Originally written for Den Of Geek in July 2015. Read the original article here.
With a cult following that would make even the most mainstream of comedians jealous, Brian Limond, better known to his legion of fans as Limmy, has spent the past decade and a half building a reputation as one of the strangest, most bafflingly brilliant comedians currently working. With the release of his new book, Daft Wee Stories, I sat down for a lengthy chat with Glesga’s favourite son.
“I love saying terrible things,” Limmy exclaims with a wry smile. “Things that I think are terrible and I’ve gotten in to trouble in the past – just hearing it come out of my mouth or seeing it typed and seeing it out there – something terrible that in real life isn’t funny.”
Conventional probably isn’t a word best used to describe Limmy’s comic outlook. Having spent the past decade dividing his time between creating one of the most criminally underappreciated sketch shows of recent times, Limmy’s Show, and crafting deranged, whimsical and frequently observant Vines that conjure more laughs in seven seconds than many comedy series achieve in an entire season’s run, Limmy’s output is nothing short of prolific.
Chatting with him via Skype feels like a strangely familiar experience, not least because anyone who’s spent any time following him on Twitter or Facebook will be aware of his webcam sessions in which he often spends hours gleefully berating popular music, creating his own dance music and adlibbing hilarious and often downright bizarre tales based on suggestions from others. Over the course of two hours on a rainy Friday evening, we cover the full spectrum of topics – dark humour, vloggers, depression and social media – all punctuated intermittently by apologies for his rambling, tangential and sweary patter.
“‘Brian, you know this interview’s 200 words long,’” he jokes. “I’ve got a habit of going on. I think I’m doing interviewers a favour, but I’m actually giving them more to sift through and try and find something they can use.”
He needn’t apologise. After all, it’s Limmy’s perceptive, inquisitive nature that has won him leagues of fans – and his own fair share of detractors to boot – both through his work on television and his unmistakable social media presence where nothing is off limits. He’s a man prepared to plumb the darkest depths of the human condition in search of gags, even if it rubs people up the wrong way in the process.
“You can say stuff that’s nice and fucking irresponsible,” he laughs. “Unfollow me if you’re not into it, but I want to talk about this guy going in to a fucking morgue and kicking the heads off the bodies. I want to talk about that. I find that funny… I just love fucking horrible things. I’ve just got a really sick sense of humour that’s separate from reality. It’s funny, but I also genuinely don’t like it when anything like that happens. I don’t even know if you’d call it coping. I don’t want to cop out and say: ‘it’s just how I cope with life, by laughing at horrible things’. It’s just one of those things.”
Indeed, for the uninitiated, Limmy may seem like a peculiar sell – his contradictory brand of comedy defies any conventional definition, relying more on his unique perception of the world, brought to life through an array of characters, each seemingly more deranged than the last. Having begun his comedy career making viral videos in the early 2000s, the subsequent success of his live stand-up performances at The Fringe and the Glasgow International Comedy Festival, which was based heavily on his successful podcast, Limmy’s World Of Glasgow, soon paved the way for his own TV series, which ran on BBC Scotland for three series and a Christmas special, concluding in 2013.
“I’ve got lots of things going on in my head, and they’re not necessarily useful things,” he explains. “It’s almost like schizophrenia in a way – not in terms of voices or anything but in terms of ideas and getting ideas in your head, kind of like Dee Dee in Limmy’s Show… Mostly it’s shite and every now and again when you’re writing, if you wait long enough, you’ll have an idea and you’ll be like ‘wait, what was that? Go back!’ I especially like violent things and weird things and mad things – stuff to do with madness and insanity. I just think it’s funny; making serious things funny or pretending to be serious about funny things.”
It’s this creative approach that has informed his latest work, Daft Wee Stories, a compendium of curious short stories written in his own inimitable style. The project began life with a series of blog posts and developed from stories that he would spontaneously post on Facebook and Twitter. Inspired by the approach of the horror anthology series of yesteryear, the book covers the gamut of taboo subjects, ranging from benign tales of a man convinced that his colleague is a vampire, to absurdist tales of tragic accidents or acts of savage violence. To Limmy, it’s all part of the joke.
