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The Ade of the party

Ade Edmondson is explaining how there's far too much rudeness in comedy.

A BAND OF IDIOTS: Playing dates in Edinburgh and Glasgow this weekend are (from left, Ade Edmondson, Phill Jupitus, Rowland Rivron and Neil Innes.
A BAND OF IDIOTS: Playing dates in Edinburgh and Glasgow this weekend are (from left, Ade Edmondson, Phill Jupitus, Rowland Rivron and Neil Innes.

This may raise a few eyebrows, given the style of anarchic, violent humour that he and Rik Mayall made a living from, yet the erudite Edmondson believes there's a difference when it's being used in what he call "safe" comedy. "Everything is kind of derivative at the moment," he says.

"There's some good stuff, the Thick Of It is still funny, but I don't see anything left field. It's all very safe. It's more being rude, which there's nothing wrong with, but it does get a bit tiresome-

"It's the same in music, it's all very tame. Music now could have come from any time in the last 30 years, which is saddening."

Music is actually what Edmondson is on the phone to discuss, namely his latest project, the Idiot Bastard Band. It's a collaboration with Phill Jupitus, Rowland Rivron and Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band, an act that Edmondson has always adored, and consists of them playing a multitude of instruments to a variety of songs, from originals to a host of covers.

Originally the group also included Simon Brint, of the duo Raw Sex, but he took his own life last year, which prompted the group to consider stopping. Instead, they've chosen to carry on and have now moved beyond the regular chaos of their London residency for the first time.

"We wondered whether we'd keep going but we did another residency, and got to the point where it sounded like people wanted to hear us," explains Edmondson. "It changes the emphasis a bit. It used to not matter that it was a complete shambles, but when it's a bigger venue you feel you have to make more of a show of it."

It's not merely an excuse for some laughs, though. Edmondson's love for music is evident, and he's quite clear that he prefers performing music to comedy.

"I've always been frustrated," he says. "I've always felt like I'm a slightly pretend comedian. I've never felt very confident, which is why I've never done panel shows on TV, as it just doesn't suit me.

"It's bizarre, with the character stuff like the Young Ones or Bottom I don't think I'm unwitty there, but I'm a bit of an actor. Whereas when I'm playing the music I'm actually being myself, and that's been a revelation to me about how much fun that be."

There isn't just the Idiot Bastard Band in Edmondson's career now, of course. He's recently been seen on his Ade In Britain TV series, he mentions that he's close to selling a TV idea about the history of beer and there's also his other musical project, the Bad Shepherds.

He's also happily married to Jennifer Saunders, and recently moved back to London after years living in Devon.

There is not, however, any comedy on the horizon. Plans for an updated six-part series of Bottom have fallen through, and while he makes clear that he and Mayall are still on good terms, the situation itself was an awkward one.

"I think it's something that's past," he says. "It's not a clean or clever way to end it, but I think I jumped ship at the right time as I think it was going to make me unhappy and you can't make anything good when you're unhappy.

"It's a complicated thing, a double act. You know the Sunshine Boys? We're like that – we're like brothers and we can love and hate each other simultaneously. We've reached a part where it's best that we don't work together and we've drawn a line under it. We're both happier that way."

Comedy itself seems to do little for Edmondson these days. Given that he was part of the famed Comedy Store scene in the early 1980s that was a hotbed of politically charged humour, he is less than impressed at where modern comedy is currently at.

"I feel rather disheartened by the way they do ironic sexism nowadays," he says. "They'll do rape gags ironically, they'll use their voice in a funny way that's saying 'I'm trying to be ironic but I'll still use rape in a way that gets a laugh'. It's a real step backwards.

"They always say that recession brings out the creative best in people, as usually there's a concurrent explosion of people like that during a recession, and there hasn't been one this time."

For an example of the creativity that he misses just now, he points to the Bonzos, who remain one of his favourite groups of all time.

"I remember sitting at the Bonzos anniversary bash, and there was me, Phill, Stephen Fry, Bill Bailey and Paul Merton, all rapt, all singing these songs. That's some influence, and yet you say to most people the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band and they don't know what you're talking about."

Despite some of the gloom, there is still a streak of happiness that shines through.

"I work very hard to make myself happy, and my bands are the pinnacle of that," he says. "I do other stuff because we all need a job, although that doesn't mean I do it cynically, it's stuff I like doing, but if I had a dream job I'd be a musician full-time."

The Idiot Bastard Band play the HMV Picture House in Edinburgh tomorrow and the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow on Sunday.

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