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Talking to Scottish Comedian Limmy About Trolling and Laughing at Terrible Things

"There's something about horror stories, where it's funny to hear these terrible, horrific fucking things happening. It's good, it's... got this cracking feeling to it, where it's safe, it's fiction."

by Euan L. Davidson
Jul 16 2015, 10:50pm

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

There's a sketch in Limmy's Show where our intrepid narrator tells a friend about the unfortunate circumstances in which his dad has passed on. Not only does his father have a surprise AIDS diagnosis to contend with, but they've had to amputate his arms and legs, so that his family couldn't even hold his hand before he met his demise. All the while, his mate's ringtone keeps playing, and so this horrifying account of loss is sound-tracked by intermittent blasts of "The Holiday Rap." It's a trope that, during my time with Brian "Limmy" Limond—father, cycling enthusiast, techno fan, comedian—is a constant: He can talk about genuinely horrifying stuff, fictional or otherwise, yet it'll be consistently hilarious. In normal circumstances, a man shouldn't be able to tell you about a dream of stuffing an old man into a tree and setting him ablaze through stifled laughter. Certainly not in a pub in Glasgow. But that's Brian, or maybe Limmy—it's hard to tell the difference.

Whether it's from the TV— Limmy's Show ran for three series and a Christmas special, while more recently he's had much-lauded guest spots on Charlie Brooker's Newswipe—or from his active, often controversial Twitter use, you'll have heard of Limmy by now. The former web developer has reached beyond his initial success in Scotland, where he's sold out stand-up shows and won our version of the BAFTAs.

He's also inarguably the best person from the UK on Vine, where some strange characters come to life through him, whether through DIY or finding discarded bottles of Frosty Jack's by a dual carriageway.

Now he's got a book out. Daft Wee Stories is a project borne from the bizarre thoughts that have filled blog posts, started surreal arguments on the internet and fueled plenty of his sketch show. This seemed like a reasonable enough excuse to spend two and a half hours in Limmy's company, during which time he waxed lyrical about music, drugs, Scottish independence, depression, comedy and, well, anything that came to his mind.

VICE: Hi Limmy. Tell me about your new book.
Limmy: Well, I was writing daft wee stories on my site, Limmy.com, my blog and that... I did it on Facebook, to begin with, and on Twitter, these daft wee bedtime stories. A publisher saw it and got in touch with my agent, and that was it. It's just full of daft wee stories, about 70 wee stories; 70,000 words at about 1,000 per story, so it only takes about five to ten minutes to read each. They're wee horror stories, generally funny, it's nothing like, deep and meaningful. Some of them are just about fucking seven words long.

You mean like "My mate Rennie shags his granda"?
Aye, that's the wee-est one.

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Well, they seemed to get more graphic as time went on, the Rennie ones.
Aye, I like that, and I mean it's horrible and everything. I think there was the odd person who'd say, "Now, hang on a minute, I don't see what's so funny about this incestuous and, I take it, non-consensual relationship between this guy Rennie, this nutter, and his granda." And there's torture involved, like, "My mate Rennie poured boiling water all over his Granda's face," and that.

Now, why are you laughing, and why am I laughing about that, when if you read it in the paper you'd be like "fucking hell"? I mean, if that happened right in front of you, you'd be fucking horrified, but there's something about horror stories, where it's funny to hear these terrible, terrible, for me anyway... horrific fucking things happening. It's good, it's... got this cracking feeling to it, where it's safe, it's fiction.

Looking back on the sketch show—you appeared and wrote in every sketch, did the music, directed, edited, all this stuff—was that exhausting or did it make all worthwhile, knowing it was fully your project?
Aye, it makes all worthwhile, for me... my type of personality doesn't really like working that much with other people, unless I'm told "just do this, and fuck off," that's alright, but actually working with somebody, when you've got ideas and they've got ideas and you're trying to bring them all together, I think that's dead fucking hard for me. I have to do the music and direct it and write it, I couldn't let anyone else write it, I couldn't have a fourth series and say, "Well, I'll let other people write some of it, come up with ideas for what Dee Dee might do, even if it's shite." People say Limmy's Show is kind of hit or miss, but I'd rather that than having something generally likable. I'd rather say like, "Well, I do all of it" and they say "That's fucking shite," as long as I think it's alright to begin with.

