George Egg has been a much-loved member of the comedy circuit for nearly 20 years, having started out as a street performer in Covent Garden in the late 1990s. He’s a true entertainer, often compared to the late, great Tommy Cooper due to his stage presence, timing and taste for magic.
Ahead of his Anarchist Cook live shows in London at the Soho Theatre on 20th and 21st May 2016, Ian Cater of What’s On London caught up with George to discuss hotel trouser presses, scrambled eggs and TV chefs.
Hi George. Tell us a little bit about your show, Anarchist Cook.
Hello! Well, it straddles the genres of comedy show and illustrated lecture. On a stage set up like a hotel room, I perform chiefly food-based comedy and show how to make a three-course meal on appliances you find in such places (like an iron, a hairdryer or a trouser press). Then at the end, the audience gets to try the food.
What led you to fold a cookery element into your routine?
A genuine passion for food. As a travelling comedian, I often find myself bored and hungry post-gig, so I’ve been knocking up meals in hotel rooms for some time. I realised there was comedy in my methods and wanted to tell people about it.
How long have you been performing the show?
About six years ago, I made a film about my cooking antics. That went viral, so several years later I wrote a routine around it which turned into this one-man show. I took it to The Fringe in 2015 and it went down really well: I sold out the entire run which lead to a UK tour and invitations to perform at festivals all over the world. I’m currently responding from Auckland, where I’m doing a two-week run as part of the New Zealand Comedy Festival.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve tried to cook in a hotel room?
Nothing’s hard if you apply yourself – I think that’s the message of the show really. You can look at it as a metaphor for divergent thinking and rule-breaking … or simply a recipe for how to knock up three courses in a Premier Inn. Either way, you get some food at the end!
The biggest disaster was my first attempt at making scrambled eggs in a kettle – it wrecked it. But I’ve devised a failsafe method which is actually preferable to making it on the hob. You’ll have to come to the show to find out how that’s done though.
Have any hotels complained about your act or room-based rehearsals?
Not yet! I’m very stealthy and well brought up, so I generally leave rooms as I find them. I do wonder if I’ll start to get blacklisted and need to check in under a pseudonym, like Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.
How hard is it to cook and be funny at the same time, when most of us can’t manage either?
If you’re genuinely passionate about something, I think the enthusiasm comes across naturally and that translates into humour and laughs and infects the audience. I hope so anyway. It also needs a hell of a lot of practice – I can’t be worrying about what ingredient comes next if I’ve got to deliver a joke too.
Which TV chef would make the best stand-up comedian?
Pit-master DJ BBQ (Christian Stevenson) is enormously entertaining and very funny. Jay Rayner – not a chef, but connected to the subject – is a hilarious orator. But towering above them is Italian chef Gennaro Contaldo. He’s the most brilliant natural clown and I urge you to seek his videos out on the internet.
You’re originally from London. Where can Londoners get the best meal?
You can get a very good three-course meal at 9:30pm on 20th and 21st May at Soho Theatre, and they throw in a comedy show too. Apart from that I urge you to seek out Smokestak. They do proper barbecue at a few London market venues. They have the most impressive rig you’ll ever set eyes on and their brisket roll is to die for.
You’re taking the show to Edinburgh again this year. What’s the plan after that?
I’m doing three dates at the Gilded Balloon (22nd to 24th August) and then the tour continues across the country going into 2017. I’ve also got a few projects bubbling away on the back burner (both metaphorically and literally): a food-based variety show, an idea for the radio and a new version of the show – provisionally entitled Anarchist Cook: Second Helpings – with new methods, material and a whole new menu.