‘I’m a poet, I suppose’

Professional Idiot Les Barker
Professional Idiot Les Barker
Boris Giltburg. Picture by Sasha Gusov

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It’s hard to describe what Les Barker does. He calls himself a professional idiot, but he’s been described by others as a poet, author, comedian and artist.

One thing’s for sure: he’s a very funny man.

He’s written weird and wonderful poems including Jason and the Arguments, Cosmo the Fairly Accurate Knife Thrower and Captain Indecisive.

He’s also written 56 books and had his own series on Radio 2, plus he’s been a recent headline guest on Radio 4’s Wondermentalist Cabaret.

We caught up with him ahead of his North Boarhunt show.

n When did you first realise you were funny?

I started writing comedy poetry when I was at school, but the teachers tried to stop me, saying it was silly and would never get me anywhere. It’s got me several times around the world and into all sorts of wonderful things.

n What would you be if you weren’t a comedian?

I don’t think I am a comedian. I just do whatever it is I do, and whatever it is, it seems to work. Perhaps I’m a poet, but I’m not a very normal one. I used to be an accountant a long time ago before I knew any better. By now, I’d probably be an ex-accountant. In fact, I am.

n Which three things make you laugh?

People, words and music – the same three things that can make me cry.

n What’s your favourite one-liner?

If your brakes can’t be repaired, you can always make the horn louder. It’s probably written by Steven Wright. I’ve written it as well, but he wrote it first.

n Who’s your hero?

Hero’s a strong word. We’re all just people. If I had to choose, I’d say someone like Martin Luther King, who stayed true to non-violence despite the enormity of what he was up against.

n See Les’s monologues, poems and parodies on Monday at Forest Folk, Village Hall, North Boarhunt, from 8pm. Tickets cost £10 by phone from 01329 833625 or (023) 9226 4288, or by emailing info@forestfolk.co.uk.