It's unusual, I'd assume, for comedy shows to be commissioned on the basis of one person doing everything.
When you've got an idea in your head of how something will look when you write it, you tell everyone what to do and it's really stimulating, it's fucking exciting. When I used to work on websites and a client would come in and ask for changes, I'd just tune out, like, "I don't fucking care any more, I want it to be exactly that way I want to do it," which is childish... but it's all worked out alright.

You could describe what you do as "alternative comedy," if that's even a term any more.
I thought alternative meant "it's no for the people who like that stuff" or "we're going to slag that stuff off" or... I mean, maybe I'm alternative in that my stuff's not mainstream, doesn't want to be mainstream, could never be mainstream. It isn't just for any cunt. That's why it's a surprise if there's some old woman, about 70 maybe, like last week, who was all, "I love that one, the 'Margaret, put it in yer mouth' sketch, the fucking stripper one!" I was going back over that sketch, and I thought,[older Limmy fans] weren't always this age, they weren't always old women not really up to stuff.

I suppose [Limmy's work] isn't for every cunt, it's no mainstream. I don't know what "alternative" really means, though.

You've generally shied away from mainstream channels of promotion for your comedy. Would you ever do the panel show circuit? I get the feeling you wouldn't be into it at all.
I was asked before to go out on 8 out of 10 Cats, and I've been asked to go on Question Time, I said to no to that. I don't see myself coming across well on that sort of thing. Even Have I Got News For You, which I used to watch all the time, I'd be like that: "Fuck man, I can't fucking pretend to be interested in all this." I'm not slagging off Paul Merton or anything, I like him, but just some things your head isn't fucking right for, sitting there laughing, no matter what is getting said, you have to go like that [disingenuous laugh]. You have to laugh and smile along in case the camera's on you and your face is tripping you up. People at home will be like, "Why's he not laughing at anyone's jokes, like his are so fucking good?"

You campaigned strongly for independence. Was it hard to be enthused about comedy after we bottled it?
I don't know, maybe it's a Scottish thing, but after [the result], I just went "ah well." It's just like the World Cup or something, you think, "Maybe Scotland can go quite far here," and then boom! We're knocked out, like, "Well, what did we fucking expect?"

I don't know if it's working with computers or something but you just get used to things failing. You get used to working really hard on something and then losing it. Or maybe it's just being Scottish, thinking maybe something'll go well, and then it doesn't. Like, when you start planning on going out somewhere, and it starts pissing with rain. I just thought, Oh, you stupid fucking cunts, and I don't mean all No voters, because some have got their emotional reasons, where they feel Scottish as part of being British. Imagine if there was a referendum to split North Scotland and South Scotland, if people didn't feel represented by the Central Belt, I'd vote No, to see if we could stick together and make it work better—that's no different to how some people feel about the UK.

I wondered what you made of Mhairi Black, the fact that she's been elected at 20 years old and the tweets the press have dug up from when she was 15.
It's so good to see a normal person in there. I was tweeting about this, the right-wing papers saying, "Look at this, look at the language she was using," and you think, what were these elected Tories up to when they were 15? Nothing Mhairi Black said or did was bad anyway, she said that maths is shite, and ones about her waking up to pizza and cans. It only shows you that—and I'm not saying that all the people of Paisley are like that—but I'd rather be represented by someone who's had a similar childhood to me, with the same sort of attitudes, and now wants to help folk, than some Tory, or some career politician, who're just in it for the money, the power, or whatever. I thought it was cracking, I always thought hearing her speak that she was like me, just a normal upbringing and seeing those tweets, it was funny to see that that's what it's like now. She was young, on Twitter.

Compare Mhairi Black to George Osborne, who changed his name from Gideon when was about 12, to sound more Prime Ministerial.
Oh, for fuck's sake.

