Ahead of Dubai show, comedian Phil Nichol discusses music, stand-up, and the weather

Part actor, part musician, part stand-up, but all manic energy, Nichol talks ahead of his Laughter Factory performances in Dubai.

Phil Nichol will be performing as part of The Laughter Factory at Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach. Photo by Steve Ullathorne
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He was one-third of the Canadian comedy rock band Corky and the Juice Pigs. He has starred in serious stage productions such as 12 Angry Men and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. And in 2006 he won the top Edinburgh Comedy Award gong. Part actor, part musician, part stand-up, but all manic energy, Phil Nichol talks ahead of his Laughter ­Factory performances in Dubai on Wednesday, December 10, and Thursday, December 11.

The cliché goes that all comedians want to be rock stars, all rock stars want to be comedians, and both rock stars and comedians really want to be footballers. Which are you?

I’m a total rock star – and I wouldn’t be a footballer because I’m Canadian, so I’d be an ice hockey player, which is a much more manly sport. Footballers just stand around looking pained, worrying about their hair.

OK, you’re a rock star first – so you started in music?

No, I started as an actor. I ­studied acting in Windsor, Ontario. I met a couple of guys and we started a radio show called The Little Bits of Gravel. From that we put together a group which was Corky and the Juice Pigs in 1987, and became professionals almost immediately.

And you’re still doing music – you have a new album, Late Night Electric Watermelon.

I put that out last year. It’s basically all the songs I’ve written since I left Corky and the Juice Pigs in 1997. You can get it on Bandcamp, which is a website all the young ones use. You can stream it for free because I’m giving it away, all the 22 tracks of ridiculous fun and filth.

Speaking of filth, you once claimed to be “too contentious, loud and rude” for television. How are you going to go down in Dubai?

The promoters are always slightly amused and moderately nervous when I’m on, but I’ve played so many times, I know where the boundaries and lines are. I’ve been performing in Dubai for 20 years.

You're known for your wacky concept shows, such as Hiro Worship, where you play a ­Japanese Rolling Stones obsessed fan, and in Welcome to Crazy Town, you play a jazz beatnik poet. How do you find doing these straight stand-up shows?

Because it’s a short set you just pack it in, it’s simpler, you can just go joke, joke, joke, joke. With concept shows you really have to set up the concept, bring it to a conclusion, have a beginning, middle and end, which is satisfying for a theatre crowd, but people out for a good time get a really good show with The Laughter Factory.

Speaking of theatre, tell us about working with Christian Slater in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

That was great, he’s a wonderful guy, and a real laugh. He lives the dream – life is made for him. He is a Hollywood A-lister, he can’t go anywhere in the world without people recognising him.

And you were in Boy George’s musical, Taboo.

I absolutely adore Boy George, I think he’s one of the true British rock legends. It was amazing to be in the show, it was one of the best six months of my life. He’s such a gentleman, such a nice and generous man. He’s been there and done that and he’s still vital.

So you’re a Canadian in London. Which has the better weather?

It depends on what you want – Canadians love the weather there because they all do snow-based activities. If you like ­tobogganing, Canada’s got better weather. And if you want to go tobogganing in Dubai, you can – how fantastic.

But you were born Scottish. We have a big Scottish comedian in town the day after your shows – Kevin Bridges.

Fantastic, I’m a big fan. He’s great, he’s earned all the success he’s had, he’s one of the funniest men in the world.

So, if money’s tight, should I go and see him or you?

I would go and see me, because you can always see him on DVD. Or you could buy my album and go and see him, but I think this interview has been set up by the people who would want you to go and see the gig I’m doing. Go to both – that’s what I would do. Just do it. I’m going to learn all his gags and do them at my show, and then people will sit there at his going “we heard this last night from a Canadian guy”. What do you think of me now?

Phil Nichol performs for The Laughter Factory at Dubai’s Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach on Wednesday December 10 and the Grand Millennium, Tecom, on December 11. Both shows start at 9pm. Tickets cost Dh140 and are available at www.timeouttickets.com