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Edinburgh Festival 99 Friday, 13 August, 1999, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Live after Red Dwarf
Comedian Craig Charles does stand-up at Edinburgh's Fringe
BBC News Online's Edinburgh Festival correspondent Matt Grant asks comedians Craig Charles and Norman Lovett, from BBC TV's comedy series Red Dwarf, how their TV personas compare to their Fringe stand-up routines.

Fans of the outer space TV comedy Red Dwarf have a reputation for being a bit odd. Is this deserved or a gross caricature?

Edinburgh Festival 1999
The show's star, Craig Charles who plays "smeg-head" David Lister, admits Dwarfies are obsessives. But he defends their behaviour.

"I think science fiction fans get a really bad deal really, because if you think about it all the major grossing motion pictures of the last 20 years have all been science fiction films.

Charles as David Lister in Red Dwarf
"It's not just an anorak genre, you know, it doesn't just appeal to anoraks - it appeals to a vast swathe of the population."

Red Dwarf has the chance to prove the point when it transforms itself from regular television series into a major motion movie. Although no contracts are signed, filming is expected to start next year.

Until then, both Charles and Norman Lovett - the face of deadpan hologram Hollie - can be seen performing their stand-up routines at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Charles promises he is ruder than his character. For anyone struggling to decide which of the two comics to pay to see, he also boasts he offers better value for money.

"I'm a bit of a motormouth. I think in the hour an half I'm on stage I must do about six days comedy in the mouth of Norman Lovett. He's a really slow stand-up."

Charles claims he never performs the same show twice, jumbling up regular elements and often going off on completely unscripted tangents.

A kind of therapy

He is also happy to draw on his experience in jail, during the time when he was tried and found not guilty for rape.

Charles: Bases his show on his time in jail
"My show is based on my life, so I talk about growing up in Liverpool, I talk about everything I've experienced, talk about Red Dwarf, talk about being on telly, talk about being famous, being recognised, talk about being in jail, the police, sexual relationships, things that worry me, everything, you know.

"It's kind of therapy in a way. I didn't want to become a bitter, twisted mess, so I try to find the comedic aspects to it. I mean there is nothing like going to jail for widening your circle of friends.

"One guy I met, a hired killer, you give him two grand and he'd go out and kill someone for you - give him three grand and you could choose who it was."

Ikea and mobile phones

Lovett's brand of comedy starts with more mundane material, but skillfully twists it into a riveting performance.

On the day he spoke to BBC News Online, he had just returned from shopping at Ikea - an experience which he promised would be included in his Fringe show.

"It's an incredible place - I want to worship at the temple of Ikea."

One of his famous routines deals with mobile phones and the different ways people use them. Lovett admits he now possess one himself: "You can only really do jokes about things you have yourself and have experienced yourself," he says.

Norman Lovett makes a ghostly appearance as Hollie the hologram in Red Dwarf
On stage, Lovett never swears and steers clear of politics. While his comic persona is similar to his performace as Hollie in Red Dwarf, he insists he is happy.

"It's all Jack Dee and Paul Merton who get all the credit for being deadpan because they're more famous than me, but in actual fact I'm the real deadpanner.

"It's Essex, isn't it? It's a bit of Essex and my Italian moaning mum. I think I'm happier than ever today, but on stage that's me."

Lovett recently quit drinking, more than a decade after health fears forced him to give up smoking. He left Red Dwarf around the same time, but has now returned, and admits he harbours regrets about his earlier decision.

"From a health point of view it was perhaps good that I didn't do it but from a financial point of view I wish I'd done it," he says.

"But it's good to come back because what I did in those first two series was memorable. Hollie doesn't do much, so whatever he does has to be good stuff, so I'm quite happy.

"I hope I'll be Hollie now until I drop dead really. I knew I would come back - I always knew that."

He thinks the nature of Red Dwarf fans will keep him employed. "It is a cult, it is a thing they seem to be just obsessed by it. I'm not going to complain, am I? To have a fan base and for them to come along to the shows is great."

Space cadet

Charles too remains committed to the show and seems to have mellowed over the years. A renowned hell-raiser, he now campaigns to get the vote out at local elections and appears at events organised by the Rainbow Trust charity for sick children.

"I've got a 20-month old daughter and if she was ill... - I just can't imagine what these parents must be feeling, like, to come home and find their 21-month-old daughter has got leukaemia.

"It must be the hardest thing in the world to cope with, and just to let these people know that people are thinking about them and doing their best to help is surely a good thing, you know."

He sounds less embarrassed when he admits to having been a "major Trekkie" all his life - although the conversation when he met one of childhood idols would have been enough to make most people blush.

"I was lucky enough to work with Bill Shatner recently, we did a show called Space Cadets together," he says.

"And I said to him, I used to love those first series of Star Trek, you know, the black and white ones, they were brilliant. And he goes, Star Trek was never in black and white.

"It took me about an hour of argument to realise we just had a black and white telly and they're actually all made in colour, which has annoyed me quite a lot really because I want to get all the original series now and watch them in colour because I was convinced they were in black and white."

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