Lee Hurst is back and he’s seriously hacked off. Which is just as well, given that his new tour is entitled Things That Make You Go Aaarggh!!! and aims to discuss the stuff about this modern world that gets right on both his, and the audience’s, goat.
So, among the things that irritate him are political correctness (in his eyes, it certainly has gone mad), and the fact that the various ailments he’s suffered and medical procedures he’s undergone in the last decade or so have slowed him down so that “I run like an old man now”. And trying hard not to sound like the archetypal grumpy old man (he’s not long into his 50s, after all), Hurst is aghast at the way technology appears to have dominated an entire generation’s way of being.
“I don’t have a mobile anymore, but I have a laptop at home. I use it as a news feed. I feel like I’m in a zombie film, where I’m the last person alive who doesn’t have a mobile.
“When I got rid of my mobile, my friends went mental. They said: ‘How can we contact you?’ ‘Well, I have a landline.’ ‘But what if you’re not in?’ ‘Then you can leave me a message.’ “And they went into more and more ridiculous scenarios to try to convince me that I should have a mobile.”
Hurst does admit to being on Twitter and Facebook, where he will put up jokes and have the occasional spleen-vent about the news. But he’s having nothing to do with any Internet trolls.
“I make a point of blocking anyone who slags me off or who disagrees with me about an issue. But it cracks me up to hear about people being bullied online: just block! I have no sympathy for them. “If you are being bullied on the street for real, you can’t move. Online, you can just block them and if they set up a new account, just block that. Simple. If only real life was like that, it would be brilliant.”
Having spent much of the 21st century occupied with matters other than touring (he runs the Bethnal Green-based Backyard Comedy Club which reopened last year after a substantial redevelopment), Hurst is now on his third show in succession after Man V Woman in 2011, Too Scared To Leave The House the following year and now Things That Make You Go Aaarggh!!!.
For this trilogy, he has settled on a format that keeps him excited to take a show on the road for several months by warming up his crowd in the opening half with some scripted stand-up before launching into a second half where literally anything can happen as he opens up his theme to the floor.
“What I learned from the last couple of tours was that by having the second half based around improv, I sustain myself much better throughout the whole run. This is a guess, but I think I’m slightly unique in that I worry less about the unknown than I do about the known. “The second half is out of my hands, so why worry about it? I wouldn’t even try to call myself an eternal optimist, but I just trust it will all be OK.”
And as with many of life’s finest plans, this one worked itself out completely by accident after Hurst lost all his notes about his Man V Woman show, possibly on a bus. “I had stuff in my head but not enough to sustain it for a whole second half, so I changed it to get the men in the audience writing something down about women and vice versa. “I won’t say it was a stroke of genius, it was a necessity, but it was so much fun and it continued to work well on the next show.”
Has Hurst a clear idea of where he exists in the British comedy firmament? “Profile-wise, I’m incredibly low. “Skill-set wise, I’m right up there at the top. What a diva! “But then it’s for other people to prove me wrong.”
Lee Hurst is appearing at the Mill Arts Centre, Banbury, on Sunday. For tickets, call the box office on 01295 279002 or click on themillartscentre.co.uk