(Originally published in The Galleon in December 2015 and nominated for ‘Best Interview’)
Andy Hamilton may be short in stature – he stands at 5’2″ – but he is a giant in the world of comedy. His appearances on QI and Have I Got News for You, combined with his writing credits on hits such as Outnumbered and Ballot Monkeys, have ensured his status as a true comedy legend.
He now embarks on a tour of the UK with his new show Change Management, and the 61 year-old says that audiences can expect more than just laughter.
“I’m hoping it’s the kind of show that might cause arguments in the car on the way home,” he explains. “I try and talk about social changes that have happened in the last sixty years and try and assess whether they’re positive or negative, or significant or insignificant. My objective is to make [the audience] laugh and make them think a little bit as well.”
Despite a lot of his comedy revolving around him throwing a fresh perspective on things, Andy denies being a voice of reason, instead saying: “I’m more of a voice of puzzlement! I know every generation thinks the world is getting faster, and it’s true, but I think the current wave of technology has made people even more perplexed than usual, so I think they enjoy being able to laugh about the confusions and contradictions of it.”
It was the confusions and contradictions of modern family life that provided the basis for Outnumbered, one of his biggest successes. The BBC sitcom, co-written by Andy and fellow comedy writer Guy Jenkin, starred Claire Skinner and Hugh Dennis as a mother and father being tormented by their kids.
“We tried to get a funny, honest reflection of the chaos of having a house full of small children. As the kids got older, we tried to make it a true reflection of the problems that families face as kids grow older, so in its essence it’s trying to be accurate in its observation. A lot of people have said ‘You must have cameras in our house’ and that kind of thing so I think that must be the heart of its success.”
The show proved so popular with audiences that the premise was turned into the feature length film What We Did on Our Holiday, a big screen debut for Andy, and there could be more movies on the horizon for him and Jenkin.
“We are working on another screenplay and we’re hoping to do another movie in the not too distant future. With movies you’re always hesitant to say they’re going to happen because they rely on so many different elements together, especially on the financial side.”
While another film is a distinct possibility, the latest project from the comedian is a book, which he keenly points out by saying: “There is something I’m working on which might be interesting. I’m bringing out a novel with an online publisher.”
“It’s a company called Unbound; they crowd-fund the production costs of the book. I always really like doing something new so it’s going to be interesting.”
And on the subject of new things, the conversation moves onto QI and the show’s new host, University of Portsmouth chancellor, Sandi Toksvig. Andy, a regular on the BBC Two show, backed the fellow comedian.
“Sandi will be a good host and she’s extremely knowledgeable, and she’s very funny so I think she’ll be really good. And I will look a lot taller!”
Andy’s wit and humour may appear well-polished on QI, but he hints that there may be more improvisation than it seems as I ask him how he prepares for shows like Have I Got News for Youor The News Quiz.
“The way I approach it is I’ll read the papers and watch the news and usually there’s about three or four stories in a week, and I like to go in with half a dozen jokes about those stories in the head. I may or may not get to use them on the night depending on how the conversation goes. After that I just spill off what other people talk about.”
This month, Hamilton deservedly joined the ranks of countless previous comedians, of which Oliver and Hardy are to name a few, to enter the halls of the New Theatre Royal with his show, Change Management.