The Art of Happiness: An Interview with Trevor Lock

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‘Circuitous and surreal’ (so says his Wiki page) comedian Trevor Lock leads our new Comedy editor on a meandering journey to happiness via Google chat…
FEATURE BY VONNY MOYES.
PUBLISHED, THE SKINNY, SCOTLAND,  01 OCTOBER 2013

Stand up comedian. Playwright. Actor. Living-room surfer. Beleaguered treat-eater. Russell Brand’s kitten-faced whipping boy. I’ve been a fan of Trevor Lock ever since he was force-fed fudge live on 6 Music. This August, I somehow managed to miss his ‘best ever’ Fringe show, but luckily for me (and you), he’s not had enough of us yet, making a beeline for Auld Reekie for a one-off special this month. Synchronous to this little treat, he’s speaking at a gathering of those unsettling, perpetually-smiley types: a ‘Happiness Conference’ – in Scotland, which I’m trying not to view as another overt sign of impending apocalypse.

Naturally curious about the show, and ever lamenting my own eternal woe, I leapt at the chance to blether – and maybe even cadge a freebie on the ‘how to be happy’ schtick. Batman pyjamas on, and hugging a quart of molten Earl Grey, I bedded down for what transpired to be three hours of circuitous Google chat mayhem. What I learned about the show is questionable, and I’m still a miserable sod, but I did get a little peek at what stokes the fire in his delightfully silly mind.

A while back, by some cosmic coincidence, I scored a ticket to a recording of Comedy Central’s Alternative Comedy Experience, with Trevor on the bill. What struck me was that he didn’t trundle on stage to spew out an obviously honed monologue. None of that, sir. Eschewing all that practise malarkey, his ‘in’ was lamenting his shortcomings – at length – to a front-rower making their escape. His unrelenting tommy-gun delivery made the usual offerings seem pretty vanilla. I wasn’t expecting that. Only gnomic wizard John Hegley harshed Lock’s phrenic vibe, by convincing a mild Edinburgh crowd to become guillemots (the seabird, not the band). These two are clearly cut from the same Harris tweed.

Trevor Lock:  “I’d never seen John Hegley before. He was a revelation for me. I started writing poetry the next day, and half my Edinburgh show was poems.”

This was exciting news. Not only had I seen a really great gig, I’d been present at the genesis of an idea. We’d been simultaneously dazzled by Hegley’s effortless play with the room, but for one of us, it imported a thought that would ultimately change the nature of a show. It’s pretty daunting to have your worldview stretched at the best of times, and at least doubly as wobble-inducing when you then opt to proclaim it to hundreds of people, who might not ‘get it’.

TL: “There so many things I’ve written and not done on stage. I’m quite happy going on and opening my mouth and doing a whole set extemporaneously, but if I’ve written it first and it’s a new thing I’m very nervous about doing it, which is why I’ve only done a few of the easiest poems so far.”

The Skinny: “Did they go down well?”

TL: “Yes. A couple of shows I did a lot more. When the audience and I seemed to be in the right mood for it.

“My default delivery is kind of poetical in the sense that it’s not normal speech. I’m playing with speaking and how we say things; I just don’t normally say ‘this is a poem.;'”

On stage, Lock is ruthlessly funny. He’s not an in-your-face lad, jonesing to purchase your loyalty with bar banter and knob gags. What he can do, however, is bring down the house with something as innocuous as a cough or a humble wasabi peanut. There’s no factitious persona. No careful mimesis – just Trevor, on stage, dining on the atmosphere. Seeing him do his thing is akin to a watching a comedic Rube Goldberg machine. One little idea sparks this mesmerising chain reaction; looping, twisting, morphing into a living thing before arriving at a salient point. It’s exciting. You get that flutter in your stomach – that notion that you’re witnessing the aggregate of something magical and irreplicable. “Like a snowflake?” I suggest.

TL: “I like to feel that it was a show that can’t be done again, which always has a touch of sadness to it. All of my best shows were snowflakes – and I still make the mistake of trying to repeat them.”

It’s at this point things take a turn for the existential; put two unabashed small-talk haters together and the discussion will veer towards the absurdity of human existence. Especially if the comedian in question is a philosophy graduate. This was a huge relief for me – the weather has been unrelentingly crap and I’m too skint for holidays. We chew over life, the universe and everything; the ludicrousness of being people going through the motions. Though, if you make people laugh for a living and have been plucked from the masses to speak about happiness, you must have a vague idea of what it’s all about?

TS: “Happy right now is about as far ahead as I can see these days.”

TL: “Well that’s good because it’s the only place you’ll ever be happy. The years I wasted trying to get happy in the future. I’m still recovering from that mentality.”

It all starts to click. For him, this isn’t a sport. Scoring the biggest laughs isn’t the goal. This is, well – art. Each laugh is different, there’s music to it. Each has credence – validity – from the tiniest snuffle to a cacophonous eruption. There are no skits churned out to cater for prosaic tastes of the widest demographic. These musings are his, and the fact that they tickle the rest of us is a glorious coincidence. When you spend so much time in your own head, your material is destined to be imbued with a certain intellect. Instead of remixing the the flagrantly obvious, the jokes become less of a contrivance, and more projection of those surreal little moments of clarity, speaking to that same, ubiquitous part that makes us human; our ability to look at life, and laugh.

TL: “The essence of humour is that there is always more than one way of looking at things. This might be because in reality there are no things until you label them.”

One man’s caterpillar is another man’s fun moustache for parties. So the idea is then that if you’re a comedian, in theory you’ll never be sad or bored for long

Nothing about Trevor strikes me as boring.  After discussing squirrel suicide pacts, animal ganglands, astronaut sick and the problems with homogenised milk, my cheeks are burning from an anchored grin. He’s pretty on fire one-on-one, but even better when we’re all in it together. He’ll be doing a one-off extended edition of his hugely popular Fringe show Nude Echo at The Citrus Club Edinburgh, on 23 November. At a bargainous £8 a pop, it’s a rare chance to experience one of these ‘snowflakes,’ without having to twiddle your thumbs for another year.

TS: “I have oatmilk now. Who knew you could milk an oat?!”

TL: “You can’t. There is no milk of an oat.”

TS: “Someone, somewhere is milking tiny oat-tits.”

TL: “It’s probably me. In a parallel universe.”

Sometimes I think metaphorically I’ve been milking tiny oat-tits all my life.

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