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A chat with comedian Stephen Lynch

Trudie Robinson catches up with the New York comic-rocker ahead of his Lowry Theatre show

Published on March 9th 2010.

A chat with comedian Stephen Lynch

Top of the frequently asked questions on Stephen Lynch’s website is whether he would describe himself as a comedian or a musician. Funny how straddling two genres confuses people. He is quite simply both. As he notes, “Not unlike a member of the transgender community, I am a musician trapped in the body of a comedian. Someday I hope to have career re-assignment surgery. To the public, I'm a comedian who sings.”

“I'm writing a musical based on the movie Scarface. It will be touching and inspirational and hopefully we will use real cocaine.”

And he does both well. On first listen, you think his songs wouldn’t be out of place at a rock gig. Then when you listen closer to the lyrics you realise that they’re tightly constructed for laughs. He’s not unlike current comedy darling Tim Minchin – an accomplished musician with a strong comedic sense – only Lynch has a considerably filthier sensibility.

Apparently it started with his Dad. “My father was a singer and guitar player, so if you want to get all Freudian, I guess I wanted to please Daddy.” Though he’s unsure whether Dad would approve. “Unfortunately, most of the material I've written is not something one's parents would be particularly proud of. You know, Nazis and AIDS and hermaphrodite prostitutes – that sort of thing.”

He also blames exposure to certain types of theatre when he was younger. “I grew up doing musical theatre, which is chock-full of funny songs. I figured why not do the same thing in my own style?”

Any other sources of inspiration? “I loved Spinal Tap, the Smothers Brothers, Tom Lehrer and the greatest songwriter of all time, Wesley Willis. If you don't know his work, look him up on YouTube and be prepared to be blown away.”

Do so. Willis was an incredible guy – a paranoid schizophrenic with an utterly ad-hoc and random approach to writing songs who developed a cult following in his native Chicago and beyond.

Now Lynch has conquered his adopted home of New York (“I just did a show at Carnegie Hall, which was definitely a highlight…”) and spread his comedy song across the States (he’s onto his fourth album), he’s off on a UK tour. Though it’s not the first time he’s performed over here.

“I've done three or four tours of Britain, including the Reading and Leeds festivals last year, which were a lot of fun. I've never had to change any of my material. I find that audiences around the world are pretty much the same, except in Ireland, where they are much drunker, and Scandinavia, where they are much blonder.”

And his plans for the future? “I'm writing a musical based on the movie Scarface. It will be touching and inspirational and hopefully we will use real cocaine.”

He could be joking but I sincerely hope not. It could work out to be a genius pairing.

Stephen Lynch, Lowry Theatre, Thursday 11 March, 7.30pm, £18.50, 0843 208 6000, www.thelowry.com

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Mr. CheeseApril 28th 2010.

This guy is really funny.

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