Viv Hardwick discovers why Laurence Clark has a beef with Daniel Radcliffe over the Harry Potter star ‘stealing his act’

WHITLEY Bay raised comic Laurence Clark has noticed that much has changed since he started flying the flag for disability by putting his wheelchair-powered wit on stage in 2003.

“It was more of a hobby at the start and it’s gradually grown into a career. I was probably a lot more angry then and more about making a point. Now, it’s more about making people laugh,” says Clark, who was born with cerebral palsy.

“I still have a point to make, but if I can make people laugh that’s far more powerful I think. I used to do an anti-Jim Davidson show and did one in Harlow, which is his home turf. I had about a minute of video clips, a compilation of his worst material which included racist and homophobic jokes.

“There was usually a deathly silence when I played that minute, but at Harlow they laughed at the video and not at me. When they started laughing at the video I knew I was in trouble,” says Clark.

He has performed everywhere from the House of Commons to a double-decker bus in Sheffield. TV appearances include a BBC1 documentary featuring Clark called We Won’t Drop the Baby and a a presenting spot on BBC Newsnight. He was awarded Shortlist magazine’s Funniest New Comedian and has been a finalist in the Amused Moose Edinburgh Comedy Awards.

Next year he’s heading for Durham Gala Theatre and rates the venue as “pretty good” in terms of accessibility. “I grew up in Whitley Bay and went to school in Newcastle before going to the North-West for university and married a scouser and stayed,” Clark says.

Touring is getting harder for the married father-of-two, but his material is lighter with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and “things I can’t do” providing highlights. “I wanted to write a show about what it’s like to be me and what happens when people want to do things for you. I don’t really describe it like that because it sounds rather boring and worthy... and not very funny,” he says.

“I was sent an interview by Daniel Radcliffe about playing a disabled character in a play on the West End called The Cripple of Inishmaan and he was asked about playing someone with cerebral palsy. He said he watched me in order to do it and he has effectively stolen my act. I think that’s bad because I can’t nick jobs off him,” jokes Liverpool-based Clark.

The comic has never heard from the Harry Potter star “so he owes me a pint at the very least”.

Touring is more difficult for Clark these days because he has children, aged six and 13, and he feels his older child is okay but “the younger one, because my wife works as well, involves juggling the need to collect them from school. That’s the real difficulty of touring and working away from home”.

Clark laughs about being better at auditioning for places on courses than actually landing acting work, but has decided to do something about it by writing his own sitcom.

“It’s my big project and I’ve been working on that for three years now and we’ve written a pilot episode on commission for Channel 4. We’re just waiting to hear if it’s going any further. The sitcom is called Intolerable and it’s about two disabled people who delivery equality and diversity training, but very, very poorly.

“This doesn’t stop the pair running workshops and getting people to play bizarre, silly games. It’s really for anyone who has ever sat in training like this and thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’ I think a lot of people have to go to this kind of training at some point. I used to deliver that training myself and found that the people who were the best were the ones who probably didn’t need to be there. They’d already got it, but the ones who were enthusiastic and wanted to join in. Then there would be a whole load of other people who’d been forced to go. I honestly think it made them worse. For some people, if you tell them how to behave, they will do the opposite.

“They deeply resent take part and it comes out in their behaviour. Sometimes I would leave the room thinking I’d done more harm than good,” says Clark.

He hopes to appear in Intolerable and is interested in selecting a strong supporting cast. “We’re hoping that in the New Year we can shoot the pilot, but Channel 4 has just had a change of personnel at the very top and interest seems to be slowing down. We’ve been told we’ll probably have to wait, but I want something to happen now because we’ve been working on it for so long,” he adds.

The stand-up has another reason to feel that time is against him. “I don’t have regular health checks which I find really worrying. My wife just turned 40 and got a letter from the doctor asking her to come in for a health check, because she needs one every five years. I’ve not had that because there’s an assumption because you’re disabled that you go to see the doctor all the time and there’s no point in having checks and that’s not the case for me at all.

“I’d heading back to Edinburgh next year and I’m also hoping to have a play I’ve written put on. I’m starting to write more because I’m beginning to realise that I won’t be able to tour for much longer. I may have to be Mr Internet in future.”

n January 20: Durham GalaTheatre. Box Office: 03000-266-600 or