Comedian Tony Law on bringing A Now Begin In Again to Imagine! Belfast

David Roy quizzes Canada's premier London-based surreal comedy specialist Tony Law about bringing his new live stand-up show A Now Begin In Again to Imagine! Belfast this weekend...

Tony Law returns to Belfast on Sunday for a show at the Imagine! festival
Tony Law returns to Belfast on Sunday for a show at the Imagine! festival

:: HI TONY, how's it going and are you looking forward to coming back to Belfast on Sunday?

Not too bad. I was just over visiting my dad in Canada and I've done four shows in a row since I've got back – with jet lag. I haven't done that in a long time and it's kind of made me realise, 'Oh jeez, I'm 52 now' – so thankfully I'm off for a couple of days before the Belfast show.

:: Have you enjoyed getting back to doing live comedy again?

It's been pretty awesome, really. The first few were pretty weird because you're so delighted to be out. Normally, during gigs you'd be firing off bits and thinking three moves ahead, but at first I was so delighted to be back on stage that I'd do a bit, smile and enjoy the laughs, and then it would just go dead – and that's when I'd suddenly go 'oh, right, what's the next bit?'.

I don't think consumer confidence is fully back, yet though. I've done places like in Cornwall where I've had exactly the same number of people coming to the shows as before, if not more, and then other places are still not quite back to normal yet.

In some ways it's better, but the world's changed a lot since I last went out. I guess my shows now are more like a raised eyebrow like, "Jeez, what was that all about?"

:: How have the past couple of years been for you? Did you miss the social element of live comedy?

I kind of enjoyed becoming a hermit. Before [Covid] I was already mainly doing my little solo shows, playing to my usual 50 to 100 people all around the country. I was enjoying the drives to the show while listening to podcasts, usually about the NFL – stuff that doesn't get your blood boiling – and then hanging out with the sound person and the people at the venue, talking to the audience after the show, signing stuff or whatever. By the end of that, I would be like, 'That's pretty much all the socialising I need'.

I mean, it's great when you go to the gigs that are like a 'comedy night' and you get to see everybody on the bill and what they're up to. I like that. But, when you have a wife and two kids like I do, I kind of feel like that's all the friends I need. So the lockdowns just kind of accelerated that in me.

Most of the new show is actually lockdown-based. I was reluctant to come up with anything about that at first because I figured [Covid] would just blow over, but then it kept on going endlessly – until recently when it 'stopped' so suddenly.

I was worried about that too in case people were like, 'Oh, he's living in the past', but they seem to really like it. So I think [this show] is something I can do until the end of August, and then I'll cook up some new stuff.

:: What is the meaning of the show title A Now Begin In Again?

I always try and come up with a stupid title just to give people a sense that I'm a stupid guy trying to do stupid jokes. But then I try and make it sound 'grand' as well. I had some other show titles years ago that I made so weird and hard to say that I can't really even remember them myself now.

This one's kind of a play on 'a new beginning, again'.

:: If you say it in a Belfast accent it almost makes more sense. Maybe now would be a good time to mention your Irish roots, then?

Well, I've been playing Belfast for a long time and there are certain bits I do which are really garnered for Belfast, like talking about my grandma and grandad. I do those bits every single time I come over, to the point where the last time I was at The Black Box about three or four years ago, people were like, 'Oh, here it comes'.

Grandad was from Lisburn and Grandma was from Armagh and they were literally the only old people I knew – and the only people I knew who talked like that. They were over in Canada but we'd come over [to the north] to visit cousins and stuff like that, though a lot of them actually ended up moving to Canada.

:: Do you ever get the urge to do stand-up in Canada?

Never. I guess my mindset is geared towards over here. I went over about 20 years ago to do some gigs when I was newer and I realised that my humour was pretty British. Some of the stuff I was doing wasn't that traditional pitter-patter stand-up and people were looking at me a bit strange.

I think I could probably manage it now because I know how to adjust [for a specific audience] but with distance and the travel involved, I just kind of think 'nah, I don't want to start over out there'.

Besides, with the internet now, anyone there can find my stuff online.

:: You embraced streaming during lockdown with your ToneZone vidcasts live from your airing cupboard, did you enjoy those?

Yeah, that was a Twitchcast with [comedian] Phil Nichol. It was fun but it didn't help me financially very much. I mixed in a few deliveries here and there and then I lucked out and got some voice-over work that has kept us going. So I was very fortunate compared to a lot of people who kinda cleaned out their savings.

I need to work out how to make the Twitch thing financially viable. I think I'm at that age where I'm not smart enough to make the internet work for me – and my kids are still too young to be able to help. I'm in a real blind spot, so I need them to grow up and help.

:: How about just doing a regular audio-only podcast?

Well, we actually do have a Tony Law Podcast in the pipeline, we are just trying to work out a format: I don't like ones that are too specifically 'we're just a bunch of lads trying to be funny' – I want it to be funny without trying to be funny. And I don't want it to be too 'interview-y', because you've got to be a real listener – and I'm not that.

So I'm still working on a way to talk s***e for an hour twice a week and have it be easy and fun to do. And you've got to have live element to it, so we'll probably do it on the Twitch site.

:: So are you speaking to us from your linen cupboard now, aka your home studio?

No, but I'm about to go in there to record some links for the Sky Comedy channel. I have to write the scripts and then I have to record them here at home, so that's what I'm doing after I talk to you – I'm going back into an airless cupboard on a hot day to say stuff like "Coming up at 8pm, it's Sex and The City – and be warned, there's seeeeexual scenes".

:: Tony Law, Sunday March 27, The Black Box, Belfast. Tickets available now via Imaginebelfast.com