Question Time is tendering for a new host. However, I propose a new show altogether, which celebrates the grey areas, the ‘no rights or wrongs’ and the ‘we’ll be OK’ school of thought. A show that challenges you to question your own beliefs and how you arrived at that standing in the first place. Well, luckily for me, that show already exists, and Phil Nichol could soon be coming to a town near you.
If you missed his sixty minutes of imparted knowledge and wisdom, Phil Nichol (the ‘popular not popularist’ comedian, who, unlike every politician on the planet doesn’t just ‘tell you what you want to hear’) is taking his critically acclaimed show Your Wrong on a UK-wide tour starting this September.
The comic believes he’s hit the sweet spot with his latest offering, which has enjoyed such success at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival that Phil is devising a longer-running show, to preview at this year’s festival, aptly named Your Wronger. I caught up with Phil to find out the secret to this show’s evolving success.
There have been a few watershed moments in Phil’s life that have brought him to reject or embrace belief systems he’s been exposed to. In his late teens, his brother was in a serious car accident; his parents are devout Born-again Christians; his love of punk rock music and an ‘epiphany moment’ at Glastonbury festival’ to name a few. Most recently, while using his own experiences to give insight into why we hold beliefs, he says the show has gained wide appeal. Phil said, “I think it’s the most mainstream show I’ve ever had, purely based on the variety of audience members including old age pensioners, goth kids, punk rockers and hippies. I’ve even had people come up to me and say ‘Jesus loves you’, which has been an interesting experience. Whereas the old Phil Nichol might have said ‘that’s great…if he existed’, the new Phil Nichol chooses to embrace it, as I realise that they are trying to empower me, and that’s fine.’
The show’s name takes its inspiration from the all too familiar occurrence of the generic tit-for-tat Facebook argument with a friend-of-a-friend. You may know this familiar argument formula: someone disagrees with a statement by simply replying with ‘your wrong’, then the other person (in this case, Phil) corrects their grammar, which is then torpedoed with the retort ‘this is an issue of spelling, not grammar’. Phil explores where this leaves us, in a world where we all believe we are experts and agree on so little.
In a world where the divisive comments below the line of an article are as read as the article itself, Phil sees his role as bringing people together. He added, “My job is to some extent a charmed existence as I have been fortunate to work as a comedian for most of my life. All I have to do is sit and observe things and have a comic opinion of it. Laughter is something we can all share, it signifies agreement and consensus on what is being discussed. We’re constantly bombarded with news through our phones and can get answers to everything we want through Siri, however what Siri can’t do is answer the deeper questions.”
“We’re lucky in the UK in particular in that everyone is up for a laugh, and comedy culture allows for little nuggets of knowledge, inspiration and laughter which is really healthy for human beings. We tour across the UK and meet real people with lives and families of their own, we’re not like politicians because comedians don’t say what we think you want us to say. Politicians only deal with people who have issues to take up with them at their surgeries. They could actually give more credit to comedians and listen a lot more to us, as we don’t spout dogma or toe the party line.”
“People who come to see the show are clearly enjoying the message – there’s no right or wrong, and that we don’t have to agree on everything. Plus, I’m not forcing my opinion on the audience or telling them what to think, as I tell everything through my own lived experience and leave them with the freedom to come to their own conclusions – and if they laugh, that means they agree.”
Your not wrong, Phil.
The tour of Your Wrong starts on 28th September in Colchester Arts Centre and continues at numerous arts centres across the the UK. Your Wronger will be at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival from 2nd-26th August. For more information visit http://www.philnichol.com/gigs/ and follow Phil on Twitter @philnichol