“I love The Twilight Zone, the original black and white ones with Rod Serling’s wee bit at the beginning. I love him telling you about this story, or Roald Dahl at the beginning of Tales Of The Unexpected sitting in his seat by the fire… I love that. You get the person who wrote it or you get someone telling you about it. You just imagine an old guy telling you a story like that. It’s that discomfort of being in a room with somebody like that… I’ve been in the company of people like that. They seem alright and then suddenly something pops up and you’re kinda looking for the door. And it’s being able to write that stuff. I like happy things turning bad or happening out of the blue… It’s like a campfire.”
For those aware of Limmy’s unique brand of humour, his approach to storytelling will feel reassuringly familiar. Deftly talented at creating scenarios that from the mouth of anyone else would seem horrific, he is effortlessly capable at translating the stuff of nightmares in to absurdist comic vignettes. Think of it as comedy’s answer to David Lynch, if you will – if Lynch were a prophetic Glaswegian armed with a mobile phone and an unapologetically self-deprecating sense of humour.
Having adopted the seven-second video sharing platform as his go to outlet for short form comedy ideas since 2013, Vine feels like a natural extension of the sketch show format, which Limmy left behind following the conclusion of Limmy’s Show.
”It’s like going back to the old days in a way. I think it was around 2000 or 2001 that I was making wee videos for Flam Jam and Chunk, like the Guy Fawkes video. And then I made my own videos like Requiem and Birthday Card and then you get in to telly stuff and then you come back. With Vines, it just boils down to the ideas and doing something that’s funny, rather than worrying about how the lighting’s all set up and making a big effort, getting a cast in and a director photography. It’s just about the idea. No one’s worried about whether it looks rough. If it’s funny, it’s funny.”
While Limmy’s Show never found mainstream success outside of Scotland, it nevertheless earned him two Scottish BAFTA awards and went on to garner a cult following. Despite not achieving the widespread attention it deserved, the show still had its fair share of high-profile champions, including the likes of Stewart Lee, Matt Lucas and Graham Linehan – the latter of whom both invited Limmy to work with them on their own projects.
“You kind of savour the times when people get back to you and they say that they like this thing, and you think, ‘well how did they stumble across this?’ They must have found it on YouTube or someone must have recommended it… But what about the people who’ve liked your stuff since day one and you’re going ‘oh, the guy from The Strokes likes my stuff and that really means something’. And I’m like, ‘who the fuck am I? What are you like? You fucking careerist fucking climber cunt.’ It’s like: ‘Oh, look! Thingy on Twitter with the blue tick likes my stuff’. And I go ‘listen to yourself, you’re a slimy wee fucking nothing.’ Remember the people who’ve been passing your stuff around for years…”
Despite steady sales of the show’s first two series on DVD, to date the third series continues to exist in the ether. Broadcast on BBC Scotland in late 2012, Limmy concedes it’s now unlikely that a DVD release will see the light of day.
“There was a fuck up with the contracts,” he explains, visibly irritated. “I don’t know who fucked it up, but before I could stick in all the commercial music, the BBC cleared all the music, but there was a thing with the DVD that we couldn’t do it. So that means for the third series DVD, if I did want to put it out, unless we wanted to pay a fortune, we’d have to take out all the Jean Michel Jarre stuff for Falconhoof… Maybe people wouldn’t notice, but with stuff like that, who fucked up the fucking contract? Put them in a fucking noose and chuck them off a fucking bridge, because that’s my third series DVD fucked now and nobody’s going to see that.”
Further adding to the disappointment is the recent revelation that the BBC turned down a proposal for a series centered entirely around the character of Falconhoof, the downtrodden host of fictional late night call-in show Adventure Call, whose suggestions intended to guide players through a fantasy role playing game are frequently ignored.
“It’s a shame, because I really liked it. I’ve written things that I’ve looked back at and compared to other things and I go ‘well, actually I would still like to have made it, but I prefer this now’, and the Falconhoof one’s definitely my favourite… It’s quite mainstream and conventional but I like it. It’s not full of wee jokes. It’s not that kind of thing. It doesn’t have a laughter track in it or anything. But I really liked it and I’d love to have it made.”
