Hal Cruttenden: ‘Mock The Week is hard work and not pleasant. But it delivers for the viewer’

The stand-up on offending his wife, schooldays with George Osborne and why he’s far nastier than everyone thinks.

Live At The Apollo star Hal Cruttenden
Living the dream (almost) Hal Cruttenden says if he ever gets to write his own sitcom, he'll have to quit stand-up as he'd have nothing to moan about.

By rights, Hal Cruttenden should be running the country by now. He went to the same London public school, St Paul’s, as George Osborne.  He has a degree in politics.

But the 46-year-old is also blessed with funny bones. After a middling career as an actor – EastEnders, Kavanagh QC, various ITV detective shows – Cruttenden switched to comedy in the early 00s when a friend recommended he try a stand-up course.

He’s since stormed it on Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You and Live At The Apollo. Not bad for someone who’s “silly, camp and a lot less pleasant than everyone thinks”.

Here, the comedian currently touring his superbly-named show Straight Outta Cruttenden presents his rules for living…




“Politicians should be paid a lot more”

I’ve been asked to go on Question Time, but I refused as any politician on the panel could out-argue me. My degree in politics only makes me aware of how little I know.

Politics is harder than people think and politicians should be paid a lot more. If they were paid more, they’d have more respect for the job. Because it’s not paid well, people from poorer backgrounds who are bright don’t go into it – they can earn far more as a lawyer.

That’s the reason the Cabinet is full of multi-millionaires. David Cameron can afford to say ‘I’m not going to take my MPs’ pay-rise.’ Of course not! He was born a millionaire, married a millionaire and doesn’t need the money.


“Mock The Week is tiring”

Being on Mock The Week can be aggressive. It’s hard work, but it really delivers for the viewer. You need to do a lot of work to do well on the show, because it’s quite tiring – it’s three hours’ recording for each half-hour episode. But that’s why it’s such a good show, because every subject is explored thoroughly.

It’s not the most pleasant show to do, but every comedian on there gets time to shine. It’s great for bringing on new comics too.

Mock The Week star Hal Cruttenden
No need to mock Mock The Week star Hal Cruttenden believes MPs should be paid more.


“I’m a lot less pleasant than people think”

The general theme of my last couple of shows is that I’m a lot less pleasant than you think. We’ve all got mates who are big and scary-looking, but turn out to be lovely. I’m friends with the rugby player Martin Bayfield, who’s 6ft 8ins and could break me with his bare hands. But he’s so sweet. I’m the reverse. People think I’m camp and cuddly, but actually I’m quite spiteful.


“Hecklers have ruined club comedy”

I’m quite thin-skinned and I never thought I’d be able to deal with the bullying side of comedy, of people shouting unpleasant drunken insults at you. I love it so much that I’ll put up with bad nights when it’s scary.

But shouting drunks have ruined British club comedy. Men become aggressive and see being in the audience as a test of their machismo. It’s a willy-waving exercise of ‘You can’t get me! I’m funnier than you!’ It’s a status thing. Women can be crap audience members too, but generally only when they’re really, really drunk.



“Even at school George Osborne was a prick”

George Osborne was a couple of years below me at school, but I do remember him. We were both part of the school debating society and he was exactly what you see now: he was an entitled, tubby, smug little prick. Someone from his year told me that, aged 13, Osborne was walking around school going ‘I’m going to be Prime Minister one day.’ I can’t substantiate that, but you can easily believe it.

Chancellor George Osborne, a former schoolmate of Hal Cruttenden
"An entitled, tubby, smug little prick" Or George Osborne, to give it its human name.



“Children really do say the funniest things”

I’ve got about four jokes in my show that really are just things my youngest daughter has said. My kids are breathtakingly rude to me. They’re constantly asking when I’m going to come out of the closet. I don’t know many parents whose kids always question their dad’s sexuality.

My wife enjoys being part of my show a lot less. She doesn’t like any of my jokes about sex. None of them are true – it’d be weird if I really did say ‘You’ll never believe what happened in the bedroom’ – but it is a bone of contention. And now I’ve said it’s a bone of contention, she’ll be really pissed off!

She also gets a bit fed up of me overplaying how much of a tough Northern Irish person she is. She’s a far more complex and interesting individual than that. But she has got a temper, and a Northern Irish person with a temper is great comedy value.



“The abuse Michael McIntyre gets is disgusting”

People can be really wanky about comedy and there are too many fellow comedians slagging Michael, who is incredibly clever. If you’re playing to 16,000 people a night, you’ve got to have a great hit rate. You don’t have time to go ‘Let me take you on a long comedy journey.’

I hate people who write Michael off just because he’s uncool. There’s room in comedy for everybody, like Stewart Lee and Noel Fielding. I love Frankie Boyle, because that makes me hard and tough! But abusing Michael just makes me sad. It’s absolutely disgusting.

I guarantee you, Michael will be cool in 30 years. People will say ‘Yeah, man, McIntyre is retro. He’s one of the classics like Morecambe And Wise and Tommy Cooper.’ And they’ll be exactly the same wankers who don’t like him now.

Stand-up comedian Hal Cruttenden
King of comedy Middle-aged gangsta rap fan Hal Cruttenden shoots from the hip.


“UKIP supporters are welcome at my show”

I don’t think you’re a bad person for voting Tory or UKIP. I might think you’re misinformed, but I know there are huge variations within each political party. There probably is a nice, moderate person within UKIP, though I can’t think of any.

I’d hate to be a comedian going ‘Everyone should hate Tories, they’re fascists!’ I take the piss out of myself first, because I know I’m a hypocritical leftie. I’ll do anything to ensure my kids get an advantage – but I don’t believe in advantages for children.

I do bits and bobs of political comedy, but to be a proper political comedian you have to keep up with politics full-time, like Mark Steel or Mark Thomas. I can be silly on Have I Got News For You, but real political comedy is hard.



“I’m aware I’m having a mid-life crisis”

Straight Outta Cruttenden asks why I’ve started listening to gangsta rap again in my mid-40s. There’s definitely a mid-life crisis there. I got into NWA and Public Enemy at university, but it’s only in the last year that I’ve downloaded them again.

I’m driving around in my nice, comfortable car going ‘God, this music is so therapeutic!’ I’m angry quite a lot of the time, and it gets it out of my system.

But if my teenage daughters are in the car, I do have to tell them ‘Don’t listen to this, it’s very misogynist.’



“All comedians have a couple of TV projects on the go”

Like all comedians, I’m always working on a couple of TV shows. But I am working on a sitcom, which some channels are interested in.

I’m always doing a couple of gameshows, trying to get a regular show on TV. But a sitcom is the dream. If I have a sitcom I’m writing and starring in, I’d have to stop doing stand-up as I wouldn’t have anything to moan about!

Hal Cruttenden is on tour until June 5. See here for dates.

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