Comics take long and winding road

The Lumberjacks are Stewart Francis, Craig Campbell and Glenn Wool
The Lumberjacks are Stewart Francis, Craig Campbell and Glenn Wool
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When you hear that The Lumberjacks will be touring together all the way through to the spring of 2014 (with short breaks for good behaviour), you can picture headlines about punch-ups and trashed hotel rooms already.

Except that kind of rock’n’roll behaviour has more chance of happening as Canada has of invading its larger neighbour. Craig Campbell, Glenn Wool and Stewart Francis, the three comics in question, all hail from the land of the Maple Leaf.

“There’s just no stress in it,” says Campbell. “I know them intimately, they know me intimately, I’ll go pick up sandwiches and I know what they’ll want on them. You don’t sit in a green room and clip each other’s wings before they go on.

“You know their emotional state the second you look at them. There’s no social stress regarding it and it’s quite warming to know that this far in advance you’ll have a nice time no matter what.”

Francis concurs: “We’ve known each other for the better part of 20 years and we’re at the age where we’ve been through all that. Hanging out with a couple of chums and telling some gags: nothing bad can come out of it. That’s my story anyway.”

The Lumberjacks came together when Campbell and Francis thought they would have a stab at the Edinburgh Fringe of 1997.

Campbell said: “Me and Stewart thought, well, we can’t do an hour each here, so why don’t we combine our forces?

“We weren’t exactly slouches, we could both make people laugh, but with our combined forces we could get 15 people in. Glenn piled up out of the blue and we were pretty laissez-faire about it so we were happy to let him do a set.”

The beauty of their shows back then as well as now is that you have three very different comics on stage each night.

Francis is king of the one-liners, Campbell tells long shaggy stories with masses of observation, and while Wool also goes for the longer narratives it’s usually with a more surreal, leftfield bent.

“From the audience’s perspective it’s nice to have that change of pace,” admits Francis. “So this particular show really has a something-for-everyone approach, and has worked out nicely.”

They returned to Edinburgh in 1998 andthat was that until lastsummer.

This time they played the prestigious Assembly Rooms.

None of the trio quite remembers who initially suggested that they get back together.

They have more or less committed to Edinburgh runs and national tours that will take them into 2014.

Wool was intrigued by the response from fellow comedians to the three of them getting back together.

“It’s funny to see how other comics reacted to it: ‘you’re doing what? You’re bringing your old show back: is there money in it?’

“And when they knew there was some money in it, you could see them clicking over: ‘do you need a fourth guy?’”

Campbell also wants to acknowledge the fact that there is one member of the trio who is perhaps getting involved in something that his higher profile doesn’t necessarily need.

“In my world, I’m doing great,” he notes. “But from my perception of things, Stewart’s doing really good. So, as I see it, he’s giving Glenn and I a leg-up by going into bigger venues than we would be playing in individually.

“It’s a great move of grace on his part. Stewart probably wouldn’t look on it that way, but that’s an insight into him.

He likes to share and enjoy time with his buddies and we have a lot of memories and history together.”

Wool notes one major difference from their early Edinburgh shows to their experience of August 2012.

“Most nights we were being wined and dined by various touring promoters and television people who liked our chemistry.

“I’ve been in Edinburgh when you couldn’t get the sound guy to come to the show and now we’re looking at sold-out crowds. It felt almost too easy which is usually a bad sign, but here it was a sign that we had actually realised how things actually work.”

As for the structure of their first national tour, Wool admits that it is pretty well fixed in their minds, while admitting that once out on the road, the best laid plans can sometime go out the window (there’s talk of them possibly doing sketch material once they’ve bedded in to the tour).

“Campbell likes MCing so probably he’ll do 15, then me for 30, then him again for 15 and Stewart for 30.

“But I’m sure we could witter on for longer if we want to or if the crowd has earned it!

“I don’t think time will be an issue, we all have a pretty big canon of material to go back to, but I think it will spur us all on to write new stuff.

“This tour will essentially be the greatest hits package with some new stuff mixed in.”

The Lumberjacks are at the Winding Wheel, Chesterfield tomorrow, Friday April 19, and at Sheffield City Hall on Sunday.