I interviewed writer and one time esteemed alternative stand up comedian, Bob Boyton about this new play 'On the Out'. On the Out is the second in a trilogy about fictional ex-boxer Bomber Jackson doing his best to survive in a post-Thatcher Britain. In person Bob possesses a wry intelligence giving the impression that he's taking in a lot more than he allows you to know. I asked him about Bomber Jackson and where the idea came from.
"Bomber Jackson first appears in an, as yet unfinished novel, that I began writing in 2000. I was in an organisation called 'Writer's Republic' set up by the late Linda Smith and Warren Lakin. It was a loose collection of writers and the hope was that we'd become a TV production company.
I was talking to Warren one evening, bemoaning my lack of success and he suggested putting a story of mine to the BBC about a cab driver called Brian with a coke habit. I went home and came up with the first chapter of the novel about Bomber Jackson coming out of jail. I wrote the first couple of thousand words and thought I really like this guys voice. Later I thought this is a character I can really be in".
'On the Out' is the second of the series of The Bomber Jackson trilogy.
He tells me "Bomber is a sympathetic working picaresque working class hero. I worked with homeless people for twenty years and there's a hell of a lot of that in it." Bob admits "Some of it is about my past during my twenties and thirties. There's a homo-erotic episode in 'On the Out' where I'm returning to bi-sexuality as a theme I used to address as a stand-up."
He laughs, "The Scotsman said that I was the Joe Orton of comedy."
I talk to Bob about the difference between stand-up and performing his monologue and how much he draws on his previous experience as a comic "At first it was hard not to play for laughs and not improvise. When I was a political activist I was a bit of a speechifier, you often work at moving the crowd when you do that.
What got me in to alternative comedy was that people were not moving I think partly as a result of the sclerosis of the Communist Party."
I broach the sensitive subject of why someone as talented and perceptive as Bob Boyton is no longer on the stand-up circuit. "I was bitter that I hadn't become famous" he tells me in with characteristic straightforwardness "That's why I left alternative comedy. It may have wrecked my life being famous."
He'd like recognition for Bomber Jackson "Because it's about a homeless drunk but it's not written by a drunken egotist like Bukowski" proof that Bob, unlike Bomber has lost neither his bite or his punch.