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British Columbia

‘A lot of people forget the power of the swan’

Despite its title swan powerthese majestic birds are not mentioned in Paul Foot’s new touring show, which was critically acclaimed at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and is set to land in Cambridge soon.

However, there are thoughts on pandas’ overwhelming sex drive and a full re-enactment of the film titanic, among other things. Expect rants, eye-opening and in-depth observations, and quirky fun.

Paul foot.  Image: Steve Ullathorne
Paul foot. Image: Steve Ullathorne

A unique talent that’s for sure, it was gratifying to note that the real Paul Foot appears to resemble the delightfully eccentric performer you see on stage – this isn’t an act folks, Paul is the ‘real deal’ .

He’s been touring the UK and after coming to Cambridge (and a few other places) in February it’s off to Australia where they seem to like him a lot: he’s been nominated twice for Best Show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and has been Voted Best International Act at the Sydney and Perth Comedy Festivals.

“It went very well, thanks,” says the friendly man in his mid-forties of his current tour, which was delayed by the pandemic. “I’m very happy with the show and the audience seems to really like it; The shows have all gone well – they must be at my level of comedy. It must go well!”

Paul, who made a triumphant Glastonbury Festival debut in 2019 (he has played in the comedy tents of many top summer festivals), notes this swan power contains “all kinds of humor, disturbances – these are disturbing thoughts from my head that I write down”.

“It contains a complete restaging of the film titanic, which is heavily abridged, it contains possible solutions to online trolling, it contains topical issues such as statues and people who would rather not put up their statues anymore, it contains talks about the disappointing sex life of pandas. It contains an unwarranted attack on the RNLI and the Coast Guard for no reason.

“It contains quite a bit of discussion about daytime TV presenters like Eamonn Holmes and Philip Schofield and their propensities for manslaughter. I never charge her with murder on the show, but I do charge her with manslaughter, which is currently in the hands of the attorneys.”

On how swans came to play a part in the play’s title but not physically appear on stage or even be talked about, Paul says, “It’s not mentioned. It’s like all my shows: the content is independent of the title. So swans aren’t mentioned in the show, but I chose to mention them swan power because I think a lot of people forget the power of the swan.

“A lot of attention is paid to the power of the goose, especially when you get hit by a flock of geese. With swans, people forget what power they have. They don’t fly as much as geese; They mostly just walk around on the water and look graceful, but they have a lot of power – so I thought that was worth mentioning.”

He adds: “Last night I had a dream that I was in the water with a swan. I sometimes swim with the swans when I swim in the river. They swim around – they’re pretty friendly.

“I love feeding them and I really like it when they bite me. They can’t really bite me because they just have that funny big beak with very tiny teeth, but they’re so tiny they can’t do any harm. So it’s just a fun way to get attacked by an animal without danger.

“But I think it’s a myth that they can break your arm with their neck. Why would they even want to break your arm? It wouldn’t be a very nice thing, would it? And they are not vengeful, they are a force for good.”

Paul foot.  Image: Steve Ullathorne
Paul foot. Image: Steve Ullathorne

Paul’s appearances on British television include 8 out of 10 cats do a countdown, would i lie to you and Never mind the buzzcocks – his jokes and amusing attitude towards the latter have garnered more than a million views on YouTube.

In a previous interview with Paul, he recounted an incident in Cambridge involving an abusive cyclist that traumatized him. “There was no physical damage,” he recalls. “The psychological damage, of course, is thinking about it and thinking, ‘Why didn’t I say anything?’ Everything happened so fast.

“The cyclist just said ‘Get out of the way!’ or something, and I didn’t have time to think, ‘Wait…’ I should have said, ‘Sorry, but you shouldn’t be on the sidewalk,’ but I didn’t.”

Paul remembers something similar at Gatwick Airport. “Someone pushed past me — like, ‘I’m more important than you, I’m walking past you,'” he says. “Then afterwards I said, ‘Oh, never mind’, that only delayed us by a few seconds.

“They actually ended up getting stuck behind us because they bought a carry-on only fare and they had luggage with them and they got caught in a big puller – so they got their compensation almost immediately.

“Even so, I kept going through it and thinking, what could I have said? I should have said something then… devastating.

“If only there was a way to warn you that someone is going to be really rude to you; as if something could flash up in an app that says, “In about 20 seconds a waiter is going to be inappropriately rude to you – be ready”. Then you would be ready to come up with your answer.”

The talented comedian – who counts Tim Vine, Sam Campbell and Brian Gittins/David Earl among his favorite comedians – notes he has no problem delivering a “vibrant comeback” when someone berates him on stage as he’s always “ready for” be “there, but in real life you’re not”.

Does Paul let the cycling-related incident bother him every time he returns to Cambridge? “I’m not trying,” he replies. “Back then I came by train, I usually come by car, deliberately so I don’t have to worry about it. I’m trying to get it out of my head – awful.”

But Paul is by no means against cycling or cycling in general. “It’s interesting, isn’t it,” he begins, “that cyclists are some of the most hated things on the road, by some people, by some motorists… I don’t know why, it doesn’t actually hurt them, they’re just bicycling.”

Paul has started work on his new show when this current run ends in April. “My new cycle starts in May,” he explains. “It’s a two to three year cycle of doing one show and inventing a new show that I’m now sticking with until death or retirement. It will start in May and then go to the Edinburgh Festival and then it will go on tour in autumn 2023.”

Paul foot.  Image: Steve Ullathorne
Paul foot. Image: Steve Ullathorne

[Read more: ‘Deranged genius’ Paul Foot is bringing his Image Conscious tour to Cambridge, Comedian Tom Houghton: ‘I discovered I was feet of the week on a foot fetish site’]

The star concluded by apologizing for something over which he had no control. “I want to apologize because I was at university [Merton College, Oxford] with Liz Truss,” he reveals.

“I knew her vaguely and I don’t think I’m in any way responsible for her bringing down the economy, but I apologize if something I said to her 25 years ago inadvertently affects her in any way has…” Apology accepted.

See Paul Foot at Cambridge Junction on Friday 24 February 2023. Priced from £12.50 to £16.50, tickets are available from Junction.co.uk. For more information on Paul see paulfoot.tv.

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