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So yeah, it is much better to be represented by normal people.
See when I was growing up, it was Thatcher, and Michael Hesseltine, and all them. And the way they all spoke, and acted—arrogant, never explained, never apologized, just this attitude of, "We're your rulers, this is how it's going to be. It's going to be tough but we know what we're fucking doing." And you just get in your head, like brainwashing, that the people who speak like that, and look like that, they're the people in charge. But when you see people with a similar sort of background to you, the Scottish Government especially, you think that we can be in charge of things, run things, ban things, change things for the better. And we've always had our own NHS, our own education, yet you get it into your head that we're shite, we can't run a fucking thing, because of these plummy-voiced posh cunts who'll run it for you, because that's what they do. They were born to do that for you; they went to the right schools, colleges, universities, you're just a fucking nae-cunt.

So it's good to see people that had similar upbringings to yourself coming up, and doing it, because it inspires other people to do that. The referendum was brilliant for all that.

So aye, talking about Twitter, you've got trolling down to an art form. What have your favorite moments been?
I quite liked the Louise Mensch thing, that was quite good. That, and me saying I'd like to stick a samurai sword up Prince William's arse and yank it towards me like a door that won't fucking open... I mean, I like that, I like the picture of that, and not to get all wanky about it, but that's like... writing, in a way, that's just like horror writing.

See the fact [Mensch] wrote that big blog on it, and made a big deal about it, saying the BBC should sack [me], all that... not long after that, Jeremy Clarkson says that people who go on strike should be taken out and shot in front of their families. She didn't say one thing about that. Even though that happens, that happens in real fucking life, people get shot and all sorts of things for acting against governments, but I'm not going to act all high and mighty about that. Jeremy Clarkson meant it as a joke. I defend that sort of thing. But the fact she didn't say anything about that because he's a fucking Tory. And then later on, whether or not he called that producer he hit Irish, as in, "You fucking Irish..." whatever, he assaulted him, and she was pure defending him.

So it's alright for a BBC guy, and remember she wanted me booted out of the BBC for writing some tweets—when I didn't even work for the BBC—he assaults this person, and the guy's meant to just take it? She's saying, "He can defend himself," is that what it comes down to? He could have fucking hit him, but he'd be losing his job, because he's not Jeremy Clarkson, but Louise Mensch is defending Clarkson because he's right wing. Here's her wanting me to get sacked because I said something about her precious fucking Thatcher, her precious fucking Royal Family, but [Clarkson] hooks a normal fucking cunt doing his fucking job and she wants him back... it's hypocritical. So that was a good drama, that, especially seeing how she contradicts herself later.

Do you feel like trolling's changed? It seems to be a buzzword that's become an umbrella term for abuse.
Trolling used to be fun. Now it seems to be if you call somebody a name, like a "prick," that's trolling! No, that's just calling somebody a prick! Doesn't make it good, doesn't make it nice, but I like words to actually mean something. Imagine we were out there [Limmy points to a fairly unassuming man across the street]. If someone calls us a wank, or a prick, you wouldn't come home and say, "Aw, I got trolled today."

I think trolling is a sort of art form, a bit of a craft [laughs]. It's not about saying "oh, I hope they fucking die," or say something racist, something terrible like that, I mean something subtle. It's almost like arson; from one match, you can set a whole school on fire. Not that I'd set a school on fire, but OK: You could get a whole field, of just dried grass—one match and the whole thing would go up. What thing can you say, putting a wee bit of effort in, to get all that stuff up? That's what trolling is to me, it's not just calling Alan Sugar a prick.

You've been pretty open about taking anti-depressants. I wanted to ask about Citalropram and anti-depressants in general; from my own experience, on Fluoxetine and others, I find it harder to write, to be inspired generally. Did taking anti-depressants change you day-to-day, or how you went about your work?
I wrote my Christmas special on Citalropram, and the only difference was that I kept falling asleep at my laptop. It can make you sleepy, if you're sitting at home, or lying down, you just want to sleep. If I wanted to write something angry, Citalropram would take some of that anger away, but it wouldn't flat-line me. Most of the Vines—not "the Plasterer," but the Frosty Jack's ones, all the ones round then—they were while I was on Citalropram. For people who don't know about that stuff, it might sound like I was "on" something, like I was eccied. I just felt the same, but in a good mood. It never affected my creativity in any way. I was told it would, but I think that's more Fluoxetine and Prozac and that, that has a sort of flat-lining effect, but on Citalropram I was happy.

