“Everything is great”, says Tony Law. “I’ve never had any issues ever.” The Alberta, Canada-born but London-grown surrealist storyteller is fresh off a short slot at Hansom Hall alongside Andrew O’Neill, but fresher still off a well-documented mental health journey. That path now has him brimming with tongue-in-cheek but nonetheless genuine positivity about his new show, which hits the Cookie for a warm-up show in July before heading up for a traditional Edinburgh run.
A Lost Show will, Law tells us, touch on some themes relevant to his recent trials – “It’s about rebirth. Second chances. Joy.” It’s not all inward-looking, though.
As a performer, Law’s keenness to include his audience in the harmless spirit of fun is immediately obvious when he’s on stage – using, for example, apparently standard crowd banter to spin a yarn about he and an audience member having been comrades in Genghis Khan’s army – but his insistence on turning the mood of joyful recovery outwards is apparent in how he speaks about his new material. “I’m delivering medicine to the forgotten absurdity crowd.” This positive feedback loop is one that he relishes, too – “I feel less alone. There are other morons just like me!”
It’s not just comedy keeping Law healthy – his dog Wolfy, who he describes as “an arsehole” who “pulls like a prick on the lead”, has starred in what must now amount to hours of Instagram content, hinging on the drama of whether or not he’ll come back when called in the woods. This seemingly throwaway personal meme was a creative venture of pure, simple, independent happiness – an entirely different format to stand-up, but imbued with the same spirit as Law’s on-stage material. Wolfy’s contributions don’t cross over between the two very much, however – “I don’t listen to his ideas anymore,” Law reveals. “We get along better if he stays out of my job. Good cuddles, though.”
So who is A Lost Show for, if not the dog? Law furnishes us with an example of the kind of audience member he envisions these days: “Truck driver, but your mates only talk about football and straight stand-up. You are okay with that, but you also like art. And you laugh at all sorts of different things.” It’s an openness and inclusiveness that facilitates the good faith and ready-for-anything enthusiasm that makes Law’s shows work. We at GC won’t pretend that people with friends who like football are an oppressed minority, especially in a World Cup year, but there’s an undeniable delight in Law so brazenly defying any stereotype of alternative stand-up as exclusionary or elitist – everyone with a desire to see something genuinely different is just as genuinely welcome. “You are smart,” Law speculates, “maybe not rich or driven. Normal but abnormal.”
It’s that spirit that’s kept Law coming back to our back yard – and frequently selling out the Cookie and elsewhere – year after year, both in and out of the Festival. “What I like about Leicester is that, god, for some reason I’ve build an audience of enablers who like my absurd joker-ing philosophising. It’s Leicester’s fault.” Uh, is that bad, Tony? Are we part of the problem?” Apparently not – “My favourite people are Leicester-type towns,” he tells us, clearly very fond of the city that, for instance, welcomed his breathless February 2017 declaration that he was going to “kick this thing in the ballbag” when arriving 40 minutes late on stage due to parking difficulties.
Law is endearingly self-deprecating about the material itself. “It’s a whole different word order. Some new words. Mostly a lot of the same words – you know the ones, “the”, “it”, etcetera.” It’s indicative of the kind of slightly embarrassed happiness that a truly unique artist has found in discovering an audience so utterly adoring of his aesthetic, his niche, his insistence that “I know what I mean” and the implication that it’s a select few others who understand it too. He does promise some experimentation even within the usual experimentation – “more clowning, more basic bits involving less words, it’s artistic in that way” – but firmly in control of the unfolding chaos will be the core, the heart, of Tony Law the stand-up and Tony Law the person, who aren’t tremendously different to listen to in the end.
We ask Law if he has any of his trademark bold fashion choices planned for this outing. “Cape. Hat. Whiteface makeup and seventeenth-century sailor trousers. So no.”
Tony Law is at The Cookie on 6th July.