First Gig Worst Gig

Mr Twonkey

Mr Twonkey. Paul Vickers

He's got a sinister manager called Mr Pines, a puppet friend called Chris Hutchinson, a corking early-REM pastiche and a bloody amazing umbrella: yes, it's Fringe semi-legend Mr Twonkey, who can be found every evening at Edinburgh's Dragonfly pub until the 26th.

Twonkey is the alter-ego of Paul Vickers, who fronted a darn good alternative rock band before switching to comedy, hence his ludicrous songs are also surprisingly well-crafted. So what's he doing this year?

"This new show, Night Train to Lichtenstein, it's been described as my most accessible show, and I think it is," he says. "Because it has themes in it which are easy to lock onto."

"I've got a song about pubs, where I give limited information about the kind of pub, but I repeat the word 'pubs' a lot, and I think that's very commercial. Because everyone goes to the pub, you're never far from a pub, and going to the pub is never far from anyone's mind. I think including that in the show, I've made myself mainstream. I'm right through to the other side."

He's right up there with Andre Rieu. If you're nowhere near the Fringe you can find a bunch of Twonkey's greatest hits on

And now, time for treacle.

First Gig?

My first gig was actually at The Stand comedy club, it was quite eventful because I used a jar of treacle, and I had a little dragon puppet, which was called Twonkey, who was later destroyed in another show, but at this point was still very much in the act.

There was a thing where he'd either want a story or treacle waffles, and my first gig, he decided he didn't want any stories, he just wanted a lot of treacle waffles. So basically the set was just me preparing food, essentially, in a sort of manic manner, which was getting a lot of laughs, but was creating a lot of mess.

I was actually banned from The Stand because of the use of treacle. But the ban was lifted, and I have been back there. I didn't use any liquids or treacle.

Paul Vickers

Favourite show, ever?

I think my favourite show at the moment was the Tuesday just passed, because there's a point where you get the show really tight and you do all the little routines as good and as sharp as you can get them, then there's a point which is the fun bit, where you loosen the nuts and bolts of the structure, and by doing that, you can let more funny stuff in. I think I've reached a point with my show now where I'm loosening the nuts. That's a nice feeling.

Worst gig?

That was maybe a couple of weeks ago. I had quite a bad one, it was the only really bad one I've had of this run, yeah, some of the audience members became aggressive towards the puppets. They actually attacked Chris Hutchinson, and kind of just pushed him to the floor, they didn't want anything to do with him. I think they were scared by him.

Yeah, that wasn't good. There was a bad atmosphere. They'd been drinking I think, and some of them just weren't connecting with what I was trying to achieve, but I thought 'bring them in, get a bit of audience participation on the go,' but it just made them incredibly angry. I moved on quickly.

Who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?

That's a tough one, I tend to get on with people on the whole - and even if I'm not getting on with people, I kind of pretend that I am. Ha! Just to make life easier.

What's the biggest difference between the comedy and music businesses?

The music business is all about hits and the comedy world is about getting laughs. Both can lead to truckloads of money, but on the whole it just leads to an interesting/wasted life.

Is there a routine you loved that audiences inexplicably didn't?

Not in this show, but in previous ones I've had bits that I really liked and the audience hasn't taken to quite as much: I had a joke about working for Looney Tunes, and I had this whole set piece about working at the office, scribbling down ideas. But people didn't like it quite as much as I did.

What's your best insider travel tip, for gigging comics?

Well, try to break your journey up a bit. Don't be afraid to have a sandwich every once in a while. Or some fruit. And book early, to avoid high costs.

And your best advice for puppet making?

Get someone else to do it. That's what I do. My puppets are made by Grant Pringle and sometimes with extras from Mary Trodden: often we find stuff in junk shops, and umbrellas are used a lot to make them.

The most memorable review, or post-gig reaction?

I always remember when Kate Copstick said that my show created a 'wonderland of weird', that was one of the best lines that anyone's come up with to describe it. Because that is kind of what I do - they're adult fairytales, in a way, and they're interwoven around some kind of overall narrative but within them there's little pockets, like air pockets under the sea, and they explode into different worlds.

How do you feel your career is going, right now?

I feel the way I'm going at the moment, where my career is, that the position you would describe me in is steady, sure, and strange.

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