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5 Minutes With: Andy Parsons, Political Comedy Star

By Sarah Moran 26 April 2019
Known for his brilliant quips and satirical sense of humour, Andy Parsons first began his career as a writer for comedy sketch shows such as Smith and Jones, as well as Spitting Image. Most famous for his television appearances on Mock of the Week, Parsons' hilarious comedy sets never fail to bring the house down with barrels of laughter. We sit down with Parsons ahead of his Hong Kong show this May 16 to 18, to talk about his Hong Kong to-do list, the weirdest thing a fan has said, and much more.

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Did you always want to become a comedian? When did you first realise you were funny enough to tell jokes as a career? Having done law at university, I was very keen to avoid doing law as a job and comedy seemed a good way out. So after university, I got a job in a law firm but spent my time bunking off to write comedy – and after 6 months of this the law firm was going to sack me but by that stage, I’d learned enough law that instead of getting sacked I managed to get myself made redundant instead. I never looked back. Once you can get paid to do a job where you work for twenty minutes a day, can have a drink at work, and get up at midday, it’s hard to beat. Which comedians have inspired you the most? What tends to inspire me the most are very dull lawyer-types in identikit suits on trains in the rush hour as they are a reminder of what otherwise could have happened to me. You’ve performed on numerous radio and TV shows including Live at the Apollo, Mock the Week, The PMQ Show.... which do you prefer – performing on stage or behind the camera and how is the process different? Performing live is always the most exciting as you are never quite sure what is going to happen and every gig there is something that makes that gig unique. With TV, there are always retakes and edits and producers and executive producers and commissioners and executive commissioners and compliance and delays, and by the time the final edit makes it to the screen, it is often a pale imitation of what was originally performed. Your career in stand-up comedy seems to have a taken a political turn the last few years, is that influenced by your law degree background? No, I’ve always been interested in politics. My first TV job was writing for Spitting Image and I went on to become one of the main writers. How do you strike a balance between being funny and offensive when it comes to political comedy? I do what I find funny and wait for the audience to respond. Some audiences are happy to go further than others with what they will happily accept and it can be fun playing with where those boundaries lie with any given audience. How did you come up with the idea for your show and podcast, The Slacktivist Action Group? Having done a topical panel show on TV for ten years with seven comics on each week, I was keen to talk to people who actually knew a few more details of what was supposed to be going on. Members of Parliament are a largely denigrated section of society and it seemed a great opportunity to find out whether they might have any redeeming features. It was also a chance to deal with my own political inactivity.

Read More! Check out The Best Comedy Clubs Around Hong Kong.

  In The Slacktivist Action Group show, do you find it difficult making politics sound fun while talking to journalists and politicians? That was definitely part of the challenge – to walk the imagined precipice between comment and comedy. There’s thinking and there’s laughing but the ultimate in many ways is to get people to laugh and think – but that’s very hard to do – especially for some blokes – and in some ways, the last thing you want is to start an audience thinking. What you don’t want is to come off after the gig – “Did you get many laughs?” “No – but I got lots of ‘hmmmm – very interesting’”. Is this your first time visiting Hong Kong? Do you have a to-do list for when you’re in town? I’ve had some great times in Hong Kong over the years but this time I’m pretty much flying in and flying out although, having never been, I am hoping to wrangle an invite to the Foreign Correspondents Club at some point on the trip. Do you know any local Hong Kong comedians, or have any advice for anyone wanting to get on the comedy circuit? Anybody keen to have a go should write five minutes of stuff and get down to their local open mic night. It beats sitting in the rush hour. What can we expect from your show in Hong Kong? Will you add any material that is specific to Hong Kong? Everything will be geared towards a Hong Kong audience – I will not be talking about the London Underground or the latest UK pension allowances. You’ve performed in Ireland, Canada, and Australia to name a few, which country was your favourite to perform in? They are all great places to perform – international comedy is essentially being paid to travel around the world without having to join the navy. What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever said to you? A woman once shouted out in the middle of a gig “Stop talking! I’m going to wee myself” Lastly, can you leave us with one of your favourite jokes? I could – but something might be lost if it is simply written down without the delivery and context. Why not come to Punchline Comedy and see a lot of my favourite jokes and then you can take me to the Foreign Correspondents Club afterwards?!

Catch Andy LIVE in Hong Kong at Eaton Club and Grappa's Cellar, on May 16 - 18. Tickets cost $488 and are available to buy at Ticketflap. Click here for more information.

Read More! Explore the rest of our Culture section.

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Sarah Moran

Staff writer

Born and raised in Hong Kong to expat parents, Sarah grew up as your typical third-culture kid, caught between two worlds. As someone who is nosy (or just curious) and loves the written word, there was never any other career that appealed to her as much as journalism. When she’s not busy on her mission to find the line between not enough coffee and too much coffee, you can find her exploring the city or getting stuck in a good book.