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Christmas Political Party - An Interview with Matt Forde

9 December 2016 Belphoebe New

It may seem like the current political climate isn’t something to laugh about, but comedian Matt Forde is here to prove us wrong. A former political advisor to The Labour Party, he passionately and satirically commentates on the political system and has interviewed some of parliament’s most divisive figures, from Nigel Farage to Tony Blair. For Christmas, he’s bringing a festive version of his sell-out stand-up show The Political Party to Leicester Square Theatre, supported by music from the world’s first band comprised entirely of MPs and special guests. We spoke to Matt about what’s in store at the show, interviewing Donald Trump and his belief that the combination of comedy and politics can be a force for good.

London Calling: Can you tell us a bit about the show?
 
Matt Forde: We’re reflecting on quite a year, but you have to do it with a smile I think! It’s going to be a Christmas special with my live band of MPs, they’ll be playing some Christmas hits. And then we’ll be joined by two of the biggest heavyweights from New Labour history, Alastair Campbell and Ed Balls.
 
LC: Do you get on well with Alastair and Ed?
 
MF: I’ve interviewed both before, and I find them fascinating. Campbell was at the heart of Blair’s operation and Balls was at the heart of Brown’s. Finding out how they both got where they got – well, they’re both exceptionally gifted individuals with very sharp brains. It’s just fascinating to talk to individuals who you know were at the heart of it and get their opinions.
 
LC: You’re known as being a comedian who primarily focuses on political issues. What gave you the idea to combine comedy and politics?
 
MF: I can’t remember what the exact catalyst was. Comics started talking about politics on stage and I started thinking ‘actually, I should be talking about this because I’ve worked in it – it’s one of my biggest passions!’ So I started to do away with my old stuff and do more political stuff. For me, as someone who is obsessed with it, politics is always exciting and entertaining. Personal dramas, great ideas, there’s so much going on in it. And particularly at the moment the public are very in tune with it.
 
LC: Do you think that talking about politics in comedy is a good way to engage people?
 
MF: Definitely. Just looking at my experience as a kid, watching Rory Bremner and shows like Have I Got News For You, if you’re starting to get into something, they just make it more lively and acceptable to be into it. They bring that world that you love to life. And I think that, even though I’m not making a deliberate attempt to do it, you can actually inform people.
 
LC: You’ve interviewed so many individuals with very different views to your own, such as UKIP and Conservative MPs. Is it ever tempting to get into fierce political debate or do always you try and keep it jovial?
 
MF: I’ve never really had the temptation to do that no. There’s been times when a guest has tried to goad me a bit, but then you just have to back off. Regardless of my political opinions, I find politics fascinating and I find politicians fascinating, and I have a lot of respect for them, even if they’re people I would never dream of voting for.
 
LC: Has there ever been an interview that you’ve done where you’ve come out and thought ‘wow, I have a really different perspective on that issue now’?
 
MF: Maybe not on an issue, but certainly an individual. Lembit Öpik, I didn’t expect the sort of interview I had with him. He was so interesting and also emotional in a way that a lot of politicians aren’t. I was moved by that and really respected him. Also, Nigel Farage, whose views I obviously don’t hold: he was a very charming individual and very good company.
 
LC: Who would you like to interview next?
 
MF: Donald Trump. I extend the hand of diplomacy across the ocean! Also Hilary Clinton, Theresa May – any party leaders really.
 
LC: The political climate at the moment feels a little bleak. How do you still manage to find light and humour in these moments?
 
MF: There’s certainly been more of a desire to watch political comedy at the moment, which has been really good for me. People are more interested and I think they want to make themselves feel better about it. Obviously I despair about the direction of things at the moment, but I really think you have to be philosophical about it. Change doesn’t just happen by itself, there are a lot of good people in the world who can deal with the political problems we’ve created for ourselves. The world is still a wonderful place!
 
Matt Forde’s Political Christmas Party will be at Leicester Square Theatre on 15 December at 9:30pm. Find out more here.
 
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