Here we talk to fringe favourite Alex Horne, who has consistently been interesting (and perhaps more importantly, funny) throughout his career. His work is always insightful and usually focused on a subject you may not know too much about. Currently he is part of an innocent smoothie campaign to be the oldest man in the world. If he succeeds, he’s going to be around for a long time so it makes sense to get to know him a little. In this interview we talk about where he gets his inspiration, his TV show We Need Answers, his new Jazz/Comedy live show The Horne Section and the purpose of comedy.
The Humourdor: How would you describe what you do on stage?
Alex Horne: I try to make people laugh by talking about things I find funny and, ideally, interesting. Unfortunately (in terms of travel and equipment) this normally involves me showing them things too, either with a screen or a group of musicians.
H: Bird Watching & making fish laugh are among the topics of your live shows. What draws you to the obscure?
Alex Horne: I don’t think we can particularly help what we’re interested in. I guess I do like things that seem rather dry on the outside - like birdwatching. I actually think it’s easier to make something that’s not a traditional subject for comedy (like Latin) funny - rather than something which might seem more obviously ripe for humour (like, say, farting). Also, I find the whole idea of birdwatching hilarious.
H: Where does the inspiration come from? The want to do something different?
AH: Not really. I’m very lucky in my job that I can choose to write and talk about whatever I want. Last year I talked about science a lot - as loads of people seem to be doing at the moment - so I’m certainly not always doing something different. I just try to keep my eyes and ears open and usually something will strike me as a fine potential subject for jokes, or even a show.
H: What are your views regarding censorship in comedy? Do comedians need boundaries so they can then subvert them or should there be no rules?
AH: To be honest, I’m such a light-weight, parent-friendly comedian that censorship would rarely threaten anything I say. But I certainly believe that there’s no need to apply any actual censorship rules to comedians. Good comedians no the natural boundaries and can flirt with them accordingly to make their jokes/points.
H: What is your writing process like?
AH: Haphazard, mainly because I have two small children. I tend to book venues to perform work in progress shows a couple of months before Edinburgh, that way I HAVE to write something. Then it’s a case of working to deadlines. I scribble down ideas all the time but only really pull them together when necessity is involved.
H: What do you aim to achieve through stand up?
AH: To have fun and make people laugh. The only very slightly deeper thing I’d like is for people to come away thinking they either learnt something or found me interesting. But to make them laugh is definitely enough.
H: The Horne Section- could you tell us more about that and how the idea was conceived?
AH: I grew up with two guys called Ben Reynolds and Joe Auckland. We were best friends from the age of two. They became jazz musicians when I became a comedian and for the last decade we’ve been saying we must do something together. Then, last year, we booked a slot at the Edinburgh festival which meant we had to do something together. We always thought jazz and comedy could mix and, luckily, we were right.
H: Which do you prefer: writing or performing?
AH: I can’t really do one without the other, so I’m going to say both. But if you pushed me - which you shouldn’t - I’d say performing. But that’d probably change tomorrow.
H: Your TV panel show We Need Answers started off as a live show at the Edinburgh festival, does the TV series accurately reflect the original concept?
AH: I think so, just about. Although the original idea was for Tim, Mark and I to do something late night, very silly and probably a little bit drunk. It’s still very silly (and occasionally very late night) but we did have to sober the whole thing up slightly for BBC4.
H: It looked like you had a lot of fun on that show, are there any plans to make another series or collaborate together on something else?
AH: Unfortunately we’re not doing any more We Need Answers for BBC4 but we’re certainly keen to do it again somewhere somehow. And we’re always coming up with new ideas so I’m sure there’ll be something at some point soonish…
H: Is there a purpose to stand up comedy, other than to make an audience laugh? Can comedy be something more? Is Comedy Art?
AH: Comedy is definitely an art but there doesn’t have to be a point. There can be - but there doesn’t have to be. I love joyful comics like Tommy Cooper and Tim Vine - who are certainly not trying to do anything more than make us laugh - but I love people like Stewart Lee and Peter Cook too.
H: What’s next for Alex Horne?
AH: Well, I’ve done one preview of this year’s Edinburgh show, called Seven Years in the Bathroom. It’s exciting, and unusual for me in that there’s more performance (rather than just talking) than usual. I attempt to recreate an entire life (according to statistics) in one hour. So I cook, cuddle, dance, drink, drive, eat and so on - all on stage for the correct amounts of time. Plus there’ll probably be at least two jokes.
H: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a writer/comedian?
AH: Do it. Just do it (has someone said that before?)