Interview: Jeremy Hardy ahead of Traverse show

Jeremy Hardy. Pic: Comp
Jeremy Hardy. Pic: Comp
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JEREMY Hardy is sounding growly. His usual mellifluous tones, so familiar to fans of The News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue on Radio 4, missing in action.

“I’m a bit croaky this morning, think I might have a bit of bronchitis or something,” offers the 53-year-old. But that’s not going to stop him celebrating 30 years of making people laugh at The Traverse tonight.

Hardy is glad to be back in the Capital and even more pleased to be here outwith the Fringe, where in 1988 he won the coveted Perrier Award. Not that he knew what to do with it once he had it.

“I hate the Festival to be honest, but outside the Festival I love Edinburgh and the Traverse is a great room to play,” he says candidly, before turning his attention to that Perrier Award.

“It made quite a difference but not in the way it does now. There wasn’t the industry focus on Edinburgh in those days. Now it’s more of a trade fair than a Festival, and there are new Fringes of the Fringe, like the Free Fringe, which are more interesting.

“There were fewer of us back then too, so I suppose it was probably easier, but you didn’t really know what to do when you won something.

“There wasn’t a programme mapped out for you. I remember going back the following year and everyone was like, ‘Oh, shouldn’t you be in Hollywood, or something’. I just carried on pretty much as normal.”

At the Traverse tonight, expect Hardy to cast his politely-caustic comic gaze over subjects as diverse as death, class, gender and civil disobedience. Michael Gove, children’s television, the American Civil War, capitalism and dogs also feature, as well as the topics of the day. It’s an ever-evolving feast.

“It takes me a while to turn around a new show. I try to do it progressively over time so that by the time I come back somewhere, after two years, it’s a different show,” he explains.

“Sometimes I get to a point where I have to junk a whole load of stuff and put in a load of new stuff. I’m probably reaching that point soon because next year I’ll be going back to places that I was at last year.”

A familiar voice on radio panel shows, Hardy is also an actor, with credits that include Mike Figgis’s film Hotel, alongside Burt Reynolds, and as a jailor in an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth.

Occasionally, both disciplines mix.

“My own series, Jeremy Hardy Speaks To The Nation is quite closely scripted,” he reveals.

“I’m actually reading it because I’m still writing it on the day, so don’t have time to learn it. I find that quite difficult, to read and sound fresh at the same time.

“On the News Quiz, where we’re winging it, I don’t really know what I’m going to say, I just have a few thoughts written down.

“Radio is usually with a live audience so it does have the feel of a gig about it, but the really nice thing about doing a stand-up gig is that I have complete control over everything.

“It doesn’t have to be slick. It doesn’t matter if I stumble over my words. It’s just like a normal conversation and nothing gets edited out.”

Equally, nothing beats the challenge of a live audience, confides Hardy, especially as you never quite know what you are going to get.

“Audiences vary, but then they vary in all types of ways, they vary from one night to the next, people are in different moods at different times.

“Normally I know in the first few seconds what they are like. It’s a funny thing, you can tell when you walk on what mood they are in.

“The trouble is, it is hard not to react to that. If they are in a lacklustre mood it’s very hard not to hold that against them and maybe not deliver.

“So it’s best to take a step back and think, ‘Okay, I’m going to have to put some work in here with these people.

“It is lovely, however, when you walk on stage and they are completely up for it and you just know it’s going to be a party.”

Although that too can have it’s downside, he laughs.

“Sometimes they get tired, like on a Friday night. They can be quite giddy when they come in because they have just finished work and had a couple of drinks.

“It’s the weekend and they are all in party mood. Then half way though they are flagging because they are knackered. It’s always an experiment really.”

Check out Hardy’s latest experiment at The Traverse tonight... a Friday too.

Jeremy Hardy, Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street, 7.30pm, £14, 0131-228 1404