Stand-up comedian and Edinburgh Festival stalwart Arthur Smith talks as he brings his latest tour to Yorkshire
Part of the generation of British stand-ups who burst onto the alternative comedy scene in the late 1980s and early 90s, Arthur Smith has become a bit of a national institution.
His cheeky, irreverent banter and deadpan delivery has livened up many a radio or television talk show, he’s also written a critically acclaimed memoir, the intriguingly titled, My Name is Daphne Fairfax, and has been nominated for an Olivier Award for his West End hit play An Evening with Gary Lineker.
Comedian, writer, broadcaster, suffice to say, he is a man of many talents – and he’ll be bringing those talents to the Constitutional in Farsley tomorrow night when he performs his show Laughs, Stories, A Song and A Poem.
“For this I’m using a range of things I do,” he says. “I’ll be telling funny stories about people I’ve met and places I’ve been and the bizarre nature of the world at the moment, although I might leave out my Brexit material because that just depresses people. I may be channelling the spirit of Leonard Cohen, so I might sing a song or two and there’ll be poetry.”
It sounds like audiences are in for a treat – and he’s offering them quite a good deal too. “I’ve promised them if they don’t laugh at least four times, they’ll get their money back.” I very much doubt anyone will be queueing up to make a claim. Smith has been on the comedy circuit long enough to have a whole raft of entertaining anecdotes, so there are bound to be plenty of laughs, but he says there will also be “a few reflective moments.” Some of these are likely to be about his late father, about whom he has written a show, Syd, which was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. “My dad had quite a life,” he says. “He fought at El Alamein, he was captured and was a prisoner of war at Colditz, then he was a London policeman on the beat in the 1950s. He was mainly nicking people for being drunk and disorderly, that kind of thing. He was a nice copper, he never liked to arrest anyone, really, and he had some amazing stories.”
Smith is taking a “slightly revamped” version of Syd up to Edinburgh again this summer, following a run at London’s Soho Theatre. He’s been a regular at the Fringe since 1977 –“I have measured out my life in Edinburgh Festivals,” he says, laughing, “if I have to work out when anything happened I can calculate the year from which show I was doing” – and his night-time tours of the city are the stuff of legend. “They can get a bit disreputable, shall we say, I even got arrested once. The Fringe is a great playground for the imagination and I’ve done some ridiculous things up there.”
He may have a successful multi-faceted career but stand-up remains his first and enduring love. “If everything fell around me, that’s what I would do,” he says. “Stand-up has a kind of purity to it – there are no costumes, no special effects, it’s just you and a microphone. I feel that is my main thing and everything else I do and have done is in some way an extension of that.”
Arthur Smith performs at the Constitutional, Farsley on May 25. He also appears at the Bilton Club, Harrogate, July 26 and Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax, September 27.