Interview: Jim Alsbalstian’s Human Zoo

11694262_10155651946530276_1235576187_n Sean Stoakes and Liam Hale are “Jim Alsbalstian’s Human Zoo” – a tongue twister of a sketch duo taking their first hour to the Edinburgh Fringe this August. With one half of the duo kidnapped and forced to perform against his will, this show is part sketch comedy, part hostage situation. The Liverpool Revue (nee Scribble Comedy) alumni will be previewing their sinister and silly new show at 81 Renshaw this Thursday, but before they do, we caught up with them to talk falling over on purpose, highbrow art and seething resentments…

Who is “Jim Alsbalstian” and what is a “Human Zoo”?

SS: Jim Alsbalstian is a kindly widower and retiree, the Human Zoo is a project he set up to unite people of different creeds and backgrounds. We decided to use it so he can’t get a domain name.

How would you describe your style?

LH: Dark, surreal and silly

SS: That’s if people are laughing. If people aren’t it’s uncompromising and cerebral high brow art.

How did you get into comedy?

I had poor hand-eye coordination as a child and thought it was best to make it look like I was falling over on purpose. When I was at University I joined a sketch troupe and got involved with lots of character, sketch and stand up stuff from there.

SS: I didn’t, I work for the make-a-wish foundation. Liam wants to get into comedy, but he’s dying.

Who are your comedy influences?

LH: Rowan Atkinson, League of Gentlemen (Especially for this show), Hans Moleman from The Simpsons.

SS: Some of the more violent You’ve Been Framed clips.

Which one of you would win in a fight?

SS: Liam. After years of politely smiling away abuse with good nature he’s clearly a ticking time bomb of seething resentment.

LH: Definitely me. I’ve got poor upper body strength but all that walking from doing D of E Expeditions has turned my legs into killing machines. If you’ve seen that episode of Lost where Sayid snaps that guy’s neck with his legs you’ll know what I mean.

What will you be watching at the Fringe this year?

SS: Richard Gadd‘s show last year was so funny I almost had an asthma attack. From Liverpool, Top Joe is very funny – and I don’t know if Hannah Platt is doing stand up in Edinburgh but if she is… she makes me depressed for being too good.

LH: Sean didn’t even bother doing any research to see if those people are doing shows… Gein’s Family Giftshop and Foil, Arms and Hog are brilliant sketch groups. Also Richard Gadd is one of the funniest people I’ve seen at the Fringe. Top Joe IS doing a show – so do as Sean says and watch him. The Legion of Doom also never fail to make me laugh. I saw a Werewolf comedy last year called He Had Hairy Hands which I loved. The company’s called Kill The Beast and I think they’re touring with it at some point.

Catch Jim Albalstain’s Human Zoo at The Backspace @ 81 Renshaw this Thursday 9th July. Doors 7.30pm, Show 8pm, £4 (£3 Concessions).

81 Renshaw are hosting a full run of wonderful Edinburgh previews, full details of which can be found here. See them all and win a prize!

Follow @JimAlsbalstian on Twitter or find them on Facebook.


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