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INTERVIEW: Geoff Norcott 3 Aug 2020

ON Saturday July 4, the day England’s pubs reopened, comedian Geoff Norcott walked straight into his local and ordered himself a pint.
“Mike, it tasted unbelievable,” he assures me. “You know when you build up something in your mind and you’re worried it won’t deliver? Well, believe me, this did.
“It tasted better than I could have dreamt of.”
Posting a picture of it on Twitter, mind you, did earn him a bit of a ribbing. “People gave me stick because it was a Peroni! But hey, just because I’m a Brexiteer doesn’t mean I can’t reach out to other continental nations!”
Covid and its fallout have made this a tough time to be a stand-up comic, with venues forced to shut their doors and some unlikely to reopen.
But Geoff has been rising to the challenge on several fronts. He’s still doing his topical weekly podcast, What Most People Think, where his right-of-centre (but not mad or ranty) take on life has won him tens of thousands of fans. To this he’s now added another level, with extra material for fans who follow him on subscription service Patreon.
And now, would you believe, he’s about to perform his Edinburgh set.
Not at Edinburgh, obviously, but with a three-date online tour at the end of this week. Geoff Norcott's Front Room Fringe, he promises, will be “as much like the Edinburgh experience as possible.
“You know, drink whisky, eat loads of carbs, have an Irn-Bru.”
It’s been driven, Geoff tells me, by the success of his new material gigs. “I’ve been surprised how many people have wanted to talk about what’s been going on,” he tells me.
Geoff’s own views on what’s been going are not as clear-cut as some might expect. While he has no time for people talking about the Government “as though they’re this axe-wielding bunch of murderers,” he won’t let Boris’s bunch entirely off the hook. “They’ve done some things really well,” he says, “and some really badly.”
Still, for a comic it’s probably better that way. Take Geoff’s official take on face masks.
“It seems to me that if you’re happy wearing face masks you’re considered ‘a good person’ — and if you’re not then you’re like Thanos and you want to wipe out half of humanity.
“Personally, I think they’re a massive pain in the a**e. But I’m doing the British thing. I’m wearing one and then moaning and bitching about it the whole time.”
So does Geoff feel his comedy is helping us stay sane in this weird old time?
“Well, I’m very wary of comedians claiming to serve a greater purpose,” he says. “But I do think people appreciate hearing from one who’s more in the line with the majority of the population than most comedians are.
“Not only that, but doing this also helps my own sanity. It’s like therapy.”

 

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02

INTERVIEW: BOSH! vegan chef duo Henry Firth and Ian Theasby - 27 April 2020

I’VE been telling Henry and Ian about my rather unusual porridge recipe. I make it for my breakfast several times a week.
To a pan of oats, I add soya milk, sliced mushrooms, crushed garlic and (optionally) a handful of frozen peas. Oh, and sometimes spinach. And then I actually eat it.
“That sounds cool,” says Ian.
“I’d quite enjoy that,” agrees Henry.
Oh, bless them.
This vegan chef duo, known as BOSH!, stars of ITV’s Living On The Veg, are the first people I’ve told about this concoction of mine (I’ve not made it up, by the way) who haven’t responded with gagging sounds.
Which suggest they’re either properly impressed (“It’s a very healthy breakfast,” Henry is insisting) or they’re remarkably polite.
Or possibly both, I guess.
Pals since they met at school in Sheffield, Henry Firth and Ian Theasby are not the sort to ram their ideology down your throat. Veganism, which opposes the consumption of any animal-derived product, may have attracted some extremist, confrontational types but that’s clearly not what these two are about.
“We do agree with people who are fighting for more awareness of environmental and animal issues,” Henry points out. “It’s just that we’re better at cooking really tasty food, at showing people how to do it rather than telling them why.”
It has to be said, they’ve made a pretty fine job of that in a fairly short time. Hugely tech-savvy, they’ve built up a massive online presence via Instagram, YouTube etc., where their quick, slick videos make their food look tempting even to hardened carnivores.
Five years ago they were both still meat-eaters, but then Ian felt compelled to make the switch. “My last supper, as I like to call it,” he reflects, “was fish and chips from a place on Upper Street in Islington.”
“At first I thought it was ridiculous,” Henry admits of his pal’s conversion, “but then we watched this film together called Cowspiracy, and I went vegan as well.
“I honestly haven’t missed meat. And if ever we’re missing its flavour, we just find a way to recreate that.”
Rather like the four physical cookbooks they’ve had published, making a terrestrial telly series must have seemed rather quaint for these guys. But they’re canny enough to know the value of cross-the-board appeal.
“TV may be old-fashioned but it’s still extremely powerful,” Ian points out. “There’s a lot of people watching.”
Besides which, they’ve been inspired by some of the finest telly chefs. “Jamie Oliver is a legend,” says Ian. “Gordon Ramsay is really entertaining.
“And, well, let’s throw Nigella Lawson in there as well, for obvious reasons…”
The BOSH! boys insist they’re not out to convert anyone. Lots of their mates are still meat-eaters. Ian even comes from a family of farmers. “We recognise the amazing things farmers do,” says Henry. “They’re not intentionally trying to damage people’s health or harm the planet. We get that.”
“It’s not about being combative or militant,” Ian adds. “Just be pleasant to people. Everyone’s got their own opinion. Everyone’s on their own journey.”

CLICK here for the BOSH! YouTube channel

 

BOSH!'s FAVOURITE THINGS:

 

HENRY FIRTH:

FILM: Interstellar

TV SHOW: This Morning

ACTOR: Joaquin Phoenix

COMEDIAN: The Impractical Jokers

SPORTSPERSON: Jessica Ennis-Hill

SPORTS TEAM: Sheffield Wednesday

SPORTING EVENT: Snooker at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre

SONG: Highwayman, by The Highwaymen

SINGER: Seal

BAND: Daft Punk

MEAL: A good vegan lasagne

SNACK: BOSH! Hoi Sin Mushroom Pancakes

COLOUR: Blue

DRINK: Watermelon Jägerbomb

CITY: London

HOLIDAY DESTINATION: At the moment? My roof!

BUILDING: Tower Bridge

GADGET: Canon EOS R camera

APP: Waking Up (meditation app)

SCHOOL SUBJECT: Physics

FIGURE FROM HISTORY: Albert Einstein

ANIMAL: Dog

 

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IAN THEASBY:

FILM: Drive

TV SHOW: Living On The Veg

ACTOR: Natalie Portman

COMEDIAN: Kweku Ackom-Mensah

SPORTSPERSON: David Beckham

SPORTS TEAM: England Rugby Union team

SPORTING EVENT: FIFA World Cup

SONG: Bring It On Down, by Oasis

SINGER: Bob Dylan

BAND: Arctic Monkeys

MEAL: Stir Fry

SNACK: Popcorn

COLOUR: Green

DRINK: Water

CITY: London

HOLIDAY DESTINATION: Ibiza

BUILDING: Natural History Museum

GADGET: iPhone

APP: Instagram

SCHOOL SUBJECT: Geography

FIGURE FROM HISTORY: Martin Luther King Jr.

ANIMAL: Cat

 

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