From Twitter timeline to the West End: the rise of Alistair Green

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By Joe Harris, MA Literatures and Cultures

Joe Harris talks to Alistair Green about his comedy and social media success, reviewing his one-man show at the Prince Charles Cinema. Shooting character-based vignettes on an iPhone, Alistair has become something of a comedy star through his innovative format.

The world of social media is one that, as we all know, never ceases to muster up a steady regurgitation of scrutinous debate - the main reasons being its capacity to propagate hatred, supplement human interaction and promote unrealistic ideals of body image. Of course, it’s not all bad. It also has the ability to provide a platform for some of the UK’s brightest talents, particularly in the sphere of entertainment and comedy, who would otherwise be criminally underexposed. Enter Alistair Green (@mralistairgreen): a glistening gemstone in the murky pool of the Twitter timeline, piercing through the rocky clutter of election politics and dreary news bulletins with his trademark tousled hair and unremarkable white walls.

Alistair Green / Twitter | Alistair Green

With a background in writing and acting, having involvement in shows such as the brilliant Stath Lets Flats and Flowers (both on Channel 4), Alistair has more recently shot to Twitter fame within the UK comedy scene through his series of hilarious character-based vignettes, unconventionally filmed always on an iPhone 10 at his London home. Receiving online endorsement from top names in British comedy such as Tom Allen and Dara Ó Briain, Alistair has become something of a comedy star for his ability to evoke both ferocious laughter and stunning pathos contained within a short and rudimentary two-minute sketch.

I was able to get in contact with Alistair and, despite his busy schedule, he was kind enough to answer a few questions to provide a bit more of an insight into his extraordinary world of comedy.

Upon viewing some of Alistair’s videos for the first time, the way that he was able to communicate a comedic idea so vividly through a single facial expression conjured up flashbacks of my first time seeing David Brent on screen. So, I begin by asking who some of his comedy influences have been. “Some people say the ones where I do imagined conversations remind them a bit of Bob Newhart so maybe him,” he says, “I watch a lot of Peter Cook’s old stuff too. Richard Pryor, French and Saunders: anyone who can be funny with a face.”

Following such a recent surge in popularity on social media, I ask whether he ever expected the reception he has now received when he first started making his videos. “Not at all,” he admits, “it was just mucking about on my phone to no-one and it just resonated for some reason.”

In regard to the creative process itself, he reveals that it can vary drastically: “Sometimes I’ll think of it, record it and put it on twitter in two minutes. Another one I thought about for three months before I attempted it and had to redo it 20 or 30 times.”

With highlights such as change is coming, an inquisitive man, and no more garys, Alistair’s one-man sketches often humorously address serious everyday societal issues such as sexism, racism and classism, satirising those who demonstrate embedded prejudice. However, he denies this being at the forefront of his mind when creating a video: “I think there’s lots of different types of comedy and that’s fine. What I do is just something that interests me.” “The videos are supposed to be little glimpses of England, I think,” he adds, “if that doesn’t make me sound like an utter wanker.”

Alistair’s one-man sketches often humorously address serious everyday societal issues such as sexism, racism and classism

Through a vast spectrum of characters appearing across the collection of vignettes, Alistair exhibits his impressively wide acting range. Many of these characters evoke in the viewer a, sometimes shameful, relatability, so I was curious as to whether some of them reflected his own personality. “Yeah, sometimes,” he laughs, “pub quiz (an exposure of the commonplace behaviour displayed by ostensibly mature adults at pub quizzes) is basically me.”

When asked if he could pick a favourite video of his, he refers to one of his most recent, and one of the more emotive, vignettes: “I was pleased with the end of summer because that’s the most imagined characters I’ve had in one scene […] I talk to 'my' daughter, husband, and granddaughter and construct a little scene out of it.” This particular video addresses love, old-age and the inevitability of death whilst remaining painfully witty. He also mentions beef and a tired councillor as some of his favourites, “the ones where it’s one take and is evocative of something.”

Alistair Green at Prince Charles Cinema / Joe Harris 

On the 18th of November, Alistair’s videos finally received the recognition they deserve as they were transferred from the phone screen to the silver screen of the illustrious Prince Charles Cinema in the West End of London for a one-night-only showing. With the show selling out in days, I decided it wasn’t one to be missed and made the Megabus journey across to the capital for the evening. As crowds, peppered with brilliant comedians such as Ivo Graham, Lou Sanders and many more, flowed into the cinema, Alistair, accompanied by comedy actor and friend Diane Morgan, greeted guests on the door sporting a black beret and sunglasses. This was a warm, and aptly bizarre, touch. After a short, and unintentional, stand-up set from the man himself, Alistair’s face, larger than ever seen before, emerged from the curtains and the screening began.

He confesses that the prospect of hosting an unexpectedly sell-out show initially made him feel “overwhelmingly anxious,” and that he struggled to sit through it all: “I was just too anxious to watch, really. Also, I’ve seen them enough,” he says, conveying his humility, “I just wanted people to laugh.” And people did laugh, unremittingly so. My jaw had never ached so much after a trip to the cinema. Alistair, though, remains shocked by the positive reception: “I had no idea it would go that well,” he claims, “because I’ve only ever seen them on my phone.”

Alistair Green at Prince Charles Cinema / Joe Harris 

After the success of the Prince Charles screening, I asked Alistair if we should be expecting any further events in the near future and, don’t worry, if you didn’t make the first one, you’re in luck: “Yes, I’ll be doing more cinema shows, hopefully around the UK,” he reveals, “and I’m currently in talks to develop the format for TV.” All very exciting.

Alistair Green’s comedy is innovative, unique and unpretentious. He is making a name for himself within the UK comedy scene with a fresh, new format of comedy that is, frankly, unmissable. If you are not already following him on social media, you need to be.

Featured Image: Joe Harris


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