Andy Parsons: 'The most fun you can have on stage is when you're walking a tightrope'

The former Mock The Week stalwart is Healing The Nation with his latest tour

Recently handed a Silver Dolphin Cannes Media Award for the Combating Loneliness campaign, Andy Parsons is celebrating by hopping around the country and making more connections with people via his latest stand-up show. Here, he chats about impotent politicians, offended audiences and bland comedy.

Through Mock The Week and the Slacktivist podcast, you've been politically active. We're in a right old pickle at the moment, eh?
Having talked to a lot of politicians for the podcast, it's clear we have a lot of frustrated MPs. You realise how little power individual MPs actually have; Theresa May had three years as head of the country and the things she was claiming to have achieved in that time could be written on the back of a fag packet.

An ex-actor who once played the president of Ukraine actually is now the president of Ukraine, while a reality TV star plans all his golfing trips from inside the White House. We'd all acknowledge a longstanding distrust of politicians, but is this taking things too far?
If you can get people going far in politics from different walks of life that might be a good thing, but you'll soon get found out if you haven't got a set of policies to back it up. Then eventually it will hit people in the pocket and they'll realise that you're responsible for that.

What's the core of Healing The Nation?
It's about this idea that everything is proving divisive at the moment, no one is talking to each other and seeing the issues from both sides. But essentially people have the same concerns whether it's health or education or jobs. If nothing else, we can be proud of some form of tolerance and freedom of speech in our history and it'll be interesting to see where those concepts are going in the next few years.

Now that you're off the telly, do you feel more freed up to say what you want on stage?
In terms of TV shows, it changed so that anything that was controversial just wouldn't get in because it was too much hassle for the producer to bother with. The more resources that were stripped away such as the fact-checking ability and confidence in their own procedures meant that people were less likely to stick their neck out for a particular joke. From the live side there is all this talk of no-platforming but controversy gets you publicity and bums on seats.

In these increasingly censorious times, do you think more than twice about writing about a particular subject or penning a contentious joke?
I write what I want. Nobody wants to see a bland stand-up set. I've been doing this long enough now to know that the most fun you can have on stage is when you're walking a tightrope and creating excitement where it can go either way. The nice thing about this new show is that you get the chance of offending everybody because you can take one side and then another and bring them together. Or it can also go up in flames.

Andy Parsons: Healing The Nation is on tour until Wednesday 10 June.

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