I spent an afternoon with comedian Charlie Chuck this week. Mad, bad and dangerous to know. Staring eyes. Shouting. A plank of wood in his hand. Talking gibberish with occasional mentions of a donkey. That’s Charlie Chuck on stage.
Whenever people hear that I know him, the inevitable question is:
“How dangerous is he?”
The answer is Not at all.
Off stage, he is a lovely, gentle person. He is a Christian.
In the early 1990s, I was up at the Edinburgh Fringe with the then-relatively-unknown Charlie Chuck. He was playing at new Venue 45 in Old St Paul’s Church, hidden away under the North Bridge and, with an unknown venue and a relatively unknown comic, audience figures were – at best – variable. He was thinking of giving up and going home. My advice to him then was – and to anyone at any time is:
“It’s the Fringe. Even if you have an audience of one person or no audience at all, play the gig and play the full run of the show because you don’t know who may be in the audience or who may turn up.”
A few days later, there were only four people in the audience. Charlie Chuck performed the show. Two of the audience members were preparing an upcoming BBC TV series The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and, as a direct result, Charlie Chuck was cast as ‘Uncle Peter’ in the series.
Well, in fact, there was no ‘Uncle Peter’ character created; they just shot the established Charlie Chuck act. Personally, I have always thought they ripped him off and took the script credit.
Now Charlie Chuck, under his real name of David Kear, has just finished filming a small role in a short film Teddy starring Sally Carman of Channel 4’s Shameless and directed by Rebecca Papworth who won the 2011 UK Film Council/ CTBF John Brabourne Award. It was a straight acting role played with his trademark hair slicked back.
He came down to London to talk to me about his Edinburgh Fringe show this year, still called Charlie Chuck’s Laughter Lounge but now – like many a Fringe show – somewhat unlike its description in the Fringe Programme. It will include two guest comics each night and it may or may not also include snippets of a ‘testimony’ show called Charlie Chuck’s Guide to the Universe which he had been going to perform at Old St Paul’s Church this year but which he will now develop for the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe – either as a play or as a one-man show.
This year’s show in SpaceCabaret @ 54 will be his traditional surreal mayhem and non-sequiters and, I suspect, much talk of ducks and donkeys and waving around of a plank will be involved.
Charlie Chuck’s Guide to the Universe next year will be about why he is a Christian, the effect on him of his father’s death and about how, by changing your perception, you can change your reality.
“Do you know,” he asked me, “that you grow a new stomach lining every three days? Our entire blood renews itself every three or four months. You get a new liver every six months and a new heart every six months.” But he could not resist adding: “An apple pie could be part of your back leg by next week.”
Charlie Chuck certainly seems to be on the cusp of a big change. But I think bits of surrealism may hang on in there.