Culture

Limmy: "I find tragic things funny"

Scottish comedian and professional YouTuber Limmy talks about creating laughs out of darkness

“Cult is the nice way of saying unpopular,” says Brian Limond, better known as Limmy. Yet cult is the best – perhaps only – word to describe the Glaswegian comedian. Even the word comedian does not begin to capture the unsettling absurdness, menace, the pathos and paranoia that permeate his characters and sketches, alongside the laughs.

After a few series of Limmy’s Show on BBC Scotland, appearances on Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, live dates and a book, Daft Wee Stories, Limmy has retained success on his own terms, using Twitter and YouTube as his primary platforms.

“My stuff has never been really popular,” Limmy says. “Two guys might come up to me on the street, one guy really likes my stuff and wants a photo and his pal is like, ‘Who… who is he?’ If you’re mainstream – Michael McIntyre, Frankie Boyle, Kevin Bridges – everybody knows your name. But there are people who really like my stuff, people who really don’t like it and other people who have never heard of us.”

Is polarising opinion better than being middle of the road?

“Definitely. If I was wanting to earn lots of money and be a stand up I would be happy with people thinking I was just alright because that’s enough to get people buying tickets. I like to make stuff that’s quite personal.”

It is often said that there is only a thin line between comedy and tragedy, but with Limmy there is sometimes a lot of tragedy evoked before anything humorous happens – if it ever does. His comedy feels disconcertingly, uncomfortably real.

I like weird things, people losing the plot, insanity

“I think everybody’s got some tragedy and sad stuff,” he says. “I’m interested in dark things and a certain emotion when something isn’t quite funny and isn’t quite sad. I like weird things, people losing the plot, insanity. I find tragic things funny. I was on antidepressants for a year around 2013. My attitude has completely changed from before. Something switches in my brain. You take things seriously, you worry, then something happens in your brain where you think about it so much you just start giggling.”

Recently most of the content uploaded to his YouTube channel is of Limmy playing Grand Theft Auto V (watch below). Who is the target audience for that?

“I don’t know, I wouldnae bother watching it.”

But besides playing the game, Limmy uses the world of the video game as a set for sketches. One clip that perfectly captures the wild oscillation between comedy and tragedy sees Limmy’s avatar trying to make a friend. When his attempts are inevitably spurned, a punch is thrown and the situation quickly escalates into a virtual reality massacre.

“A dark commentary on the solitude of modern life,” reads one viewer comment, “Genius satire of the American shootings narrative in recent years,” adds another. Others write that it only shows “the twisted mind of a broken man” – but which is Limmy, satirical genius or twisted mind?

“It kind of ruins it if you say I am 65 per cent serious and 35 per cent not serious,” he says. “I like playing out a wee story. You don’t know what’s going to happen, how the characters are going to react. It’s improvising in a way.

“I don’t kill people in real life but for some reason – I don’t know what it is about human nature – I like killing people in games. Maybe I’m meant to be on a battlefield somewhere in real life, I don’t know. But I really like it. Nobody has tweeted me to say ‘I’m deeply offended by your Grand Theft Auto videos’, but you do get people who think you shouldn’t be able to shoot people in games.”

I don’t think anybody [who commits violence] was fucking hunky dory to begin with

Grand Theft Auto regularly reignites the ‘video games encourage violence’ debate, but Limmy defends it with the passion only a 41-year-old who loves computer games combined with the mind of a twisted satirical genius could.

“I don’t think anybody [who commits violence] was fucking hunky dory to begin with,” he argues. “They didn’t have a fantastic family and fantastic future until this game came along and put all these ideas in their mind. I can imagine there is a tiny element that does influence people, but I can imagine seeing something out the window on a bus puts ideas into their mind.

“Some people don’t get it, almost like people who don’t have rhythm, who can’t clap in time to a beat. You just get people like that. They can’t see that there’s a difference between what you like to do in a game and what you think is acceptable in reality. In a horror film you get somebody being chased around the house by a person with a knife. People go and watch that and they’re entertained by that, eating their popcorn even though they know in real life that happens.

“I’ve noticed people are starting to not being able to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not. Sometimes I think the net is closing in. First it’ll be comedy – getting fined for saying things – then it’ll be what’s acceptable in games, then horror films. If you start banning things, where do you draw the line? Next it’ll be taking Columbo and Murder She Wrote off the telly.

“There could be an argument that showing those things at two o’clock in the afternoon subconsciously puts it in people’s minds that murder isn’t a big deal. It’s so much not a big deal that we have this light lovely music – da-da-da-dada – Angela Lansbury smiling all the way through and a laughing freeze frame ending as the credits come up. If murder was a terrible thing you wouldn’t put it on a Sunday afternoon for kids to see. At least Grand Theft Auto has an 18 rating.”

Is Limmy being serious or not, both at the same time, or neither? It is hard to tell.

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