One of the best shows we saw at last year's Edinburgh Fringe was Laurence Clark's An Irresponsible Father's Guide to Parenting. It's now touring the UK, and is a darn good example of how to bring a new comedy hour into the world: a solid concept and strong pre-recorded bits, fascinating insights, a heaps of pathos, and cracking punchlines, some horribly punchable trolls, but also a hugely memorable ending.
So how did it all come together?
"When I started writing An Irresponsible Father's Guide to Parenting last year, my kids asked to be part of the show, especially as it's mainly about them," Clark reveals. "I struggled for a long while with how to meaningfully achieve this. Then something quite odd happened.
"Several years ago when we were having our second son Jamie, we were filmed for a BBC documentary called We Won't Drop the Baby (the title was not my idea!). More recently it was put on YouTube and my family and I suddenly became clickbait. It meant that strangers could look into our family home and share their considered, well-informed comments, judging us on how we raise our kids."
As that wise old (not that old) saying goes, 'never read the bottom half of the internet.' Although in this instance, Clark turned it into something positive.
"When I read through them all, I got a glimpse of the kinds of misconceptions the average person in the street has of me as a disabled parent with cerebral palsy. I got told that having kids in my position is just irresponsible by someone calling themselves 'pantyflash'. Talk about people in glass houses!
"Someone else questioned how could I make the baby when I'm in a wheelchair and can't hold anything properly? Of course, the simple answer to that is I did it the same way as everyone else, namely got drunk, forgot the condom and welcomed in a lifetime of regrets!
"Anyway, I quickly realised that I could challenge this kind of stuff till I'm blue in the face, but it's way more powerful coming from my sons. So I filmed my kids reading some of these comments for the first time, and saying what they thought of them."
Absolute stars they are too - the kids, not the comments - and the result is now on the road.
"Since the show was at the Fringe last year, it's been performed in London, Galway and St Petersburg," says Clark. "I'm looking forward to touring: the show feels more relevant than ever, given what's happened to Parys Lapper because of being bullied for having disabled parents."
Indeed, and Clark has been writing some interesting stuff in the meantime, more of which below. Before that, let's delve into his debut.
My first ever gig was at a cabaret night run by DaDaFest at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts in March 2002, with other disabled performers like Caroline Parker, Mat Fraser and Liz Carr. I did a 20-minute set solely on how much I hated Noel Edmonds and Jimmy Savile. With the benefit of hindsight, this was suicidal!
The video clips I was using on my laptop weren't cued up so I had to manually load up each one during the set. The whole thing was a nightmare... but I went down really well.
Favourite show, ever?
Performing Irresponsible Father to a packed house at the Southbank Centre last year was definitely a high point.
In 2012 I was in the finals of the Amused Moose Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Because the stage wasn't wheelchair accessible, it was agreed that I would get lifted onto it before the audience came in and would then simply hide behind the back curtain until it was my turn to go on.
Unfortunately nobody told the compere, Rob Beckett, that he had to let me out after introducing me, and because there was a large projector screen in front of the curtain I couldn't let myself out without knocking it over. So after I was introduced there was an uncomfortable 30 seconds of silence before the technician realised what had happened and ran over to release me.
Also there was another time in a London club where there was no ramp to the stage so someone had to lift my powered wheelchair onstage. I got the front wheels up and drove forwards, not realising the whole stage wasn't fixed down. This had the effect of pushing the whole stage into the front row of the audience. There was no recovering from that!
Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?
It's really uncool and embarrassing to admit this, but growing up I really loved Ben Elton's comedy, and he's probably one of the reasons why I became a stand-up comic.
Indeed when my mum wants to wind me up, in that way in which only your own mother is capable of - using her in-built complete dossier on everything you've ever done - she will liken my comedy to his. Admittedly this is usually when she's just seen a show where I swore a lot or talked about rude stuff!
As someone who has cerebral palsy, the publication of Ben's book Gridlock when I was a teenager had a big effect on me, as it was the first book I ever read where the central characters were people like me facing situations which seemed familiar.
It's been years since I last read it and, in many ways, I don't particularly want to reread it, as I strongly suspect that, as with lots of Ben's other material, time has not been kind and the older, more politically-aware me would find much at fault. Sometimes nostalgia has its benefits.
And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
There was one comedy agency that I did an open mic slot for when I first started. I came all the way from Liverpool to Leytonstone to find that the gig was up two flights of stairs plus more steps to get on stage. After I got on stage (with difficulty) and performed, I was told I wasn't ready yet and to stick to open mic nights. Three weeks later I was getting four-star reviews at the fringe.
Are there any reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions that stick in the mind?
On the whole I haven't had many hecklers. I had someone in my show at Leicester Comedy Festival who just kept shouting "Timmy" (from South Park) at me. At first I tried to engage him but he just carried on so eventually I ignored him. As heckles go, it was a bit of a comedy dead-end!
How about your other recent projects - there's a play, and Corrie?
I did a month's trial as part of the [Coronation Street] storylining team which was really good experience. I'm trying to move into screenwriting with some success, although I haven't had anything on TV yet.
My play Cured is about four young disabled people who rebel whilst being taken on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and basically end up doing pretty much everything that the Catholic Church forbids.
It won an Unlimited R&D commission last year, and hopefully it'll be mounted as a full production with the Liverpool Royal Court Theatre next year.