New Internationalist

A word with Tim FitzHigham

Web exclusive

As he gears up for the Edinburgh Fringe, the award-winning British comedian reveals his environmental and political passions.

Photo copyright Rich Hardcastle
Photo copyright Rich Hardcastle

Who or what inspires you?

Spike Milligan has always been a huge thing for me. He, like me, also plays the trumpet, so perhaps there’s something in that. Inspiring my adventures often too is The Great Gonzo. I would love to catch a cannon ball and am training hard for that, but I’m not there yet…

What are you politically passionate about?

Division – I don’t like it. Ultimately we’re all here, we’ve got one earth to try and look after so we should all pull together and get on with it. The Scottish debate, the European debate and the terrorist situation all feed into this for me. They all have important things about them; with one, a few members of a political élite want to divide the many into a more easy to subjugate smaller group, with another we’ve left some people outside a group too long and the longer you leave them outside, the harder it is to bring them inside. And the third is an experiment in unity that needs a bit of tweaking. But which is which?

You have been a spokesperson for World Environment Day. Are there particular environmental issues that concern you?

It’s the vital and defining issue of our times. Every age has one and this is ours. We are simply not doing enough to sort it out. Person reading this – we have power in our hands to say ‘enough is enough’ on this. Power companies, national and international governments and, at some point in the chain, all of our jobs are controlled by things that are environmentally bad. Even as I write this, I’m aware that I’m writing it on a lap top-powered by electricity that is probably generated in a way that’s not helpful to the environment. But there are things that we can all do to try and help, and we really should be doing that.

For those who don’t know – you are the only person to have rowed across the English Channel in a bath tub. Why did you do it?

I have loved doing my projects for as long as I can remember. I have a thing in me to push hard and see if things can be possible. Everyone said the bath tub across the English Channel was not possible, so I got two oars and a loofa and set off to see…

And what about paddling a paper boat the length of the River Thames…?

I had to get insurance for that boat… that was a lot of the challenge!

You do seem to enjoy perilous exploits… Have you got any more planned?

Always – often the best ones are the unplanned ones, though.

If you could banish one person from the earth, who would it be and why?

I’m not sure I would banish anyone – it sets quite a dangerous precedent. If I can banish someone, then somewhere along the line someone could banish me, or someone I loved. That would be awful. Did Brian Blessed and Flash Gordon strap on Spandex for nothing?

Can comedy be a tool for political and social change?

Comedy can be a tool for political and social change, and it’s a lot cheaper and makes more people smile than genocide or war... so I guess I’m saying it’s a good way to go

As much as anything we’ve found in history can be a tool for either of those things, yes. Comedy can be and it’s a lot cheaper and makes more people smile than genocide or war… so I guess I’m saying it’s a good way to go. But perhaps comedy is the valve that keeps the status quo in place? The Governors of the world can carry on doing what they like to destroy it, as long as we can all go to the O2 [Arena] and laugh at a tiny out-of-focus person on a screen half a mile away, we’ll take it. It’s either a tool for change or a servant of the status quo. Definitely one of those things…

If you didn’t live in Britain, where would you live, and why?

I used to farm nutmeg in the Caribbean and if I could ever afford to do that again, I’d like that. It was a superb way to live; very basic, honest and environmentally lovely. Also, tremendous people living there, some truly lovely people. I once lived in Tangiers which I also rather liked, too. I think it’s not so much the ‘where’ but the ‘with whom’ that’s important. I’d rather live in a prison cell with my mates than Xanadu with the wrong-thinking element…

Do you think that humour is a universal language?

English is a universal language and those who don’t think that, don’t speak it… I’m not sure humour is the universal language, but laughter certainly is. I’ve been a laughing stock in almost every country in the world.

What would you like your epitaph to be?

Never give in.

Tim FitzHigham will be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more details and tickets, see the Pleasance website.
www.fitzhigham.com
Twitter: @timfitzhigham

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