But he is also one half of English comedy duo Ellis & Rose.
He is in Belgium tomorrow, performing a new solo stand-up act as William Shakespeare. He persuaded me to write a blog about this. Which is why I met him at Bar Italia in London’s Soho.
However, I failed to write the blog, because both Ellis AND his comedy duo partner Rose both turned up.
“You’re going to be performing comedy as Shakespeare…” I started saying to Ellis.
“That’s his vanity project,” said Rose. “It’s destined to fail, because I’m not involved.”
“Shakespeare’s been done before,” I suggested.
“I’m just doing him as a character,” explained Ellis. I’m doing it at Whitespace in Belgium tomorrow, for a bunch of internet computer hackers and programmers. It’s called Hackerspace @ Whitespace.”
“Is that your new audience?” asked Rose. “Criminals?”
“Basically, yes,” replied Ellis. “internet criminals.”
“That’s the fanbase you want to build up?” asked Rose.
“I’ll be on Live at The Apollo as William Shakespeare,” said Ellis.
“And I’ll be in a flat with heroin in my eyes,” said Rose.
“How did you two meet?” I asked.
“We didn’t,” replied Ellis.
“We met at a party,” replied Rose. “We were both at Goldsmiths University for the same three year period. He did Drama & Theatre and I did English & Creative Writing, but we never once met each other.”
“I got invited to a house party at his house and didn’t go,” said Ellis. “So we could have started this off two or three years earlier.”
“We could have been famous by now,” said Rose.
“We were in Edinburgh, doing two different things,” said Ellis, “and we didn’t meet there either, but we were introduced in a bar…”
“No we weren’t,” said Rose.
“Yes we were,”said Ellis. “I’ve whittled it down. We were all in this bar on the same night and we must have been introduced but didn’t chat to each other. That was in 2011 – the year before we did our show in Edinburgh last year, which was 2012.”
“Yes it was,” said Rose.
“So we met at a party in February 2012,” said Ellis.
“We made each other chuckle,” said Rose. “I think we were both a bit drunk and we irritated everybody else. We came up with a skit about a unicorn. I don’t know how it went, but it seemed funny at the time.”
“We were just shouting He’s not a unicorn!” said Ellis. “He’s just a horse with a cone on his head!”
“We’ve grown since then,” said Rose, “both as performers and writers.”
“No we haven’t,” said Ellis.
“No we haven’t,” agreed Rose.
“So you did a show together at the Edinburgh Fringe last year…” I started to say.
“But you saw it in Camden Town after the Fringe finished,” Ellis reminded me.
“Which was a slightly improved version,” added Rose. “We took out a horribly mis-judged Michael Jackson seance which we’d done every day at the Fringe and sometimes got a laugh but really shouldn’t have done, because it was mean-spirited, crass and didn’t suit our show. Though now everything is even more mean-spirited and crass.”
“That’s our new angle.” said Ellis.
“You’re going to be mean-spirited and crass?” I asked.
“Yes” said Rose.”I’m crass.”
“And I’m mean-spirited,” said Ellis.
“And your show in Edinburgh this year, Ellis & Rose: Big in Denmark,” I started to say, “is a sketch show and it…”
“It’s not sketches,” said Rose. “It’s the Chuckle Brothers as imagined by David Lynch.”
“It’s like Salvador Dali doing a self-portrait on acid,” said Ellis. “We’re not as whimsical as last year.”
“It’s more coherent than last year,” said Rose. “You said we kind of needed a point, John. So this year we’re pretending we have one.”
“I think it’s definitely more rounded,” said Ellis.
“But last year?” I asked.
“After we first met after that party in 2012,” said Rose, “he pretty much immediately said Let’s form a double act and I said OK, thinking it would never come to anything but, as soon as I turned up at his place, he said Right, we’re doing the Edinburgh Fringe and I said But we don’t know each other and he said Well, we’re doing it anyway and I think that day we filled in the form, which is why we’re called Ellis & Rose, because we couldn’t think of a better name immediately. And then we were forced to become friends really quickly.”
