Necessary Culture Interview

July 2006

You’re going to write a comedy routine (if this is the correct description) and you’re looking for a theme. How does one come to decide on giving a 2-hour presentation about the history of the world? Or the history of oil, for that matter?

The idea for the History Of The World Backwards had several sources. There's a Saudi saying much quoted in Peak Oil literature which goes:

'My father rode a camel, I drive a car, my son flies a jet-plane. His son will ride a camel.'

We are at the end of a 150-200 year era of cheap available energy which we have called Industrial Civilization. This collapses with the end of the Petroleum Interval. The collapse of energy supplies will make the future look rather like the past in many ways. My musical No Planet B - The History Of The World Backwards was conceived as a way to get people to start thinking about this post-carbon future.

Comedically, an influence may have been the German film Goodbye Lenin, in which the history of the collapse of the Berlin Wall is hilariously and wittily reversed. I'd also just read Gombrich's A Little History of The World and thought a big canvas would be fun.

With the History Of Oil, the process was different. I didn't sit down and write it as one piece as I did with No Planet B. It was an accretion of material I was writing, inspired by how angry I was about lies and distortions on the corporate media. I saw the show as a way to break the modern taboo in the corporate media about talking of foreign policy in terms of economic, a strategic, geo-political economic hit.

When writing such histories, where do you turn to first? Newspapers, books, wikipedia?

Books, friends, pamphlets, leaflets, meetings, conversations.

Have you ever had hecklers during any of your shows? Please explain.

Well, I've been doing stand-up for near on twenty years now, so obviously yes. The funniest heckle was when while I was telling the true story of a one-legged kidnapper a man threw his prosthetic arm onto the stage and I did the rest of the show as a five-limbed Indian goddess.

What do you hope that audiences can take away from your performances besides laughter?

A Burmese satirist in and out of jail put it best when he says he hopes to 'ignite the people's minds'. You set out to be an antidote to everything about the prevailing commodity culture. Sincere not ironic, passionate and not King of the Shoppers David Lettermen who has the supercilious detachment of an IMF accountant in a Thai brothel, a believer not a smartarse cynic like the guys in the car commercials that everyone wishes to be; using language expressively and individually rather than re-arranging phrases from the Friends lexicon.