long time. The world as it is now has become a very random place where chance is a big precursor to our destinies. Although I don’t think anyone who’s directed and hard-working would think the same. It’s a big universe, isn’t it? If you look at the solar system it’s a big, big place. If you compare our individual existences to that, ultimately everything we could achieve in our lives is meaningless.

 

LC: So why bother?

EA: I’m not suggesting ‘why bother’, I’m more just making the point really. That’s the other thing I feel my show brings out, that it’s almost impossible to change life, to change the world. Very few people get the opportunity to do it. We’re all minor footnotes in history.

 

LC: Is comedy what you do full time now?

EA: Yes, I’m a full time comedian. For a long time I was in marketing, and then last year I got made redundant from my job as I was writing the show. I was being made redundant and powerless to stop the process. It’s just one of those things that you knew in your own mind what was going to happen, and when and how, but you couldn’t do anything to stop it. That idea reflects in the show. Sometimes in life you know what’s going to happen but you can’t change it in any way. You can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

LC: What do you think about the term ‘anti-comedy’ that’s been used to describe you?

EA: I like the term. What’s odd about comedy is that often it’s about things being bad - things doing badly or reflecting badly on you as an individual. I like the idea that my comedy is anti-comedy in the sense that it’s meant to be bad. It’s on purpose. Being bad is good. If it looks as if it’s going wrong, then that builds tension.

 

LC: Is it going wrong or is it an elaborately-crafted impression that it’s going wrong?

EA: No, it rarely goes wrong. Certainly not with this show. The next show I’m doing could just go wrong. I’m writing it at the moment so it’s on my mind a bit. But my last show has always gone according to plan. I’m not suggesting that any self-respecting comedian would do a show like my show, but in my own vague universe it works perfectly.

 

 

LC: Do you need to be funny in order to make people laugh?

EA: You have to be funny for people to find it funny. But sometimes I wonder whether the quality of the material is the thing or if it’s the performance. If the material is good then it’s easier to perform which makes the whole show better. I tend to do jokes fairly solidly at the beginning of a show as icebreakers. But I’m very bad at writing jokes so my turnover of jokes is quite low. Which is why the anxiety of this new show is pressing on my brain, because you have to come up with something that works.

 

LC: Is it the normal anxiety that you’d have before any show or is it particular to this project?

EA: Yes so this is Edinburgh 2016. The last show I’m very comfortable with, I did it in Edinburgh, it was well previewed before then and then afterwards I’ve toured it. So I almost know every single word. I’m totally relaxed. Sometimes I think too relaxed. I have an anxiety that I don’t go onstage with enough energy.

 

LC: Isn’t a slight lack of energy part of your performance?

EA: Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s just a lack of energy. They’ll never know the difference. The great thing about my style of comedy is that sometimes people think it’s on purpose but it’s not, it’s just the way I am. People go ‘isn’t he clever for doing it in that way,’ but actually I’m just standing on the stage with my hands in my pockets.

 

LC: Where do you go to laugh?

EA: I do love going to see other stand-ups although I get very anxious because some of them are extremely good. I feel like I might end of copying them, so I tend to avoid going to a lot of stand-up. One of the people I’ve seen recently on TV is Stewart Lee who I absolutely loved. I thought that was brilliant.

 

LC: The deconstructive element of your comedy is a little similar to Stewart Lee.

EA: (very dejected voice) Yeah, but, you know, he does it so well, and so uniquely, it’s so charming really.

LC: Don’t be down on yourself!

EA: Well, one day I’ll be good at comedy.

 

You can see Ed in The Random Flapping of a Butterfly’s Wings at The Soho Theatre on 10th and 11th May at 9.30pm Tickets cost £12.50.

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