The Chap meets the star of a new live comedy show opening at Edinburgh Fringe this August, who greets the public outside chain stores in his spare time.
Visitors to such salubrious establishments as B&Q, Wilko, Wetherspoons, Waitrose and TK Maxx recently may have enjoyed a cordial greeting as they entered, from a chap dressed in a smoking jacket, flannels, co-respondent shoes and a silk cravat. This fellow is Troy Hawke, a performer with five years on the stand-up comedy circuit. Customers are sprinkled with witty remarks and compliments on their appearance, unbeknownst to the store management, who often appear with security guards to ask Mr. Hawke to leave the premises.
This is the Greeter’s Guild, a situationist and some might say anarcho-dandyist performance, which often gets its point across in unexpected ways. One manager from B&Q accosting Mr. Hawke outside their establishment comments that “We don’t want this” in response to his suggestion that he’s only trying to raise a smile for their customers. The act confirms the age-old maxim that if you shower the public with kindness and joviality, they can become confused because they’re not used to it. Nearly all of Troy’s unscheduled greetings are met with a smile and a warm welcome from the public; it is only the management who choose to reject something that doesn’t fit into their brand’s policy, however much of a spring it may put into their customers’ steps.
Following The Chap’s attendance of Troy Hawke’s live show at Soho Theatre, London, we caught up with the comedian just ahead of his month-long string of shows, Troy Hawke in Sigmund Troy’d, throughout August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival www.milomccabe.co.uk
Great Show. If I may say so, sir, you smashed it! It was a rather warm evening, though. You must have been sweltering under those caddish layers of silk, cotton and flannel?
What’s interesting is the tiny variables that go into a show and the environment. The night before, at the same venue, was completely different. For some reason, that night you were there, the air conditioning at the Soho Theatre decided it had had enough after twenty minutes. It was like a swamp for the second half of the show. I remember thinking to myself, I’m going to have to flip a switch and access some emergency gears, to ensure that I hold the audience in the manner I want them to be held in.
You pose an interesting idea of each of us having specific levels of dopamine, affecting how much stimulation we need. Is part of your work an attempt to raise the general dopamine levels of the public, with your greeter’s guild?
Someone with low natural levels of dopamine will find themselves having to do more exciting things to get themselves to the level of excitement that a high-dopamine level person would also get, but by doing very little. It’s actually evolutionary. Back in the day, the low dopamine people who needed to do more exciting things were the ones who were more predisposed to hunting or exploring, while the high dopamine people were more chemically equipped to setting up home and tending vegetables. Where that leaves us now is that the low dopamine people need to base-jumping and things like that.
Could you simplify this by saying that the entertainers are the low dopamine people and the audience the ones with high dopamine levels?
You can always see in the audience what I call a ‘six energy’ or a ‘Nigel energy’ – Nigel scores a six in Scrabble. You know the person in the group who doesn’t contribute much, but you’d miss them if they weren’t there. They’re the spine of the group. The Jan Molby of the social group – reliable, dependable, solid, with occasional touches of flair.
I’m afraid I don’t know who Jan Molby is.
Well I’m rather upset that you don’t. Jan Molby is a Danish midfielder who marshalled Liverpool’s victories in the 1980s. He was a very selfless player, very solid and dependable. He was there to make other people look good, and this is why he’s the non-consensual CEO of the Greeter’s Guild. He had all the qualities en the football pitch that you’d want for someone who’s a greeter. I’m not a fan of football but I am a fan of Jan Molby.
What score would he get in Scrabble?
Jan is worth 10, Molby is worth 12. Which is exactly the same score in Scrabble as Troy Hawke (7 and 15) and also The Greeter’s Guild, both worth 22.
How often do you play Scrabble?
Almost never. I merely use the numerical values to divine meaning and properties of words and places.
You talk about conspiracy theories and the Illuminati in your show. Have you got a conspiracy theory mood board at home?
The way I’ll work is I’ll see an accident of logic somewhere; something that doesn’t quite compute so I can’t get past it. If you take logic out of a situation, it’s my big red button emotionally. So I’m driven by a need to examine, understand or rectify exactly what and why and where. For example, I explore the fact that Gala Bingo, who are out of business now (and I like to think I had a hand in that), had a policy that they wouldn’t stop a game if a player died. There were several reports of people dying mid game and the game continuing. It’s the only sport in the world where death doesn’t stop play. There have been more bingo-related deaths than in any other sport. So I’m against the quirk of logic that sets bingo halls apart in this way.
You showed us a clip of you asking for a herbal remedy for overthinking and were offered St John’s Wort. Is overthinking truly a problem for you? What’s so bad about overthinking things?
Overthinking does have its benefits. It leads you to explore every avenue of possibility. Overthinking leaves you prepared for most scenarios that are going to occur. You’ve already explored the myriad possibilities, so you’re mentally prepared. Where overthinking can slightly get in the way is when it takes you out of the present, so you’re constantly living either in the past or the future. Ruminating or speculating has its benefits and can be a powerful force for advancement and opportunity but you sometimes really do need to rein the bugger in, or you veer off the hard shoulder and step into an open manhole cover.
Do you believe in homeopathy?
I don’t, no. My personal belief is that there is a logical pattern to everything. Every issue that causes you a problem, you can trace to a logical origin point, whatever that is. And that appeals to me. That mental exploration of why you do things. I think that’s why psychotherapists, at least the ones I’ve met, tend to be such extremely left-field individuals, because they’ve spent so many of their formative years questioning their own behaviour that they’ve decided to turn it into their profession.
The ones I’ve met seem not to have a clue how to get their own lives in order.
Exactly! Cleaners always have the muckiest houses.
What do stand-up comics always have in their real lives?
Huge levels of insecurity, lack of self assurance, and the kind of mental defects that lead you to require the approval of strangers several times a week, to make you feel alright about yourself.
Troy is an anagram of Tory. Do you ever get confused with someone who supports the Conservative Party?
If they have any doubt, the three-and-a-half minute, graphically disturbing rant that I make about Boris Johnson in every show should put paid to any debate in that area.
Milo McCabe performs as Troy Hawke in Sigmund Troy’d at The Underbelly as part of Edinburgh Fringe Festival throughout August.