Sean Lock Interview: 'Comedians Carry Their Humps Around With Them'
"You never feel entirely secure and safe, but that's the psychology of comedians."
Sean Lock, in reality one of Britain's most in-demand comedians, is the host of Argumental, and appears tonight on Live At The Apollo, is a cheerful and friendly soul, but happy to acknowledge the downside of comedic success, as well as his luck in breaking into it in the first place:
"It's quite an insecure life because you're only as good as your last gig. At the beginning of this year, I had nothing in the diary, I had maybe one gig in October booked, but that's the way of the business.
"I started doing it purely out of curiosity. I wanted more than my fair share of attention, and had no qualifications or skills. After about a year, I realised you could make a living out of it, so I thought I'd give it a go. I count my lucky stars, I don't know what I would have become."
Lock's success on radio translated into his TV series, 15 Storeys High, revolving around the human life contained in a tower block. For Lock, this was a surprising response to the perceived glamour of Britpop:
"I spent a large part of my 20s and 30s living in different places, including tower blocks," he remembers. "People make so many assumptions about people living there, and I got obsessed with all the different types.
"This was during the Britpop era when London was depicted as being really cool, and I wanted to show that the majority of London wasn't a cool place, unless you're in Ladbroke Grove.
"It's like the 1960s, the idea remains that it was this wild, experimental time, but my father wasn't driving up Carnaby St in a Paisley jacket. I liked the fact that 15 Storeys High captured a slice of modern life - going home and having shepherds' pie."
Public recognition is something Lock appreciates, but also struggles with:
"I have no problem with people coming up to me and telling me they enjoy my work, what's weird is when you sense people noticing you, nudging each other, and you're not anonymous any more. You just feel exposed. If I fancy a pint, I probably won't go into a pub any more, I'll just go home. No point worrying about it, though, I've done it now."
"And I'll fade away eventually," he adds cheerfully.
Perhaps because he appreciates his good fortune, Lock is happy to put the time into his craft, treating it like a normal job that requires the hours:
"There's an elusive element to comedy, but nobody gets it for free. That's why comedians seldom criticise each other.
"I go to my office nearly every day, and I'll sit there for six or seven hours and come up with ideas, and that's the only way I can justify turning up on stage. Because if you turn up on TV thinking you'll be ok, you'll be found out.
"I've got lines in my shows that are the result of two days waiting in my office. You're continually looking at things, exploding things, regarding them from a fresh angle, training your brain to do things... at the detriment of other things.
"Everyone's deformed by the job. Removal men get humps on their back from carrying fridges up stairs, comedians have got their own humps they carry around with them."
And, just as his description of the job gets more gruesome, Sean Lock chuckles and sounds increasingly happy with his lot.
Sean Lock is on Live at the Apollo, tonight on BBC1, 9:30pm, and presents Argumental every Thursday at 10pm on Freeview Channel Dave.