An Interview with Andrew O’Neill
Veering from charming to vitriolic on a whim (his shtick on the Jonas Brothers is thrillingly unprintable here); just about the only thing about him that we’ve seen before is his transvestism. As arena stand-up plummets to new depths of insipidity, his new black magic-inspired tour, ‘Occult Comedian’ is original, funny and a little bit frightening.
He spoke to Matt Callard about pyrotechnics, gas masks and ethical goat skulls …
So Andrew, are you dabbling in the occult in the name of comedy – or are you bringing comedy to the occult?
Well, they started off separate, but magic has a way of infecting everything you do! Basically I had some experiences that were too mad to NOT talk about on stage. Performing ritual magic is an absurd thing to do – almost as absurd as standing in front of a room full of strangers and attempting to make them all laugh!
“A joke is a spell”
How did your fascination in the occult start – was it a childhood thing? A religious thing?
I have always been fascinated with the notion that there’s more to the universe than what’s observable on the surface. And I used to believe in God and heaven and Jesus and miracles and Father Christmas and the tooth fairy and Mulder and Scully. So the idea I can use language to affect the world is quite small-fry.
What are the links between comedy and the dark arts?
A joke is a spell to make you laugh. It’s the most perfect example of a spell. And a stand-up gig is a ritual. It has lights, music, incantations. It uses language, symbols and ideas to bring about a physical effect in the real world. And both get you laid.
How was Edinburgh for you this year?
Brilliant. I only went for 11 days, so I didn’t even get ill! My punk band (The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing) played up there too. It was a delight.
You’re gonna be absolutely massive soon – are you looking forward to the adulation/fame/breakdown/rehab thing?
Enormously. I have it all plotted out. I have decided I am going to be an arsehole for a year when I reach 33.
“Ritual magic – it’s my secret weapon”
Why is stand-up so huge right now? There’s never been a better time to be a comedian …
It’s a combination of TV shows, mainly. Plus there is the old theory that stand-up thrives in a recession. The flip side is that hundreds more people are now trying to make a go of it, so supply is outstripping demand. Hence the use of ritual magic – it’s my secret weapon.
I hope you’ve got something mind-bending lined up for those stadium gigs?
Pyro. It’s all about the pyro. And smoke, skulls, incense… One of my favourite bands, Watain, showers the audience in festering animal blood. I’m vegan, however, so it’ll have to be soya milk. I am having a huge pentagram backdrop made. And if anyone knows where I can get ethical goat skulls, I would be very interested.
And a huge tour too… are you looking forward to two months in a transit – or is it posh hotels already?
I used to hitchhike to gigs, so a transit van is a luxury.
“My metal mates see me as the fluffy one”
My girlfriend reckons you’re not scary enough – but I reckon the trick is not to look like you’re over-trying – would you ever ‘evil up’ Marilyn Manson style?
Haha! Marilyn Manson, eh? He’s in nursery school compared to the stuff I listen to! Now, Varg Vikernes from Burzum – that’s a bit more like it. He’s just got out of prison after serving a sentence for murder and church burning. It’s funny how different people see me. I get all this ‘Dark Lord’ stuff from some and then my metal mates see me as the fluffy one. Such is the paradox of being a black metal-obsessed transvestite. Ultimately it all comes down to how you do your make-up.
Are you the type of comedian that enjoys that ‘bond with the audience’ thing – or would you really prefer to be at home with your record collection?
I like it when they’re my audience. I get good people coming to my shows. The audiences at club gigs vary. Every comic has horror stories about the ‘jokes’ punters ‘give’ them after a show. Invariably racist and invariably followed by ‘you can use that’. It’s like going up to Kerry King from Slayer and showing him a riff from a Busted song. “You can use that, Kerry.”
Have you enjoyed the Pope’s recent visit to these shores?
Not as much as I would have done if he’d been arrested. That would have been beautiful.
“I am obsessed with Doctor Who”
You have a rock band too! You take your rock seriously, right?
Way more than comedy, yeah. Comedy is just showing off. Music is life.
What’s the guilty pleasure in your record collection?
I don’t feel guilty about ANYTHING in my record collection! The guilt comes from spending ALL my money on CDs! I don’t download. I am stuck in the 90s. I’ve still got a CD walkman.
Tell us about something that interests you that’s not dark, loud and scary – porcelain, for example?
Gas masks? I’m obsessed with Doctor Who, and have been since 1987. I have a Doctor Who tattoo – the Seal of Rassillon, symbol of the Timelords. I got that done for the ladies.
So you’re holding a black mass – after Ozzy, who else are you inviting?
Alan Moore, the guys from Watain and Necro Ritual, and all of your readers. Come join me. There’s wine!