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Interview With Wil Hodgson

Fast establishing himself as a unique, brutally honest and incisive comedian on the circuit, Will Hodgson is certainly easy to spot: an ex wrestler, with a luminous pink Mohawk who has fully embraced the more earnest leanings of punk and socialism, he really stands out. But there?s substance behind the image- his latest live show, Good Will Hodgson, is a brutally incisive and brilliantly funny look at the things that irk him while also being an attack on lazy thinking and prejudice. We managed to pin him down at the beginning of this year?s festival for a little chat about wrestling, racism and being from Chippenham.

How?s this year?s festival going for you?

I?m having quite a good time this year. So far so good!

What drives you to do this?
A lot of it is being pretty shit at all else in all fairness. Before this I worked in shops ? I worked in Iceland supermarket, record shops, I did college lecturing and wrestling shows.

Yes, tell us about the wrestling ? how did you get into that?
You go to wrestling school! I went to one in Trowbridge in a room on top of an old condemned building. Then we moved into a back garden then we moved the ring into an old hall where they did dog shows. I was in that school for about nine months.

Did you enjoy it?
Course I did, I love wrestling ? years ago I used to play the wrestling arcade games on the pier. One of the games had a guy in it called ?Coco Savage?, which is one of the most racist things I?ve ever heard in my life! I was just watching some wrestling earlier actually ? I was just watching when Hulk Hogan won the title around 1980. It?s great to see some of this archive stuff now it?s released on DVD.

So how would you describe your show?
It?s a show about gender roles in a lot of ways. I don?t know if it?s a feminist show but it does support feminism. It?s about what makes a man a man in people?s eyes. I?m not really sold on the whole ?being a man? concept, I think it?s bullshit. There?s also a lot of retro stuff in there, which I?m not ashamed about doing. I know what people say about Peter Kay, but I reference things that meant a lot to me and colour what I am, coming from Chippenham. I think there?s a difference between doing a joke about the past and just saying ?do you remember this, it was on telly!? There?s go to be something else behind it. But there?s nothing wrong with nostalgia at all ? you?ve got to look backward to go forward. And there?s more about wrestling in this show than the last!

So what?s the best thing about Chippenham?
Once upon a time I would have said the women, but my fiancé?s not from there. Although she is moving To Chippenham so she?s definitely of that calibre ? higher I should say! Also the skinheads, they?re a good body of lads, quite colourful.

And what would you say the worst thing is?
There?s nothing to do there. I used to do gigs in Manchester and they?d give me hassle, saying, you ?posh southern wanker? and it used to really piss me off because there?s so much you can do there ? If I lived there I could go bowling, go and see gigs in the evening and so on. In Chippenham I could smoke, or maybe watch the telly. Or maybe smoke and watch the telly. Then you can go to the pub later ? that is it, that is all you can do in Chippenham.

In your material, you often tackle racism. How can we combat this?
I?m not big on race ? I?d like to see it become as irrelevant as hair colour. I?ve got dark blonde hair naturally, but it doesn?t mean I?ll hang around with people with the same colour hair. When they launch a new ?black sitcom?, I don?t see why we have to support someone of your race. I don?t support Jim Davidson just because he?s the same colour as me! I?d like to see race stamped out as much as possible.

Take Chris Rock ? I think he?s great because he?s taken a massive range of influences like Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Steven Wright. He doesn?t see himself as a black comedian, he sees himself as a comedian. I?m glad they got rid of the Richard Pryor award to be honest as I think it?s patronising racism ? being black isn?t a disability; ?gosh, you?re black and you managed to do an hour?s set, have an award!? It?s not the Special Olympics! We don?t say that a black comic can?t win the Perrier Award so why reverse it with a black award? Why fight racism with more racism?

So would you do away with something like the MOBOs?
Definitely. All popular music is a black art apart from folk and classical. The Rolling Stones? music is of black origin. Likewise if there was a white music award I?d be thoroughly annoyed. Why has anyone got to have superiority?

Back to your comedy ? what are your influences?
When I was seven my favourite comedian was Eddie Large out of Lyttle & Large, because he did impressions and cartoon characters. The first gig I did was when I was about eight; it was on Comic Relief and we had a talent show at school and I basically did Eddie Large?s routine. A lot of comics don?t acknowledge their real influences. I used to like The Krankies and Lyttle & Large; I don?t think I would have had an interest in comedy if I didn?t like some of the mainstream stuff that was on. Some say I grew up on Alexei Sayle and Ben Elton ? course I didn?t! Noone who?s seven watches Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door! It?s like when people say ?oh, my first album was The Velvet Underground?, no it bloody wasn?t, it was bloody Culture Club!

What was the first album you ever bought?
I think it was Culture Club. Either that or a compilation of novelty records like Boney M, Black Lace, that sort of thing.

And what was the last album you bought?
I think it would have been a punk album ? a collection of American skinhead bands from about 1990.

You have a reputation for your left wing political views. Where exactly do your views lie?
I?m just a liberal, I guess. I believe in personal freedoms. Economically I?m that sort of old school, trade-union, patriotic British socialist, which is what my dad and my granddad were. My mum?s not ? she?s a libertarian and she voted Tory on those grounds as she?s a free economist, but then she?s also very liberal. Nothing good ever comes from extreme politics ? we?ve got to look after each other. I think life would be better if towns had their own governors, rather than a centralised system; I mean what does someone in Whitehall know about living in Chippenham? May be it?s time to bring back Town Elders! What?s wrong with getting the four wisest, most respected people in the town and handing it over to them. If someone breaks the law, hand them over to the elders and they look at each individual case, rather than having a thick set of laws. But it?s never going to happen!

Finally, where do you see yourself in five years time?
I?ve just done a druid camp with my girlfriend ? mainly druids, pagans, wiccans and I wouldn?t be at all surprised to see me doing that in five years time. I think it?s a shame that folk culture, storytelling, craft, music and dance is dying out or has the reputation it?s got, but then again everything that?s different is sneered at these days. I respect the Morris Dancers at each year?s Chippenham folk festival. They don?t give a f**k what these idiots think of them. They do what they want to do because it interests them. That?s part of true patriotism, not stupid flag waving. Morris dancing is punk rock because it pisses of everyone!
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