And is there any hope that we may yet see it?
“I said to my agent ‘why don’t we pass this about? Let’s see if anyone will take it. Channel 4.’ But no, I’ve not heard back. I’ve not heard anything back saying ‘no’, but I’m just assuming the fact that I asked six months ago and I’ve not heard back that nobody’s in to it. And I loved it. So when you do something that you personally really like and then the people who could put it on the telly don’t like it… What are the chances of me coming up with another thing that’s better than that?”
Away from television, Vine appears to have provided Limmy with the perfect creative outlet. Free from the constraints that may come with the attachment to a broadcaster, anything goes, much like his Twitter feed. And the vast majority, with their disparate array of characters and stream of conscious observations, defy any easy classification, particularly this one…
“Oh, the rope thing? Aye. Oh, I love that one. Especially for the voice I put on,” he laughs. “If you want to judge a guy from his voice, he doesn’t sound like he’s got broad horizons. It’s not a liberal voice… it’s someone who’s asking [affects the voice] ‘what the fuck are you watching here? What the fuck’s going on? I don’t know what the fuck’s going on. I’m scared.’ I think I searched for it for the Vine, rather than being on a porn site and spotting a wee video. I mean, being straight, I wasn’t sifting through a gay porn site to see if there was something there for me. And I don’t imagine it was a wee thumbnail in amongst straight stuff. I think I deliberately searched for whatever it was. I spotted that and thought ‘fuck it, I’ll check that out.’”
As well as Vine, Limmy has also continued to embrace YouTube as a creative platform, recently taking a bizarre, ironic foray in to the world of vlogging. Created as a reaction to the spate of young teens who’ve taken to posting anodyne videos about their lives in recent years, it’s something that intrigued and bemused him in equal measure.
“They’re all kind of filmed with the same camera, with the same lens, shallow depth of field and they’re in a bedroom and there’s a bed in the background and it’s got lights dangling in the frame,” he observes. “There’s this blogger guy, seems like the middle class kind of guy, I’m not sure – charlieissocoolike and Bryarly Bishop, this American lassie. Just coming in from the outside, going in to this world and seeing that they’ve got a girlfriend – you look at it and you think, well how is that big news? But it is to the people who are in to them and to him… It’s pure big news and I don’t know who the cunt is. And I love that… It’s a bit like if someone read an interview with me and they’re seeing this guy talking about how things are going really well. They’d be like ‘who the fuck are you though? Who is this cunt?’”
“I really like doing that. But I get to a certain point with things like that, or the Vines, where I lose interest for some reason, but I really like doing them. I love going out and putting that voice on and going out with the camera and seeing what happens, editing it with the fucking stupid face that I pull and that whole thing. It’s just cracking. Taking clips from old things that you’ve done too… and sticking it in to the new one and going ‘I like this, man. This is nice and mental.’”
Limmy’s relationship with social media and the Internet stretches back to 1999, when he first set up his blog and website. Since then he has carved an established reputation on social media, frequently engaging with fans and non-fans alike on a wide range of subjects. But for all his unabashed curiosity to know what people have to say, the reactionary nature of social media is something he, along with many others, has found problematic.
“It’s weird how Twitter is shaping our culture now,” he muses. “Social media is really shaping how we think about things and he we react to things. It’s no mere add on to society. It really has shaped society. When you look online and you see people saying this is what we should be doing or saying now and this is how to do it and how to go about debating things and speaking online… There are some things that I’ve asked on Twitter before and there’s a big uproar and I’ve had people tweeting me and saying ‘don’t think, don’t speak, just listen’. But this is how I talk to people. I tweet stuff and I ask online. I don’t hide away nipping away to a reference library and finding out the facts privately. I like asking the people it affects. Some people think you shouldn’t talk about something unless it affects them, but I don’t think that.”
Ever the proficient internet troll (he wrote a Guardian piece about the subject), Limmy’s own run-ins with the likes of Caitlin Moran (he mocked Moran’s husband, The Times’ music critic Pete Paphides, for giving Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories a glowing review, causing her to claim that she wanted to castrate him) and Louise Mensch (who called him out in a blog for The Telegraph for posting tweets claiming that he wished that Margaret Thatcher was dead) have been well documented. But while he doesn’t particularly regret anything he’s said or done online, he does acknowledge that others may not be as thick skinned as he is.
