COMEDY: CHRIS GREEN INTERVIEW (DON’T PANIC APRIL 2011)
Multi award-winning entertainer Chris Green has dabbled in everything from comedy acting to experiential artistry to song writing for Sesame Street. Set to take the stage at E4’s Udderbelly festival as original characters pensioner-turned-rapper Ida Barr and country music superstar Tina C, Chris talks to us about bears, stage hypnotism and Kate Middleton perfume.
So, Ida Barr will be kicking off this season’s Udderbelly festival in the ‘cow’ tent – which is also the same day as a certain Royal Wedding. How does she feel about performing for two such prestigious events?
Ida’s deeply ambivalent about most things, she’s furious at the money being spent, “who do they think they are” etc, but at the same time’s she’s very patriotic. As she says, “I’m a dichotomy in a headscarf”. Obviously, the thing to do on the 29th will be to go and play a raucous game of bingo with Ida! You can win cheap tat and have fun doing it, and if that’s not a metaphor for modern Britain, I don’t know what is.
What are the prizes?
The top prize is a Queen Mother figurine, and there’s also some absolutely tip-top Kate and Will poundshop memorabilia – including the Kate Middleton fragrance! If you have any sinus problems, it’ll help.
And what can we expect from Tina C at Udderbelly?
It’s been a tricky time for Tina. She’s a big American superstar, and ran for election in 2008 but didn’t make it to the White House. It’s hard to go back to being a singer when what you really want to do is run the biggest country in the free world. She’ll be talking about the Tea Party movement and the rise of US right-wing politics, and also singing old-fashioned country music.
What draws you to character comedy, over say, doing stand-up as yourself?
I really like theatricality. I like creating theatrical fictions, they enable you to get at truth in a much more precise way; with Tina, I’m looking at American right-wing fundamentalists by pretending to be one.
What would you say is more important: conveying those serious ideas, or making people laugh?
Both, at the same time. Sometimes I might just be having fun, and there’ll be absolutely no point to it, but I hope I’m never just making a serious point and it’s not entertaining.
It feels like musical comedy is becoming a rarity these days. What is it about the medium that interests you?
Music is, and will always be, important. When people manage to ally music and comedy well, it can be really exciting, and that will never go out of fashion.
Your latest character Derek Diamond is a stage hypnotist – is it true that you’re a trained stage hypnotist yourself?
Yes, I just qualified. The first time I played Derek I had 25 people all doing what I was telling them to do, which was quite freaky! I can’t tell you how it works, but it’s an incredible experience. He gets the audience to be pop stars, to pretend they’ve got a firework up their arse… all the classics.
Tell us about your upcoming musical project Carrying Lead [themed on Green’s experiences of losing his partner to cancer]. Obviously, it’s about very personal subject to you…
I don’t want to just say, “Here’s my pain, look how tragic things are”, rather, “Here are some songs I’ve written; empathise, but also be entertained”. I watched a programme about this woman caring for bears in Canada, and she said, “A lot of our bears have been shot, but they just get up and carry on walking; we say that they’re carrying lead”, and I just thought, ‘Aren’t we all, sweetheart?’ It’s a fantastic metaphor for getting through difficult times; we’re all carrying lead, but you just get up and carry on.