“Will Franken was brought up to believe that a person needed only two things to get by in life: A human form and the means by which to operate that human form; i.e., life itself. By the time he was born, he already had those two things he needed to get by in life. A body and a life. “You’ve got to have life to get by in life”, so says the song. Is that a song?” So says his biography… let’s see what the mighty fine gentleman had to say in person… well, virtual person.

What were you doing before you started answering these questions?
Walking around in the freezing wind and rain looking for a nice coffee shop in Ealing to sit down and answer these questions.

If you weren’t a comedian what would you be doing?
Probably serving time in prison. Over the years, character comedy has been a great outlet for some pretty dark ideation. If not that, I would have liked to have been a classical pianist. I still sometimes fall asleep listening to Beethoven’s Emperor concerto and imagine that I’m the one playing the piano.

Three words that describe your comedy.
Schizophreniform; Synesthetic; Psychedelic

How do the British crowd compare to the US crowd?
I find myself a bit freer out here creatively. I made a reference the other night onstage about how it was possible to go Peter Cook out here. That is to say, cleverness is highly prized. I can go weirder riding the logical inferences of a premise straight into their inevitably absurdist pitfalls. I’ve always had a very unconventional style, but some of the things that I’m writing and performing here, that are meeting with good reactions, are similar to things that I wrote years ago before I even had an audience.

The best thing about performing to a British crowd? And the worst?
The best: My feeling is that they don’t necessarily expect a night of conventional standup comedy; so if a performer veers outside of the traditional set-up/punchline approach, it’s actually appreciated. America doesn’t really have character comedy.
The worst: I can’t really think of anything. Although some of the gigs are hard to find. Oh, yeah, some of the venues are pretty cramped as well, so there’s not a lot of room to relax before going on. But I just think of Winston Churchill and everything’s all right.

Most typically British thing you’ve seen so far?
I have a friend named John who lives in my neighbourhood of Ealing. He wears a flat cap and pushes along a bicycle. Best part is, he replaces his R’s with a soft V as in Hey Will, I’m just going up the vode. . . It’s a bit like the drug dealer in Withnail and I.

What is your favorite area of London?
I’ve only been there once so far, but I liked Southgate. They had a nice coffee shop there and it felt very provincial. I visited a greenhouse and felt accepted by the plants.

Best heckle you’ve ever heard?
I don’t know how clever this was. It was more strange than anything. I was doing a benefit show in California years ago. A band went on before me, then I took the stage. The guitarist from the band before started hurling profanities at me from the dance floor. I remember stopping and asking, We’re in the same show, right? What’s wrong with you? And he kept cursing at me – fucking dickhead, etc. I refused to continue until he was removed. (It’s hard to respond cleverly to “dickhead, fuckface, etc.) He was removed, but eventually found his way back in a few minutes later and resumed cursing at me. Stupid dumbass motherfucker, etc. So I jumped off the stage, chased him to the doors and put him in a headlock. The next day, bloggers thinking this was all staged raved about the Andy Kaufman-style stunt they’d seen at this tsunami benefit show. Weird.

Best comeback to a heckle you’ve ever heard?
Probably the one on the Steve Martin album where he says, Yep. I remember when I had my first beer.

Know any good knock knock jokes?
Knock knock. Who’s there? Kiefer Sutherland. Kiefer Sutherland who? Kiefer Sutherland, star of 24, mind if I come in? Sure. [opens door to find nobody there; a chill comes over the homeowner and they’re unable to sleep for days because of sheer terror; the unseen visitor never returns, but the fright lingers on)

Holly Hyde-Smith

Will Franklen was at Knock2Bag East on March 28th. Knock2Bag will be back at RichMix on 26th April with a fresh line up of incredible comedians including Marcel Lucont and Jarred Christmas. Full details here