INTERVIEW: Alex Horne | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Alex Horne bills himself as the country’s premier comedian, writer, band leader, gambler, bird watcher and potential neologist, and he might also be one of the hardest-working stand ups in the country at the minute. Ahead of his slot at Barnard Castle Comedy Festival on Saturday 18th July and Stockton’s Arc on Thursday 23rd July, I spoke to Alex about his Monsieur Butterfly tour and Taskmaster, a new series that sees the comedian test the wisdom of fellow professionals.

For what has been a colourful comedy career so far, what is Monsieur Butterfly, the show you have wanted to make for a decade?

Well it’s quite a stupid show in that it requires a lot of equipment. I build an enormous machine in the show and tell jokes whilst I’m doing it, so I’m doing a lot of DIY and talking at the same time. It’s based on Mousetrap the board game, which I’ve always loved, so I’ve always wanted to do a show about it, and I think I was finally ready when my children started playing mousetrap at home. I think that was the inspiration, but it’s not easy because you’ve got to talk and build.

You have described the tour as an “unprecedented comedy experience,” so what exactly can we expect from the show?

It’s 50% DIY, 10% comedy and 40% panic so it’s a nice mix of things. I think the good thing about the show is that every night is completely different because I have to build this thing and the audience is involved so sometimes it works but usually it doesn’t. It all leads up to this big moment when we test the machine out. I really enjoy it because everyone in the room has invested a lot of time in watching this thing being built and I find it really exciting to see if it works. In a way the comedy is kind of like a side product, the rest for me is an experience and quite a big event.

How has the audience interaction gone down?

We did the show in Edinburgh and there were a few bits in the show that received big cheers and that tends to mean it has worked. In normal comedy shows it’s just jokes, jokes, jokes rather than things involving balloons. So yeah, it’s been fun reaction-wise.

With three North East shows lined up for your nationwide tour including a set at Barnard Castle Comedy Festival, what do you love about playing the region?

I’ve done stuff in the Sage Gateshead before and also have an uncle who lives just outside of Newcastle. They’re generally glad that you’ve come all that way so I’ve always enjoyed it there. It’s always slightly different than anywhere else and I know that the North East is quite an individual place. It’s quite hard for me to put my finger on exactly what it is but they tend to be encouraging and welcoming, but it might all go horribly wrong this time around.

Is there a show in particular that you’re looking forward to most?

I’ve not done Stockton before so that’ll be nice. The Barnard Castle show is part of a festival and it’s always nice when there’s a festival in town, because there’s always an atmosphere. I’ve not done Stockton before so that’ll be nice and it’s also my last show before the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the final show of the tour is always fun because there will be a lot resting on that one, so hopefully the machine works.

Speaking of Edinburgh, do you have anything special planned for this year’s festival?

I’m doing a quiz with the band. We’re doing a music show with a stupid quiz which is really fun because you can muck around a lot more and there’s less pressure because you’re talking to them rather than the audience. There’s that and I also plan to drink quite heavily.

Alex Horne MB hires

“I know that the North East is quite an individual place. It’s quite hard for me to put my finger on exactly what it is but they tend to be encouraging and welcoming”

Before that though we’ll get to see the first airing of Taskmaster, a new comedy series that you’ll be starring in alongside Inbetweeners and Cuckoo star Greg Davies. Can you tell us a bit more about your role on the show?

Well it’s quite a fun role because it was my idea and I did it in Edinburgh a few years ago. We’ve got Greg in, who as you probably know is enormous; he’s very powerful and very funny and he’s the host which he’s just perfect for because he’s everything I’m not, so I’m his little assistant. But, in a way I’m the brain behind it and he’s the brawn so the collaboration works nicely. It’s a fun role to be in because I’m not in charge on screen but I can still have some sway in it.

You have been testing the wit and wisdom of some well-known comedians including Frank Skinner, Josh Widdicombe and Roisin Conaty, so what was it like going against fellow professionals and who was the toughest?

Frank [Skinner] has been my hero for years and suddenly I get to make him do stupid stuff like transport a ball around the place, or ride a horse and paint a picture at the same time. I realised pretty quickly that everyone’s the same and there’s a lot of respect between us because we’re all comedians and we’re all trying to make people laugh and that can be the most fun and toughest thing at the same time. They’re all lovely though and there’s a lot of camaraderie and at the same time a lot of competition, but comedians are by nature very competitive as well, so it was a lot of fun. I reckon I was afraid of Frank for the first month, but it was a three month project so by the end I was fairly comfortable.

If you had to pick three comedians to join you in a pub quiz team, who would they be and why?

Tricky question. I’d get Mark Watson in because he’s just a brain that absorbs any football fact, so he can tell you anyone who’s scored in any World Cup match. I’d go for Paul Sinha who does The Chase, so he’s got a brain on him and then I’d probably pick Greg Davies again just for the brawn. I think if he could get away with using his phone no one would tell him to put it away.

How have you managed to balance television work alongside a stand-up tour?

It was the first time I’ve done my own show in a three month thing and I really loved it because it was nine to five and I had my weekends free, so it was the first time in my life really that I hadn’t been doing stand-up. I did get a bit of a taste for it because I saw my children and wife more, so it was like a regular job. If I could do that stuff for half a year and stand-up for the other that would be the dream.

What about your band The Horne Section?

The trouble with the band is there’s six of us and the other five are my friends. Recently we had a week-long tour and we just drove each other mental, but yeah the stuff with the band is the most fun.

When the Monsieur Butterfly tour finishes and Edinburgh has gone for another year, what do you have lined up?

I’m not entirely sure because there’s not a lot lined up really. I’m trying to write some sitcoms and another stand up show, but that won’t be ready for at least a year, so I’m just hiding myself away in my little shed relaxing, sobering up and trying to bring up these children.

Alex Horne will perform at the Barnard Castle Comedy Festival on Saturday 18th July and at Stockton’s Arc on Thursday 23rd July.

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