Si Hawkins Circuit Training

Circuit Training 108 (Part Two): Ice, Ice Tony

Tony Law. Copyright: Claire Haigh

A few days after meeting the Weirdos boys, Circuit Training hooks up with star-of-the-ice-show Tony Law in downtown Islington. In fact we meet at the same café and same table as we did for the 100th edition a year ago, and given that the original chat was about him getting sober, this couldn't help but turn into a how's-it-going-now affair.

The enduringly goofy Canadian is doing good, it turns out, although sobriety does force one to face up to life's stark realities, the vagaries of success, reward, or relative lack thereof. Won't someone give this man his own lucrative vehicle?

Actually there is a radio pilot floating around the BBC, and a hectic live schedule over the next few weeks: before Tony Law and Friends in the Battle for Icetopia it's a week at the Soho Theatre for latest solo show Absurdity for the Common People, which he's pretty stoked about.

Appropriately, somehow, this chat was conducted to a café soundtrack of classic rock hits performed in the muzak style, and like the Weirdos leg of this feature we found ourselves talking prog rock too. But, hey, when you're in the ToneZone, talk of The Who is never far away.

Tony Law

How was your Fringe this year?

This year was like doing Edinburgh for the first time. I had to get up early to take the dog out, the kids were going to kids' shows, I was seeing stuff, supporting my fellow comedians. I did some flyering - but from the window of my car.

I enjoyed it because I was doing Edinburgh for the right reason, to do a show I'm proud of. I wanted everyone who's ever seen me before to come and see me so they could go 'oh, he's really good again!'

I'm desperate to get all the people I may or may not have disappointed in 2013/14/15/16 to see me now. Even if they really liked it, because if they liked THAT... Even when I was doing really well back then there were times where I was too drunk, here and there.

Icetopia is creating a fair bit of interest too.

It's definitely the first ice show for a while.

During the Weirdos chat we ended up comparing it to those crazy old rock concerts: Pink Floyd, Yes, and all that...

I prefer to think of myself as The Who doing Tommy. Actually Who's Next is my favourite album, which was basically Pete's Life project; that was going to be his big ice show, but everyone just said 'yeeeah, let's just release the songs as songs.' It's like someone going to me 'you can only do your bits on Live At The Apollo' and I would go 'yeah, alright then, if they let me on, sure!'

I met [The Who singer] Roger Daltrey when I did a Teenage Cancer Trust show at the Albert Hall, and my wife thought I was going to cry. He's a good hero of mine, as most of my heroes were bad for my health. He had three alcoholics around him in a band, and someone needed to keep that shit together.

Now I feel like I'm quite responsible with the ice stuff, because I'm the only one with a wife, and with a family.

And the only one who can skate...

Right. So we're doing this nutso thing, but those other guys, they can probably live five in a room if they need to. Really, a comedian of my age and experience shouldn't be doing it. But I couldn't help but do it.

Weirdos on Ice. Copyright: Claire Haigh

How did the idea come about?

Tim Minchin. I've always been bitter about Tim, because he's a friend, and I said to him 'I'm way funnier than you, but you're a musical genius - that's all you've got on me.' He loves that - 'yeah you probably are funnier, but you can't do what I can do - what can you do?' 'I can skate!'

You played ice hockey - were you pretty decent?

I was good. Good enough to know I wasn't going to make the NHL [National Hockey League], I got to about 16 but I wasn't doing it because I loved it like the other players. Once I realised I wouldn't go pro, I pulled back.

You thought you might go pro early on then?

Yeah, but then my dad took over, he was so obsessed and mean about it, he destroyed any love of the game.

He could see the potential and pushed too hard?

He saw I was good and thought I was frittering away my talent.

The solo show features a wild story about you and competitive trampolining: did that come from the ice hockey?

Something like that - I like the fact that, if you turn pro in Canada, you're a star, but then you become a comedian in London, that ice hockey talent is meaningless! That's why trampolining was funny to me, because everyone loves a story about people who are good at something but not quite good enough. What a waste of time.

Tony Law. Copyright: Claire Haigh

I suppose you learn about life from sports.

I tell you what I learned from it - that I don't like groups of men. I don't like showering with them. Or competition. I suppose this is also about becoming sober - all the things I was into as a kid are coming back, because that's the last time I was sober, at 15, 16.

Actually Glenn Wool and I are doing an ice hockey demo in the break at Icetopia, with Thom Tuck commentating. It's like when the 'Stones did the Rock and Roll Circus, but with no famous people.

Well, relatively speaking.

It's weird, 15 years ago when I started, I couldn't have done this. I've had to wait this long for like-minded people, and they're all in their 20s. Adam [Larter] wrote such a funny play, I'm impressed every time I go through it.

How involved were you after the initial idea?

We met up, we structured the thing, he used all of his tools, and that was it: three hours, one day, and I walked away from it. Then he came up with the script, which suits me fine: it's like Pete [Townshend, from The Who] bringing the songs to the studio, then Rog gets in there and interprets them - boom!

The trampolining theme in Absurdity: wasn't that also a bit in your previous show?

The show before this one had a three or four-minute bit about trampolining, and it didn't work. That's when I thought 'I need to make a counterintuitive decision, I need something that shakes me up' - so take that bit and sell it as a whole show. It just really excited me, and when it started to work, oh my god! But the setup was crucial, you need to buy into that world.

Didn't you record a sitcom pilot recently too?

The radio one - yeah, we made that, with John-Luke Roberts; he's like the previous generation of Weirdos, at ACMS [Alternative Comedy Memorial Society]. He wrote it, I was under the weather, so thankfully he kept that plate going. We recorded it at the BBC Radio Theatre, so they're sitting with it, there's no decision about when it'll be on. It's really funny, so hopefully it'll get lots of response and they give us a series.

You seem to be doing alright then.

No! Well, financially I'm not, but who is?

Tony Law: Mr Tony's Brainporium. Tony Law. Copyright: London Weekend Television

It's all relative I suppose - you fill a nice room in Edinburgh every year, much bigger than the one I first saw you in. I remember you looked pretty slick back then.

The smooth look! That was me trying to get on TV, the 1950s quiff, get me on some panel shows.

I think the first time I ever saw you was at Camp Bestival.

I remember that one, I was there with my kids when they were babies. We met Mr Tumble backstage.

You think you're doing ok, then you see his crowd.

Yeah, he was massive, Tumble.

You were getting some nice panel show gigs a few years back.

I really liked going on them but they're really hard to get on now, 'well, he's not new.' They want brand new people, or big names.

Maybe Icetopia could be an ongoing thing?

If it goes well, maybe we'll do it again at Christmas time, tour it around - that'd be great! Find out if there's a rink in Edinburgh, get everyone from the Fringe out to some rink. Or freeze a venue.

It might make the next show changeover tricky, thawing out the Queen Dome in 15 minutes. Weren't you suppose to be doing a dance thing in Edinburgh?

That never happened. Me and Phil Nichol decided to do NightDanger, Dance Hard - it was meant to be us reminiscing about our career as NightDanger, something we'd always riff on. It was on our day off, we were ready to go, and he ripped his groin or something. It kind of feeds into the myth of NightDanger.

Ouch, how did he do that?

It's not worth thinking about, what Phil gets up to with his groin. What a groin!

Published: Saturday 30th September 2017

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