We’ve been fans of Luke Toulson ever since he first came to our attention as one half of comedy sketch duo Toulson & Harvey back in the day. We also enjoy his solo stand-up shows, so were glad to see him back in Edinburgh once again. With his new show called ‘Luke Who’s Talking’, we got him, ahem, talking to ThreeWeeks.
CC: Welcome back to Edinburgh! What persuades you back to the Fringe each time?
LT: Thank you. Since I first came to the Fringe in 1996 as an audience member, ThreeWeeks has been one of the few constants! The driving motivation is always trying to be a better comedian. But I’m sure there’s also an element of self-harm.
CC: Tell us about this year’s show.
LT: In the past I have always written shows with a narrative arc. While I think they were good stories, at points they weren’t funny enough. So this year I just wanted to bring up the funniest possible show. Thematically it’s a bit of a jumble of love, fear, and trying to be a better person. It’s probably the most honest show I’ve done, but it’s definitely the funniest.
CC: Arguments with the women in your life seems to be a theme – have you any tips for winning an argument with the opposite sex?
LT: God no. I have a half Scottish/half French, actress girlfriend, which when it comes to being mental is pretty much the perfect storm. And I have an eight-year old daughter from a previous relationship, who already operates at a psychological level far superior to anything I’ll ever be capable of. I’ve never won an argument with either.
CC: Do you consider yourself an argumentative person?
LT: I hate arguments, but I just can’t let it go when someone says something stupid.
CC: Is there anyone else at the Fringe you’d like to have a good argument with just now?
LT: I’m a big fan of passionate discussion, and there are some very passionate and intelligent comics at the Fringe. I don’t really know Robin Ince or Josie Long, but I find their minds fascinating. I’d happily talk politics with Matt Forde, who’s got a great show about politics this year, or talk ‘direct action’ with Chris Coltrane, who has an equally great show on the Free Fringe.
CC: It’s five years since you won the Hackney Empire New Act Of The Year Award – how do you think your stand-up has developed over the years?
LT: Well, the simple answer is I’ve improved massively. The Hackney final was my 50th gig, and I’d only been going five months. I only had five minutes of material, and I knew nothing. I’ve been going almost six years now, and have done about 1200 gigs, including four solo shows.
There is no short-cut to becoming a good stand-up. Time and effort are massive parts of it. In terms of specifics, when I first started, I wore a figurative mask of “I don’t care about anything, the world is shit”, but as I’ve got better, I’ve been able to take off the mask, wear my heart on my sleeve, and just have a bit more fun with the audience.
CC: You also write for other comedians, how does writing for others compare with writing for yourself?
LT: It’s great. You get paid much more and you don’t have any of the responsibility of making the jokes actually work. I just meet up with them, they tell me what they need jokes on, whether it be material for a tour or jokes for a TV show, and I just try to make them laugh. Then I go home. They have to do all the honing. Writing for yourself is a constant process. You’re always seeing the world in terms of stand-up routines. Then you take these half-baked ideas to a new material night and see which ones swim.
CC: We always loved your sketch comedy work as well as the stand-up – are you ever tempted to return to that?
LT: Every time I see a sketch show at the Fringe it tweaks something inside me, and I have a slight yearning. But we reunited as Toulson & Harvey in 2010, and it didn’t really work, so I think that is something that’s now confined to a very small footnote in the Fringe history books. I do love collaboration though, so maybe something could happen with some other comics in the future, but basically stand-up is my life, and it’s all I really want to do.
CC: Have you got to see many other shows this Festival? Any stand outs?
LT: I’ve seen loads of shows this year. Daniel Kitson’s stand-up show was obviously different class. But Trodd en Bratt is a hilarious double-act in the Free Festival, and Pippa Evans’ Loretta Maine show is brilliant this year.
CC: Finally, I don’t know how I didn’t know you were once a geography teacher before researching these questions for you! Science-based comedy has been popular of late, have you ever considered doing the geography comedy show?
LT: I’ve never considered it before, but now you mention it, it sounds like a great idea. Geography is seen as a bit of a joke subject, but once you get beyond oxbow lakes, it’s actually fascinating. If I do do it, I promise ThreeWeeks will be the first to know.
Luke Toulson performed ‘Luke Who’s Talking’ at Underbelly Cowgate at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Kat Gollock