Andy de la Tour discusses Stand-Up or Die at the National Theatre
Andy de la Tour is currently appearing in Alan Bennett’s People at the National Theatre, but this was a conversation about stand-up comedy, centering around his new book, Stand-Up or Die.
The discussion, led by a languid Miles Jupp, began with a recollection of the “egalitarian polytechnic of laughs” that was The Comedy Store in the 1980s. This was de la Tour’s comedic early testing ground, and he described the sink-or-swim atmosphere in which any performer could be evicted from the stage if a heckler shouted “GONG!”.
After ten years as a regular at The Comedy Store, Andy quit stand-up and entered the “cosmic black hole” of television writing. After a while, he tired of it and, needing a new adventure, he returned to stand-up comedy, this time setting his sights on New York. He tells us, after five weeks in the Big Apple trying to introduce himself to people, he landed an eight-minute slot at a small club. He read a passage from his book describing his anxiety and his pleasure on coming off the stage having made the crowd laugh. It’s charming stuff.
Amid gags about right-wing Republicans and the Royal Family for good measure, more excerpts were read, detailing more gigs. They were small, there was no money, but he was doing it. De la Tour had no intention of becoming famous in America, he was just doing it “for the love”, he said.
All very pleasant, but at the National Theatre one looks forward to an experience that is in one way or another theatrical. Here, the “show” aspect of de la Tour’s night seemed incidental. Ultimately, this seemed to be simply a platform to sell a book, which could just as easily have been done in a bookshop.
Stand-Up or Die is published by Oberon Books and is available to purchase here.