Andy Parsons is touring this year with his brand new show, Bafflingly Optimistic. Despite everything that the UK has had to face in recent years, Parsons has managed to find something to be optimistic about. And, of course, lots to be funny about. Parsons, 55, is best known as one of the early lynchpins of Mock The Week. He has also written for Spitting Image, appeared on Live at the Apollo and fronted his own Radio 2 series, as well as the podcast, Slacktivist Action Group.
Your new show is called Bafflingly Optimistic. What are the themes?
There are lots of different strands. It’s partly about parenting and what kids need to understand about the world. The world has slightly gone tits up recently and, obviously, our politics has gone the same way over the last 12 months as well. So it’s marrying that to having an 11-year-old son and seeing the world a bit through their eyes in terms of prospects going forward, whether it’s to do with houses or jobs or being able to work in Europe.
So where is the optimism?
I think there are reasons to be hopeful. It’s not a depressing show, you won’t want that on your night out. It’s full of big laughs. The positive side is the pandemic is over, we are statistically more united as a nation than it might seem. And despite what you’ve heard, comics are not being cancelled.
If you are talking about news stories how to you handle the problem of events moving so fast?
I think the news that I’m most interested in is the stuff that’s more structural, like, what’s happening with the Bank of England, what’s going on with inflation, tuition fees. Those issues aren’t going to change any time soon. A quick gag at the expense of a BBC presenter is not something that I’ve ever been particularly interested in.
You talk about Liz Truss in the show. What is your opinion of politicians in general?
Having interviewed loads of politicians for my podcast, there are a lot of hard working, community minded politicians out there. Sadly a lot of them never get into a position where they can make a difference. Maybe having the mindset to be cutthroat enough to get to the very top is part of the problem. They say that we don’t get the politicians that we need, we get the ones we deserve. I don’t think politicians have got worse, there are a lot of good politicians out there. I would just like to see more of them being able to influence the decisions.
Was Mock The Week more political when you were on it?
There were times when myself, John Oliver and Frankie Boyle were trying to talk about the Israeli Palestinian conflict and they’d be trying to put up funny photos of a bloke shagging a reindeer. We’d be desperately trying to work out how we could get back to, you know, Saudi Arabia or something that we wanted to talk about.
Was it when you left in 2015 that it started to become less political?
It was going that way. It was supposed to be a rival of Have I Got News For You but gradually the BBC saw it as an access show, a chance for them to get young comics through the door. As soon as it became like that, you had loads of people who just did little bits of their set and weren’t actually doing anything to do with the news.
You are doing the Edinburgh Fringe before the tour. Your first run in 17 years after 17 consecutive years there. What kept you away?
It just wasn’t feasible to go up because we started doing Mock The Week in the summer and I had young children. I’m really looking forward to it. I went last year and everybody was saying it’s so different, but it felt a very recognisable festival to what I’d experienced there 17 years ago. I’m sharing a flat with Marcus Brigstocke. He’s doing the first two weeks, I’m doing the last two. He’s got a small baby so I’m hoping all the sick will have been cleaned off by the time I arrive.
Do you enjoy life on the road?
That’s the dream, to be able to have your own audience, play lots of dates up and down the country and see your name outside the building, whether it’s spelled correctly or not.
- Andy Parsons tour dates includes Norwich Playhouse (March 9), King’s Lynn St George’s Guildhall (March 16), Colchester Mercury Theatre (March 28), and Bury St Edmunds Apex (April 18).