In Profile: Norman Lovett

His role in Red Dwarf made him famous, but veteran stand-up Norman Lovett is more than just a talking head

Feature by Josephine Sethaby | 22 Jul 2011
  • Norman Lovett

Norman Lovett is chiefly known for one TV role, so it’s best to get that out of the way first. Is he comfortable with people thinking of him as Holly from Red Dwarf? "Absolutely." Does it make him sad that people know Holly rather than his own sitcom, I, Lovett? "That show never really got a chance. It never got a proper timeslot because Alan Yentob hated it. One man, one bloody man."

And the Red Dwarf fans, are they hard to deal with? "No, they’re lovely. Although I did recently get involved with a bunch of Red Dwarf extremists who have this website. They were saying I’m bitter. I wish I'd got paid a bit more, but there’s no way I'm bitter. I was so angry, I called up the guy who runs the website to complain. He's the singer in a band apparently. Well, he wasn't in, so I shouted at the drummer for a while instead."

Lovett's comedy career spans five decades, having started in the punk era as a support act for the likes of Ian Dury and John Cooper Clarke. He denies being a punk comedian, although he did get gobbed at when he opened for The Clash. "I started before the alternative comedy thing, before places like The Comedy Store. There were only about 25 of us back then; John Hegley, Arnold Brown and all that."

He has amassed a broad television CV over that time, appearing in things such as the early Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg vehicle, Asylum, and working with luminaries such as Gordon the Gopher ("Gordon" he says wistfully, "what a legend"). Yet his work on telly has always been a sideline to his 'real job' on stage. "Stand-up comedy is what I started doing. That’s what I am. I can get on stage and be funny without thinking about what I say. I adlib a lot and that’s what a good comedian should be. You should be writing material while you’re up there."

Lovett’s standup is notoriously deadpan and laidback, filled with surreal ramblings about bubblewrap and things he bought in his local poundshop. Offstage, he’s quite enthusiastic. He talks excitedly about modern pop music (his current obsession is Jessie J), his new TV project (a sitcom pilot being co-written with Sean Hughes) and his determination to keep performing. "Frankie Boyle said recently that you‘re not funny after 40. That’s a load of bollocks. I think I’m funnier now than I’ve ever been. I’ll be doing this until I drop dead.

"Although to be fair, that could be next week."

Norman Lovett: LOL@NoLo, The Canon's Gait, 6-29 August, 8.25pm