“That was around March last year,” explained Ellis, “before the Edinburgh Fringe in August.”
“We threw a show together in four months,” said Rose, “without really knowing each other at all.”
“We still write separately,” explained Ellis.
“Nothing ever gets done if we sit down to write together,” said Rose.
“We re-write it in rehearsal,” explained Ellis, “like un-filtering our brains.”
“I have a feeling,” I said, “that you’re not doing the normal Edinburgh thing and treating it as a career move. You see it more as a having a bit of a laugh.”
Ellis laughed: “No! I disagree with this. We’re just learning by mistakes how to do things…”
“…like an interview,” added Rose.
“And,” I said to Ellis, “at last year’s increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show, you manned the tech booth with the lovely Misha. And you got it right.”
“I had fun,” said Ellis.
“And you’ll be there this year too,” I said.
“Yes I will,” said Ellis.
“Just introduce me to Miss Behave,” Rose told me. “Because that foxy lady and her melon-head-smashing ways was, quite frankly, the biggest turn-on at the Fringe last year.”
“And she can do things with that tongue…” Ellis started to say.
“Oh!” said Rose enthusiastically, “Oh! Oh! I’d forgotten about that tongue.”
“Or the sweat,” said Ellis, “running down her arm and out of that latex dress, like a torrent of…”
“It cascaded out…” enthused Rose.
“Like sexy lady juices,” said Ellis.
“Like a Niagara Falls made of leather,” enthused Rose.
“She should have stood in a paddling pool for the whole show,” said Ellis, “and then, at the end, someone could have dived in and splashed around in Miss Behave’s juice. That would have been a brilliant closer. There you go, John, that’s an act this year.”
“Now my mum can’t read this interview,” lamented Rose.
“It would be a way to top the Greatest Show on Legs’ naked balloon dance,” I mused.
“Maybe Bob Slayer should do it this year,” suggested Ellis.
“What?” asked Rose, “Bob in a PVC suit?”
“Full of sweat,” enthused Ellis. “They could get sponsored and do it in Bob’s Bookshop. Get a little paddling pool. Get some hot lights and Miss Behave in her latex dress. Do stuff in there for an hour or so…”
“Or just stand still and sweat,” said Rose even more enthusiastically
“Well,” said Ellis, “she can move about a bit to get the juices going.”
“Stop saying juices,” suggested Rose. “Say sweat.”
“He doesn’t mean sweat,” I suggested.
“Sweat,” said Ellis. “Whatever’s coming out, until it’s a few centimetres deep, and then Bob can get in there and splash about. He can raise money for something.”
“It would get people in,” said Rose. “Bob dancing around in Miss Behave’s sweat.”
“But would your mother come?” I asked Rose.
“My mum and I,” he replied, “accidentally saw a striptease at Edinburgh last year and that was very uncomfortable.”
“Accidentally??” I said.
“We went along to one of those variety shows,” he explained. “they had Piff The Magic Dragon, The Boy With Tape On His Face and then Miss Kitty dressed as a cat who removed everything and I sat there clutching my knees very tightly. She got down to little nipple-tassles and a crotch-covering glittery thing and dribbled milk down herself. Me and my mum didn’t say anything about it until three months afterwards. I brought it up jokingly one day and she asked me Was that filthy? and I said Yes, it was pretty filthy, mum and she said Oh. I must not have had my spectacles on.”
“You think your mum is innocent,” said Ellis. “She probably thought that was tame.”
“Perhaps that was how you were conceived,” I said to Rose. “Tell me about being the Lothario of the Lothians,” I suggested to Ellis
“No,” said Ellis.
“Readers of my blog will make up their own back story,” I warned him. “They have very vivid imaginations.”
And that, I very much hope, is the case.