The famous, yet down-to-earth comedian had just landed in Johannesburg after his flight from Port Elizabeth, but that didn’t put a damper on his natural ability to bring out the humour in everyday situations.
This is what he had to say:
Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A: Happy, like John Lennon. I always knew I was different, so I just grew to be a normal guy I thought, but I was never satisfied with “that’s what you got to do”. I always used to question it. In a very short space of time, when I was about ten or twelve, I realised that I could stop the bullies at school by being funny and I could get away with a lot more with the teachers at school, they used to love me. I always used to watch these talent programs on TV when I was a youngster in England and I used to say to my folks: “I want to do that,” and my dad of course said: “No, you can’t do that, you’re going to be a tradesman just like me.” So I became a tradesman for 10 years after school and then one day I just couldn’t do it anymore so I just stopped it.
Q: How did you get into comedy?
A: There was a program in South Africa called ‘Biltong and Potroast’ (a show about South African vs. British comedians in a South African environment), and I realised I couldn’t become a comedian being a South African, so I pretended to be a British comedian and spoke with a British accent and I got my first job. I am a South African but I can do any accent you want instantly.
Q: Billy Connolly is one of your favourite comedians; what about him inspires you?
A: When I was working in the UK, I won an award, and I got a gig working in Jersey where I opened for Billy Connolly for four days. He came to my change room and he said to me: “You are very good, but you must stop telling jokes, you must do something else.” So I took his words to heart and I came back to South Africa and I started talking about life. I like being sharp. I will say things like: “I can’t spell because I’ve got ADD, but I’m very good at sums because that’s what it says, add.”
Q: How do you keep coming up with new material?
A: I write new stuff every day. I keep coming up with new material all the time. I keep on refreshing my list if you will.
Q: What advice would you give to inspiring comedians?
A: I stress this strongly, if you keep it clean you will always be in the scene. At what level you are in it doesn’t matter because you will always be working. I work because I want to work, not for money or fame or anything else. I work for the feeling it gives me, it makes me happy. If you are doing it for the money or fame I don’t think it’s the right objective. Don’t follow the other guys, find your own style, do your own thing and don’t be afraid to lose. If you are too scared to tell your jokes to people then don’t even start. Keep it clean and sharp.
Q: What is your best/worst experience being a comedian?
A: My best experience is going on stage and having the audience absolutely eating out of my hand no matter who it is. In South Africa in particular, we have a unique experience, there’s every colour, creed and culture here and when I’m on stage I see all of those people collectively laughing as one. It’s a wonderful experience, it supersedes money and fame. My worst experience is going back to a lonely and empty hotel room.
Q: What is your current favourite joke?
A: There’s online shopping now in Hermanus. My wife put the washing out last night and somebody swiped it.
Q: Do you have a favourite SA comedian and why?
A: There are two funny guys who people should look out for, Glen Biderman-Pam (he is on my DVD that is for sale now) and an Afrikaans guy, Schalk Bezuidenhout, who is exceptional. In saying that, I am also a big fan of John Vlismas, Ndumiso Lindi, Tats Nkozo and Kurt Schoonraad. Comedy has become so big and so diverse with so many genres and the secret is to be your own person.
Q: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
A: Yes, I wake up in the morning. If I didn’t wake up in the morning, I wouldn’t be able to do the show. I want to physically get sick, I don’t, but I feel like I want to. I like to address the people before my show. I think it makes me quite unique. I like talking to people, it makes me calm. To sit backstage is a nightmare for me.
Q: How many more shows can we be expecting you to perform?
A: I aim to be in the business well past normal retirement age. It’s very difficult to say when you are going to stop but I must admit sometimes when I’m lonely, sitting in a hotel room, I wonder what am I doing this for? Then I meet my fans and I think how blessed am I that people that don’t actually know me personally are already thinking wow there’s Barry Hilton, isn’t that great.
Q: If you could roast any South African celebrity who would it be and what would you tell them?
A: To be honest, I wouldn’t do it. I don’t enjoy a roasting, it gets very personal and disgraceful and I don’t like that.
Remember to get your tickets from Computicket to Barry Hilton live at Carnival City on August 28. Tickets are selling at R100 a ticket, get yours now as they are selling out fast. This is a show not to be missed.