“With my upbringing and where I grew up, people slagged people. If you slagged them, they’d slag you back… I know it pales in comparison to genuine issues that people have got, but I’ve had people slagging my stuff off on my blog and my website for years… People would email me and tell me how shite something was… You get used to it. It never really hurt me. I’d worry a bit, obviously, you know? ‘Am I shite?’ Eventually you think, well who gives a fuck, man? I get used to it… There are things that other people say that I disagree with and I think are harmful, in a way, but I accept that we’re all harmful in some sort of way… I honestly don’t try to cause anyone harm. If it’s a big shot blue tick sort of person, I know they’re a human being, but there’s something about that where I think, you should have enough strength to deal with it. It’s almost like they’ve got enough things to prop them up.”
Being thick skinned is one thing, but the reactionary nature of Twitter is something he also feels might be detrimental to comedy and the dark style of humour that he’s particularly fond of in the long run.
“I can imagine that in ten years or something it just becomes impossible to make jokes about gallows humour, because people who’ve been affected by it will know about it, even if they didn’t watch the thing or they didn’t read your tweet, or whatever it is. Take Chris Morris – imagine Jam or Blue Jam – people looking back at that and going ‘I cannot believe people used to laugh at this,’ the way people look back at things in the 70s, like racist stuff. ‘Look at what people used to find funny.’ I almost imagine people looking back at dark comedy and disapproving… Now, if you come up with anything, on Twitter, right away somebody can get in contact with you and go ‘actually that happened to somebody, maybe you shouldn’t be doing that’ and there’s a Twitter storm. I can imagine in a while that that will become less and less accepted.”
Another thing that Limmy has spoken about candidly in the past are his battles with depression and anxiety, frequently discussing issues relating to mental health. Having recently come off pills himself, his musings about the subject, though characteristically blunt and amusing, are frequently insightful and something that many of his fans continue to find valuable.
“Despite me being really happy when I was on the pills, I had these dips where I had flu-like symptoms that were either caused by the pills or made the pills dip, I don’t know which caused which, but because I got that once or twice and I just thought, well if it’s not working I think I’m actually ready to come off these anyway… And I’ve come off them and I’m happier on the pills, but I’m alright with this. I’m up for this. I like the whole mindful thing and thinking about how I’m thinking… You need to lose the plot a wee bit, go a wee bit mental in a good way… It’s kind of how I’m able to get back in to doing live stuff again. It just helps you to remember that it does nae matter. None of this fucking matters that much.”
With Limmy’s focus now turned towards his upcoming book tour, consisting of twelve sold out appearances across the UK, he’s faced with the challenge of selecting which of the stories translate best to being read in front of a live audience.
“I’ve been going through the book and picking out my favourites. What I want to do is make people laugh and entertain them. Some of them are a bit too thoughtful… wee pensive ones… There are things in the book that should probably come with a trigger warning… But at the same time, I see books, like Stephen King or something, you take what’s there. It’s not like the telly. You’ve decided to pick this up and read it, as opposed to telly stuff that you switch on and you’re half way in to it. You’ve not had any warning…”
Whether it’s likely to offend or not, one thing that is sure to get a look-in is the elusive Rennie, Limmy’s go-to fictitious friend renowned for his obscene acts of violence, usually carried out against his long suffering grandfather, which make for one of Limmy’s many Twitter staples.
“With Rennie, I thought if I was to do that at my live thing, like this old guy getting tortured, some people might be fucking hurt by that,” he explains. “It might ruin their night. And on the one hand, well, that’s the sort of thing I do, you know that.”
Fans needn’t worry about anything being toned down, however.
“Be the one to be all light and family friendly? Fuck that,” he exclaims. “I think I’ll drop him in. I can imagine saying something about my mate Rennie, even if it’s just ‘my mate Rennie shags his granda.’ That could be my ‘garlic bread’”
Daft Wee Stories is available now.