Jack Barry is a man on a mission. Back at the Edinburgh Fringe and currently wowing with his new show “High Treason” he’s here to talk about the sticky topic of drug legalisation and loaded is inclined to listen.
A self-confessed occasional drug user, he’s out to fight the powers that be and hopefully make you laugh a bit while he’s at it too. Off the back of two critically acclaimed shows and with his current run garnering good reviews, Jack spoke to loaded about the differences between weed and booze and why you should never get high before a show.
loaded: What inspired you to write a whole show about drugs?
Jack: I wanted to write a show about something I am passionate about and so decided to take on drugs, talking about legalisation and drug laws – but in a funny way! I should probably stress that.
loaded: Have you had any run-ins with the law over drugs?
Jack: Weirdly, my abiding memory comes from when I did work experience for the police, when I was 17. I actually worked in a drugs squad for the police in Germany. It was part of my A-level work experience. That was my first experience of the law. Like most work experience at that age, you usually end up doing the complete opposite. So I went from working for the drugs squad in the police to being a comedian that talks about why we should legalise drugs. Classic work experience really.
“It was the first time I have ever been heckled by an anus”
loaded: Why do you think drugs should be legalised?
Jack: The prohibition of drugs just doesn’t work. Policing it and trying to keep it off the streets and make it illegal has been shown, for years, not to work as a policy. It doesn’t make things safer, it makes it more dangerous if anything. There are surely more sensible ways to police it. Also, there’s a hypocrisy with drugs in that, we have plenty of legal drugs like alcohol or nicotine that we’re fine with, and yet we exist by this system that tells us one drug is fine and another is illegal which is just completely arbitrary. That’s the main point I’m trying to make in the show.
loaded: So say loaded gave you the option of performing in front of a drunk audience or a stoned audience, which would you choose?
Jack: Definitely stoned. Any day of the week. Drunk audiences can be great but invariably you get one guy who is way too pissed and ruins it for everyone. I definitely prefer high audiences. A few years back I did a Christmas gig for the employees of this Cider company and they had been drinking all day. By the time I got on stage they were all so pissed it was pretty much impossible to do the gig. They were all yelling and rowdy and talking to each other.
I got about half way through one story before someone in the audience farted so loudly it derailed the whole gig. I tried to finish the story but no one was listening – they were all talking about the fart. It was the first time I have ever been heckled by an anus. Weirdly, at the end of the gig, about 10 of the guys were waiting outside the gig to beat us up because they didn’t like us. That’s the kind of thing that can also happen with a drunk audience.
loaded: What was your experience with a stoned audience like?
Jack: It was great! Or at least I think it was – I was stoned as well. I ended up doing about two hours of comedy. Afterwards, I said to one of my friends ‘oh I didn’t even realise I had two hours of material’ and he was like ‘you didn’t. You ended up telling some of the jokes two or three times. But everyone was having such a great time, no one really noticed.’
loaded: So would you endorse smoking a joint before going on stage?
Jack: I have done it but I usually like to go on stage completely sober. Having a spliff before going on stage can certainly help you relax but it can also make you a bit forgetful. I’ve found, when I get stoned on stage, sometime I will get half way through a bit and then forget what the punchline is. There’s also the risk that, if you get heckled, you might be a bit slow to react. So I try to stay sober.
loaded: Do you prepare lines for hecklers or is it off the cuff?
Jack: Everyone has a few stock phrases you call on because you find most hecklers are pretty much the same – a pissed person who thinks they are helping the show. So you’ve usually got something that can deal with that. Sometimes you might get a heckler who says something quite funny. Then you have to think a bit more. That’s rare though. Heckling is a fine art.
loaded: You’re known for being pretty laid back on stage – how do you stay cool without drugs?
Jack: Practice. I used to get so nervous. I had about six pints before I went on stage for the first time and was absolutely battered. That was my main way of dealing with it for a long time. But after a while, once you know your material and you know your jokes, you realise there is nothing to panic about and people will laugh. It’s only when someone is in the audience I want to impress, or I’m trying to get on TV or it’s a big venue that I might get nervous now.
loaded: Given that the country is an unmitigated joke at the moment, are we in something approaching a golden age for comedians?
Jack: Certainly for satire. You have Donald Trump who is a walking cartoon and then there’s the shit shower of Theresa May and Brexit. But part of the reason I wanted to do a show about drugs was that I wanted to tackle something tougher and bit more taboo – it seemed like more of a challenge than taking pot shots at the government.
loaded: Will drugs ever be legalised in the UK?
Jack: Hard to say. It’s happening in countries like Uruguay or in certain US States. Portugal decriminalised all drugs 16 years ago and that was a massive success. The UK needs to look at these places and take note. Still, it’s probably going to take time. Especially with the Tories in power – they are not known for being progressive.
Jack Barry is performing “High Treason” at Just The Tonic Comedy Club until the end of the month – tickets are available here.