Twonkey aka Paul Vickers is back at London’s Soho Theatre on Tuesday with a new show.
Well, sort of.
I talked to him on FaceTime. He lives in Edinburgh.
JOHN: You didn’t play the much-cut-back Edinburgh Fringe this year.
PAUL: No, because it kept wavering. I was due be doing it at Dragonfly again, but then that got closed for two weeks because of a Covid outbreak.
JOHN: You’re coming down south for your Soho Theatre show: Twonkey’s Greatest Twitch. Didn’t you have a Twitch show before?
PAUL: Yes, there was Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch. This one is more like a ‘Best of Twonkey’ show.
The difficulty is selecting what the best is. I’ve just chosen what I think the best bits are and hope people will agree with me. I mean, really, Twonkey started as a joke and just got out of hand.
It was something I did off the cuff. I didn’t think: Oh, I’ll be doing this for over ten years. I just thought: I’ll do one Edinburgh Fringe and see what happens. But then you get addicted; you get on the treadmill of doing it.
I am feeling a bit like James Bond, in the sense that I’ve created a franchise and I feel like I’m getting to the point where I’d like to pass it on to someone else.
JOHN: Who else could do a Twonkey show though?
PAUL: Princess Anne was on the list.
JOHN: Have you asked her? It’s worth asking because you’re likely to get a reply from some official which you could quote… Who else?
PAUL: Peter Crouch, the footballer. John Craven was mentioned.
JOHN: Why would Princess Anne be ideal to do a Twonkey show?
PAUL: It was thought she might give it a bit of dignity. But Princess Margaret was the fun one. She used to get stoned with the Incredible String Band, apparently.
JOHN: And now it’s too late…
PAUL: Yes. But I feel like Roger Moore gearing up for Octopussy. It won’t feel like that once I get going again. At the moment I’m in that nervous period.
It will be like Diamonds Are Forever when I get going.
JOHN: You haven’t performed as Twonkey for a while, because of the lockdowns…
PAUL: Yeah. I’ve been more into band stuff. (More on his band Paul Vickers and The Leg in my blog of February this year)
JOHN: Are you going to do less Twonkey and more music?
PAUL: I think it might be a bit like that, yeah. We were gonna try and incorporate a band thing in the new show, but we’re not really ready: it’s such a long process with the band.
JOHN: Your shows tend to have music in them, but you mean the band could actually be part of a Twonkey show?
PAUL: That could happen. I’ve always wanted to do that. The main thing that stops me is expense and all the Edinburgh Fringe venues are basically just like a plug in the wall. It would have to be a big enough venue to fit six people with equipment on the stage.
JOHN: Anything planned after the Soho Theatre and before next year’s Edinburgh Fringe?
PAUL: Well, I did write another show that I had been going to do in 2020: Twonkey’s Custard Club. I had an elaborate idea involving custard as currency and where desserts had become the main meal.
JOHN: That works for me.
PAUL: I was all geared-up to do it at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2020, but then all the lockdowns happened and I couldn’t do anything for almost two years.
JOHN: So why are you not doing Twonkey’s Custard Club as your Soho Theatre show?
PAUL: Well, I kept opening the Word document and I thought: I don’t know how I feel about that now… There had been enough time for doubts to creep in. Previously, there had never been enough time for doubts to creep in because, every year, I barely had enough time to get a coherent show together for the Fringe.
I think everyone’s gone through this thing where you had a structured life and, during the pandemic, it wasn’t there any more. And then you start thinking: Do I really need to do that any more? Is that important? Do I LIKE doing that? It’s quite stressful.
All those things came into the equation, so I became a bit more serious. The new band album is quite serious. I got quite into that during the pandemic – crafting a really good album.
JOHN: What was Twonkey’s Custard Club like?
PAUL: There was a book that had 100 pages with the same picture on every page. It was a tankard and a sleepy/romantic Alpine scene. There was a whole bit about if that book did exist, how would you interpret it? You would probably automatically think there might be a slight difference between the pictures and start looking for it. But there was no difference.
JOHN: Was any custard involved?
PAUL: In that bit, no. It was not custardy that bit. It wasn’t ALL custardy.
There will be a couple of custard songs in the Soho Theatre show – the ‘Best of’ show – despite the fact they’ve never been heard by anyone before.
JOHN: Seems reasonable.
PAUL: If the gig at the Soho Theatre goes well, that’ll help me make my decision on what to do.
If everyone’s like You can’t stop doing that! That’s great, Paul! that’s one thing. But, if it ends with people booing and asking for refunds, then… (LAUGHS)
There are some amazing puppets that Grant’s made for the show. The Wobbly Waiter of the Custard Club has got leg braces and everything. It was going to have custard and wobbly things on the plate. You bomb about and create absolute chaos with him because it’s very heavy and impossible to control. So it’s the perfect foil for comedy activity.
JOHN: You haven’t done Twonkey at all during the pandemic?
PAUL: Well I did a pub quiz as Twonkey in a little pub called The Hoppy in Edinburgh and that went really well. That was the first time I’d done Twonkey in ages.
JOHN: How does Twonkey do a pub quiz? Surreal questions?
PAUL: Well, there’s a lot of things I do that make it not work.
JOHN: Is that the basis of Twonkey? Making it not work.
PAUL: Essentially. For example, at the pub quiz, I was forgetting to read out all the answers and no-one had any idea who was winning, not even me because I had forgotten to count it up.
JOHN: What happened at the end?
PAUL: My brother tried to make sense of it all and we did crown a winner.
JOHN: You had hosted pub quizzes before?
PAUL: When I did it on Leith Walk, I used to do it at a place called Woodland Creatures. But the trouble with pub quizzes is that people take them very seriously and the Edinburgh Pub Quiz Mafia came round. I was like the new kid on the block.
JOHN: Who are the Edinburgh Pub Quiz Mafia?
PAUL: Well, there’s a few of them that do the pub quiz circuit. Some of them do five or six pubs. I used to think the host for a pub quiz was probably a local schoolteacher with a bit of knowledge and time on his hands but – nah – it’s much more cynical than that.
The Pub Quiz Mafia were like: What’s this guy up to? Because I was going against the conventions of pub quizzes…
JOHN: … like giving the answers…
PAUL: …erm… yes. It was controversial at first. I had one round where I showed a clip from a film and people watched it really carefully, thinking the questions were going to be about that clip… but then I’d ask questions about a completely different film.
At the start, it was quite popular. I had a dominatrix doing the score cards. She was in latex and stuff.
She was like Carol Vorderman from Countdown. She was the brain and the discipline of the quiz and I was like Richard Whiteley, sitting there not having a clue what was going on, but being charming in a way I suppose. If I messed up, the dominatrix would keep me in line.
JOHN: She would whip you into shape?
PAUL: (LAUGHS) There was no whipping involved, but she made it known she was displeased. And she got angry with people who weren’t behaving in the crowd. After she stopped helping out, I was just sort of floating because I forgot I was doing a pub quiz. And it turned out that really frustrates people.
JOHN: What were you thinking if you forgot it was a pub quiz?
PAUL: Well, I start off thinking: Oh, this will be fun. And then I lose interest because it’s a pub quiz. I suppose I’ve made it my own. You could say it’s just a bad pub quiz.
JOHN: You should do a bad pub quiz at the Edinburgh Fringe. People would flock to it.
PAUL: Maybe… I will send you a link to my new video: Everyone Loves Custard. It will be in the Soho show.