There are few folks on the current comedy scene who've pretty much launched a whole new sub-genre while going about their nightly business, but Ed Aczel can claim much credit for one, whether he likes it or not.
The late-blooming, low-bling comic is the embodiment of what came to be called 'anti-comedy' - although that might suggest that he isn't funny. Actually Aczel is bloody hilarious - although trying to explain exactly how and why his stuff works is one for the comedy philosophers. See for yourself, as he brings his show Is Ed Aczel Infinite? to London's ever-welcoming Bill Murray pub on January 21.
Meanwhile Ed can increasingly be seen onscreen. He's "quite busy right now, firstly editing a few films, the latest of which is Joz And Ed's Da Vinci Code." That's a lo-fi but ambitious conspiracy affair that also utilises the youthful vim of Joz Norris. "We completely improvised each scene," Ed explains. "It was great fun to do and the rambling nature of the result reflects the way two losers would attack the problem (if indeed there is a problem)."
Ed and Joz persuaded an impressive supporting cast aboard - "Ricky Grover, Isy Suttie, Alison Thea-Skot and Ali Brice, who all threw us a bone" - and it's a thoroughly agreeable way to spend 17.27 minutes of your sweet time. As for his forthcoming live hour, that'll be a mixed bag.
"The show at the Bill Murray is for me psychologically a bit of a goodbye to the old and hello to the new," he says. "I'm planning to go to Edinburgh this year after a year off. So it's time to see if I've got any ideas. It's not exactly on the level of Elvis's 1968 comeback special; in fact it's not exactly on any level, but it'll be good fun."
Time to look back then. It's now or never.
I wish my first gig was more exciting - very few people at the back of a pub, put on by someone I was on a comedy course with. The general feeling by the others was I was so bad, I shouldn't go on. One of my friends insisted I go on. I went on - people laughed - because it was so bad. A career, of sorts, was born.
Favourite show, ever?
There have been a few amazing ones over the years. When you do a gig incredibly well - i.e. pull the roof off - there's always a moment while you're on stage where you feel you are amazing, and everything coming from your head is pure genius. You feel at that moment completely omnipotent.
It doesn't last more than a moment sadly, it's an illusion, you walk away and the world reminds you that you're just another ordinary person walking down the street and all your day to day problems slowly return.
Pragmatically, 'pulling off the roof' at a gig is always a combination of things. You need a room full of people in the right mood. You also need to be in the right mood (preferably a slightly bad one), and with a bit of luck in the early stages of the gig, you have the right ingredients for the perfect storm.
Every ying has a yang sadly. Some comedians won't admit to their horrendous deaths: everyone has them. Deaths are generally a group decision - there's a moment early on when every single audience somehow silently agree you stink. You can't really judge yourself on your best or worst gigs - neither reflect reality. The overarching feeling after a death is shame, rejection and humiliation. You get on - dig a hole - and then carry on digging, tumbleweed crosses the stage, everyone hates you and you walk away.
The real question after a bad death is how do you get paid? On balance you kind of know you'll possibly never see the promoter again, so my feeling is take the money and run.
I could name so many gigs where this has happened to me, where it really mattered to me that I did well, but my luck ran out. Let's just say I will never be booked for certain gigs in Tenerife, Sevenoaks, Kingston and the Hamble - until after hell freezes over. Also as a general rule never go to East Anglia.
You have a splendidly distinctive onstage style - was it planned in advance or did it gradually develop?
My onstage style began because I was incredibly bad at stand-up comedy, I thought I might as well make it a virtue. It's quite liberating to reduce people's expectations rather than increase them, often you can pull a small victory out of the jaws of defeat (much harder to go about it the other way round). I love comedy when it's a bit mad and slightly off balance - I've tried to carry on regardless on that basis.
Who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
It's difficult to come up with one - there are a few people who are so abnormal they couldn't honestly survive in any other world other than low level comedy. When I was starting out I hated doing Monkey Business comedy - so stopped doing it. But there are plenty more souls, out there, who we all come across too frequently.
Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?
This always begins and ends sadly in new material nights - you can spend a day writing something you think is solid gold, walk on stage and then get nothing at all. What works in a bubble often doesn't work out of it.
So I stopped writing new material a while ago in favour of just winging it and adding pointless padding - although clearly that approach must change soon.
Are there Aczel imitators on the circuit now?
There might have been one or two once, but I doubt there are any now. Occasionally I saw acts pursuing similar avenues to mine. I've never seen anyone do any of my jokes (best of luck if they do - they don't work for me).
When I came onto the circuit there weren't that many weird acts, so I was a bit of a novelty, now there are so many of us, so maybe I was slightly ahead of the curve.
The most memorable review, heckle or post-gig reaction to your stuff?
There are some great reviewers in Edinburgh. My Fringe Biscuit review from 2016:
"Eddie Aczel's Foreign Policy: ill-prepared, so bullies his audience for an hour, doesn't seem to know any foreign policy or any good jokes. One star."
It sums up my act perfectly.
How do you feel your career is going, as we head into 2019?
My career is tending toward roles in films and sitcoms - I hope that continues in 2019. I am also planning on doing a solo show and hopefully also a double act show with Joz Norris this year at Edinburgh. Our next iteration, a 'heist movie,' should be out in early February.