Popular stand-up and TV panel veteran Sean Lock talks to Brian Donaldson about dancing, his dislike of James Bond – and why he regrets not going to Uni.
Back in 2000, Sean Lock struck a Michael Flatley pose in the publicity shot for his show, I Am The Lord Of The Dance.
A decade and a half on, and the choreographic world is, perhaps surprisingly, back on his mind during his new tour, Keep It Light.
“I watched a ballet on BBC Four and after about five minutes I really got into it.
“I’m not into contemporary dance, though: you can shove that back where it belongs in small marginal arts venues on the fringes of town.”
Harsh words perhaps, but then Lock has never been especially fearful of letting rip with his opinions. After all, he once presented a show on Channel 4 entitled TV Heaven, Telly Hell in which he and his guests spoke of those programmes which drove them to ecstasy or up the wall.
Having dealt with the world of dance there will be other topics bearing down on Lock’s brain on stage.
“I’m going to talk about jewellery heists, my bucket list and about some of my behaviour on the internet which I’m not especially proud of. But it’s not what you might think, don’t worry.
“And then I’ll have material about how I’ve got to an age where everything I do is considered to be a midlife crisis; so any activity and anything I buy or wear. If I get a pair of glasses, they’re considered to be a desperate attempt at disguising my age.
“It’s not my fault that all glasses are trendy these days; you can’t buy boring glasses any more, they’ve all got clear bits and a bit of lime around one of the eyes: I didn’t want to wear these, but that’s what they’re selling.”
And that’s not all. There’s a man who often just goes by a three digit number who has been really getting on Lock’s wick.
“I also talk about James Bond: I find the very notion of him so ridiculous. This thought that one man can save the world is so childish; an inebriated nine-year-old would struggle to maintain plausibility in that idea.
“I’ll talk about immigration, which is always fun because it’s an easy topic to get wrong. But I keep it light. I talk about isolation of the elderly in our society and how they can live out forgotten and anguished lives with barely even the flicker of recognition from their neighbours.
“But I’ll be keeping that light.”
This might be the right time to ask Lock what attracted him to the title of his new show.
“I like the ambiguity of ‘keep it light’. I like it as just a throwaway comment you can make to somebody when they’re talking about a terrible mishap that has befallen someone.
“It’s a pinprick to any kind of heaviness, and ultimately I see that as my job. So I can go down a particular path but I can keep it light by doing some silly stuff.”
Keeping it light is one thing but actually getting the show written is another matter entirely. It’s something that Lock continually struggles with each time he sits down to create a new stand-up set.
“I have this weird feeling that other comics have a much more effective and swifter, more skilled working policy where they’d say to me ‘no you don’t have to do it like that, you don’t have to take a year saying the wrong thing. You do it like this’.”
Lock puts this perceived flaw in his working methods down to not having gone to university, and he insists that not being educated in one of our great higher institutions is one of his major life regrets.
“People I know who went to university have a working method where they sit down and get something done; they know how to start and get on with things.
“I will do anything to avoid getting on with stuff. I have one method and that’s blind panic so I’ll sit down in my kitchen and suddenly get on with it. Maybe I just imagine it’s greener for other people.”
Whatever Sean Lock’s working methods, they have proved mightily successful across a comedy career that has lasted more than 20 years.
As well as touring extensively, he’s written the critically adored sitcom 15 Storeys High and notched up a weighty telly CV which features the likes of 8 Out Of 10 Cats, QI and Argumental.
He even has his own office now as a means of injecting a degree of discipline into his working regime, in order to get some writing done.
“I spend a lot of time achieving nothing; days go by sometimes. I do rent an office and go there, though not every day: that would be a lie. I have my huge word-game commitments: Countdown it’s called.
“But I have to be at my office just in case something comes along. It’s like fishing. If you don’t sit at the river bank with a fishing rod, a line, a hook and a worm on it, you’re never going to catch any fish so if I do this for a whole day, then something will slot into place.
“People perhaps assume that you just walk into a room and make this stuff up, but jokes are very hard to come by.”
That said, Lock is one of the best in the business at creating gags that live long in the memory.
But once they’re all in the bag and ready to be offloaded onto the public, other problems might arise: such as dealing with the rigours of large-scale touring and handling the post-show come-down.
“I lay off the sauce and don’t do too many dates in a row. Doing the show is enjoyable; the hard bit is being normal afterwards and trying not to be this twitching demented clown.
“Last year I thought I might knock stand-up on the head and take a longer break from it. After a few months, I realised I didn’t really like that idea because all the things that make me good at the job don’t switch off and so if you have nowhere to go with it, you just turn it on yourself.
“So, I’d give myself a hard time, mocking myself and then patronising myself to try and make me feel better. When it comes down to it, comedy is rehearsed moaning.”
For the good of the nation’s stand-up scene, let’s hope Lock finds plenty to keep complaining about.
Sean Lock is on tour now. For details of shows and tickets, head here