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Paul Foot: a man of many Words


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Paul Foot admits his brand of humour is “strange and surreal and unusual” compared with that of many other comedians.

You might even say it’s an acquired taste … but it’s a taste many seem to have acquired.

“I would say that there are quite a lot of people now who seem to want the sort of comedy I’m doing,” the Englishman tells InDaily ahead of his Adelaide Fringe show next month.

“When I started [17 years ago], I was quite unfashionable.

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but now people seem to want something different.”

Foot calls his fans “connoisseurs”.  His whacky interactive website invites them to join his “Guild of Connoisseurs” and vote for what sort of comedy he will do next.

That comedy invariably involves wild rambling wordplay, the humour of which is accentuated by his eccentric appearance and quirky tics and mannerisms.

Foot’s 2014 Adelaide Fringe show is called Words – a title he came up with before he had created the content.

“I thought I couldn’t lose, because there were bound to be words,” he says with his trademark deadpan delivery.

“As long as I say just two words, even if it’s just ‘good evening’, then I’m safe … if I didn’t say any words at all, then it would be humiliating.”

The Fringe program show notes – No board games on this lawn, baybayyy! Face the frozen ships and dance while legless bar-stools finally take their revenge – give a hint of the kind of nonsense connoisseurs can expect. There’s likely to be a rant about how terrible toast is, for example, and “rookery-based humour – finding out what’s going on in the rooks”.

“There’s quite a lot of the show which doesn’t really make sense,” Foot says. “There’s a bit called Madness where I say apparently random words and phrases which are inexplicably amusing.”

Foot studied mathematics at Oxford and worked as a computer software programmer before he launched his comedy career, which might help explain his fascination with patterns and the fact that puzzles and equations sometimes pop up in his routines.

He says he never sought to carve out a career as “a really unusual comedian doing really unusual things” – in fact, he’d never even seen another stand-up comedian when he first took to the mic and he still doesn’t watch other comedy, although he admires all comedians.

He can’t pinpoint where his ideas come from, adding that he just works with what interests him.

“Sometimes I have one or two gin and tonics and that gives me some ideas, but if one spent one’s whole life drinking gin and tonics, that wouldn’t work.”

So, back to words: asked to nominate his favourite and least favourite, the quick-thinking and fast-talking Foot barely hesitates.

“My favourite word would be spruce; my least favourite word would be jock.

“Jock. There’s no nice use for it … the only time I ever hear it is in the phrase ‘sweaty jockstrap’.

“Spruce is nice because it makes you think of a nice clean forest with lots of oxygen and smells, and they’re evergreens … and it rhymes with sluice … and Bruce.”

Paul Foot will perform his Adelaide Fringe show Words at Palace Nova (cinema nine) from March 7-15. The Adelaide Fringe opens on Friday.

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Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking

Record line-up for 2014 Fringe

Fringe ambassador Katie Noonan



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