Chris Dangerfield: “Make it funny, and you can say anything”

The most controversial comedian at the Fringe prepares for another year battling The Guardian and the Feminist Avengers

Feature by Vonny Moyes | 02 Aug 2013

As frightening as it is to receive a courgette with instructions to go fuck yourself during your first Fringe hour, Chris Dangerfield is braving Auld Reekie for another bash at this comedy stuff. This year’s show, How I Spent $150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes in 18 months is likely to niggle some of the more dogmatic prudes out there - maybe this time they’ll send him a marrow for his troubles. 

Fact: people use prostitutes. Chris Dangerfield is one of those people. He’s ferociously honest and refreshingly eloquent about it. Despite last year’s Sex Tourist being so popular punters elbowed their way in, a vocal minority took him to task. According to them, prostitution and all its ugly pals are still off limits. Yes, it’s a far cry from the giggles of prime-time comedy shows, and it still has the power to shock even those with a latent nervous disposition. The subject even made him the poster boy of The Guardian’s misogyny witch-hunt.

“The logical conclusion of that is that there are no jokes left. You can’t make jokes about something that has damaged someone; that includes everything.” Dangerfield knows his subject, and even more so; he knows his argument. “The nonsense talked about prostitutes is a disgrace. There’s so much violence against women woven into all manner of public, private, moral, ethical, religious and social institutions. To bother with me is a piss take, really.”

On paper, he doesn’t really have much to grin about: lifelong drug addiction, soul-crushing debt, firing heroin into a vein in your groin, being shot at... yet out of the grisly absurdity of it all, there’s still something that tickles. “My experience of humans is that you put them in situations and they come alive. The fact that we can laugh, despite the unquellable awfulness plaguing the world, is just what keeps us all going. If we stop laughing, or limit it, my money is on us all developing a lemming complex before the year’s out."

His sense of humour has probably been a saving grace, allowing him an easy candidness about his vices. “I had a terrible, terrible sense of not existing and needing to be validated, and was always trying to make people laugh, as a three year old. It’s always been there.” A few years ago, an unlikely white knight in the form of Doug Stanhope persuaded him his cautionary tales might have an audience. “I was in the rehab flat and I discovered him - I hadn’t really seen any comedy. He did a piece about Jews - and I’m a militant atheist - and I thought, ‘make it funny, and you can say anything.’ I do that, and that’s it.”

And he does. When I asked him about the inspiration for his show, I was entirely unprepared for his assault on my tastes, and my blatant inability to stem my laughter. “I was out of rehab for a while and I thought, ‘I don’t want a girlfriend,’ and there was an incident. With a dog. An actual dog. Penetration... I fucked a dog. The situation leading up to it is very long and unpleasant. At one point I tried to get it off me, but I sort of had its legs up in the air, barrelling around the room... And its name was Claire... it had a common, human name. It was quite gross because I don’t know what a bitch’s vagina or arse is, so I don’t know whether I was fucking the bum or the fanny. It’s awful... So that happened, and I thought, ‘You know, there’s a slim chance I’m not getting enough sex.’”

See it yourself to decide whether it’s worth your laughs, but do us a favour: leave the passive-aggressive veg at home.

UPDATE: Chris Dangerfield's shows at 6.30pm at The Hive from 5-24 August have been cancelled. Matt Price now takes the slot