Sometimes I'd not want to make something, be creative in some way, because I'd be scared or worried about people thinking it was shite. You'd be frozen, thinking "I don't know if that's good enough," and just not do anything. But with Citalropram I wasn't bothered about negative things, before if I wanted to get in touch with someone, maybe to go for a drink, maybe someone you've not seen in a while, you'll think they're going to say no, and that'd hurt. But Citalropram would prevent me from having these negative thoughts, feeling that way.

I don't know if it's a coincidence, whether Vine felt great and new, and I enjoyed it, or it was the Citalropram that made me feel that way, but it never affected me negatively, other than making me fall asleep.

It's kind of unusual for someone to deal with depression so publicly. Was being open and relaying your experiences for people cathartic in a way? Did it help relieve internal pressures, saying to people "well if you feel this way too, you should go see the doctor about it"?
I've always been the kind of person that's honest, and talks about their feelings. I've nothing to fucking lose—I'm not the kind of person that's got a lot of pride in that sort of way, in the way I project myself. I mean, I have some pride, I'm not going to walk about in clothes that smell of shite—I care. But I've never had an image to maintain of someone who's in control; I like to talk about my feelings.

It's kind of like The Smiths, in a way, like Morrissey. It helps to hear someone talk about how they feel, when it isn't all positive. I like to ask, "How do you feel about this? Do you feel the same way?" I know it helps folk; it helps me and all, just to rabbit on.

When I first started taking the pills, I was a wee bit shy about it, because I thought, I don't want cunts to think my personality's changed. I didn't want any weird treatment. Saying you're cracking up, you're thinking of topping yourself, apparently that's alright, but see when you're talking about doing something about it, and you're taking these pills that affect your mood... when you're without them, and your mood's shite, and you're getting pissed off, people are alright with that, seemingly. I had this feeling of "I'm doing better now, I'm taking these pills," it's almost sad, like you've gave in, had a fucking lobotomy or something. I didn't want people to think I was different, like if I go on my webcam and I'm a wee bit happier, I didn't want people to think, "Well it's not him we're getting, it's those pills."

I thought, I need to say it. It's that wee feeling of I'm not sure if I should tell folk, and being afraid, that's what made me do it, because fear, being scared of something, feels like weakness in a way. If you're scared of telling people something, it's almost like you're being blackmailed by yourself, you're hiding something.

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Quick one, now: Thump said it's possible that you're the best bedroom producer in the UK.
[Laughs] I thought they were taking the piss, and then it sort of looked like they weren't.

No, no, totally serious.
The music that I make—I've got myself a wee keyboard, with the buttons and all that—see when I actually make stuff that sounds good, to me anyway, I get a bit pissed off, because it just sounds like any old fucking crap. When I was young, I wanted to get into that. Me and my mates bought a tone module and this wee sequencer, an Atari ST, Cubase, and all that. It just sounded fucking crap. Now I've just got this one keyboard and I can do it all on the computer, and that's a wee dream come true, in a way, but initially when I was doing it, I just wanted to put a twist on it, put Rocky III over the top of it or some shite like that.

I like having a laugh, writing versions of the Smiths. That and "In the End," it went down really fucking well. I looked it up, and I know it, so I worked away and did that wee funny voice, even though it's a fucking emo sort of thing, "Oh, it doesn't matter, I had a cry." I put it over the music and I liked how it sounded. I showed it to my girlfriend and she said "that could be good if you didn't ruin it with that fucking singing," but it's a laugh! And that's what I do it for! Seemingly, some folk genuinely like it, although there'll be people asking, "what the fuck is this?" but aye. It's fun.

Check out Limmy's music by clicking here

Final question, and I sort of dread asking this: What's your sound of the summer, Limmy?
Sound of the summer? Well... what day is it? Is it quarter to one yet? [It was ten to one]That'll be it tweeted then. I have it set automatically so it'll send at quarter to one on a Friday. I don't sit there, tweeting it myself. I used to, but I set it up so it's tweeted every week, just so if I go out and I get hit by a bus, I'll still be tweeting it.

But aye, there's a new one by Daft Punk, called "Get Lucky." Give it a listen if you get the chance. Sound of the summer.

Cheers, Limmy.

Follow Euan L Davidoson on Twitter.

Daft Wee Stories is out on July 30. You can buy it here. Follow Limmy on Twitter, too, in case you somehow don't already.