Interview with comedian and actor Hal Cruttenden

"I’m an Edinburgh cliche because I came from a comfortable middle class background with parents who loved the arts. My dad spent his life wanting to be an actor but only turned professional at 49. He died at 50. That was an early life lesson in not compromising on your dreams."

Interview with comedian and actor Hal Cruttenden

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

I’m Hal Cruttenden. Nice to meet you.

How would you describe your show?

It’s a stand up comedy show that will make you laugh at things you never thought were funny; like divorce, nuclear conflagration and me.

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

It was either Edinburgh or a month in the South of France lying by a pool. Of course I chose Edinburgh.

What differentiates it from other festivals?

It’s an awful lot longer than other festivals which is great for the punters but ruins the performer’s chance of the South of France in August. It’s the size of Edinburgh that makes it amazing. There is something for everyone’s taste. There’s serious theatre, street performing, stand up, sketch shows, musicals. There’s lots of crap and there’s lots of quality.

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations?

I was motivated to enter the industry because when mummy tells you you’re special, you grow up needing applause every day.

To be honest, I came from an acting background and didn’t do my first stand up gig until I was twenty-seven. I always thought I would be too much of a wimp to handle it. Going onstage to tell jokes is the bravest, and ultimately the most rewarding, thing I’ve done in life.

My inspirations in the 90s, when I started, were people like Eddie Izzard and Bill Hicks. Comics who showed me that, if you were totally yourself, you could be very funny and very powerful. As a new comic, I gigged with Phil Nichol and he blew my mind. The energy, commitment and excitement that he generates is intoxicating.

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?

I’m an Edinburgh cliche because I came from a comfortable middle class background with parents who loved the arts. My dad spent his life wanting to be an actor but only turned professional at 49. He died at 50. That was an early life lesson in not compromising on your dreams. 

What is your earliest childhood art memory?

At about 18 months, I was the front of the dragon when my older sisters and I went as St George and the Dragon to a children’s fete. Oldest sister, Hannah, was St George and my middle sis, Abbie, was the back of the dragon. Abbie’s gone on to have quite a great acting career in TV shows like Sharpe, Benidorm, Not Going Out and lots of West End roles etc… but that day she was bent double for hours with her face right by my nappy.

I still remember standing on stage and looking out over the crowd. I saw my grandma and did a fearsome roar at her. She cracked up laughing and my love for the stage was born. I farted on Abbie in celebration. 

If you didn’t have your current job, what would you probably be doing?

I’d like to say something tough like ‘I’d be in prison’. To be honest though, I’d probably be doing something in middle management.

Did Covid-19 change the way you create work? Do you approach shows with a different mentality now?

Covid only changed things in that I did a lot of online shows which were okay. I also did gigs to people sat in cars which was surreal and weird but fun. The first ‘normal’ stand up show I did after the first lockdown, to an audience sat in front of me and who I could look in the eye, was an open air gig at the end of July 2020 in North London. Outdoor gigs were seen as pretty difficult pre Covid, but I loved that show more than any other I’ve done. I will never ever take for granted how much I love my job and how difficult life was when I couldn’t do it.

Describe the last year in 5 words or less?

Divorcing but flourishing.

Do you subscribe to the idea that art should be exempt from ‘cancel culture’?

I kind of hate the use of the term ‘cancel culture’. It’s too simplistic a way to deal with changing attitudes in society. I think it’s best to consider each situation on its merits rather than promote the idea that you ‘can’t say anything anymore’. Fed up with journalists asking the question to be honest.

If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?

I really don’t know. I’d love to have been on a stage with Eric Morecambe - adored him… oh and Charlie Chaplin… Laurel and Hardy!… Richard Pryor!… Oh now I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon trying to work out who I’d liked to have worked with most.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?

Do it only because you love the show and want to perform it for a month. Don’t go there expecting it to give you an award or that you’ll be discovered. It’s too massive now for there to be any guarantees that you’ll come away having moved your project, or your career, forward. 

When and where can people see your show?

I’m at the Pleasance Courtyard at 8.10pm for the whole of the Edinburgh Fringe, apart from August 16th when I take a day off. Then I’m on tour nationwide from September 9th if you miss me at the fringe.

And where can people find, follow and like you online?

My website has all the show details at halcruttenden.com. I’m @halcruttenden on twitter, I’m @hcruttenden on instagram

And I have a page on Facebook under my name, which is Hal Cruttenden.


Hal Cruttenden’s new stand up show ‘It’s Best You Hear It From Me’ will be at the Pleasance Courtyard Two at 8.10pm for the month of August for tickets go to www.edfringe.com

Header Image Credit: Matt Crockett

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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