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7 December 2022

David Shrigley Q&A: “I’m getting weak in my old age. I should start lifting weights”

The British artist on Stewart Lee, plasticine portraits and why you should be happy right now.

By New Statesman

David Shrigley was born in Macclesfield in 1968 and is best known for his satirical art that combines humorous text with childlike drawings. In 2013 he was nominated for the Turner Prize.

What’s your earliest memory?

Seeing a bin lorry outside our house. I had my own toy bin lorry too.

Who are your heroes?

The first football match I went to was England vs Czechoslovakia at Wembley in 1978. Viv Anderson, who played right-back for Nottingham Forest, made his debut for England. He was one of my favourite players and also the first black England player. I didn’t understand that at the time, but in later years I came to understand it as a significant event. They won, as well. 

What book last changed your thinking?

Alex Haley’s Roots is massively illuminating.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Carole Cadwalladr. What she has done, as a political act, is extraordinary. I’ve got a lot of admiration for her.

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What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Anything to do with Nottingham Forest or Partick Thistle football clubs. I can answer some really obscure questions on them.

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Sweden in the 1960s.

What TV show could you not live without?

I always feel like the TV shows I really enjoy are cancelled, such as Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. Given the crap they have on the BBC, I find it extraordinary that they don’t want to make another season of that.

Who would paint your portrait?

Wilfrid Wood. He does these 3D plasticine portraits and he did one of me, which wasn’t very good. He posted it on Instagram, I think just to get my attention. I’ve followed him ever since and I much prefer his watercolours and drawings.

What’s your theme tune?

The demo mode of a 1980s Casio electronic keyboard. You know when it plays some weird, jolly little tune?

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve never followed any advice. Do you want some? Keep your receipts.

What’s currently bugging you?

Climate change is not so much bugging me as worrying me. It’s one of those things where one doesn’t know what to do. You’re caught between accepting your fate and glueing yourself to the Mall.

What single thing would make your life better?

Maybe going to the gym. I just moved into a new flat and there’s a gym outside. I’ve always avoided the gym because I thought it was for people who were vain. But I’m starting to get weak in my old age. I should start lifting weights. Not for vanity, just so I can still walk and carry the shopping.

When were you happiest?

If you’re really doing happiness right, then it should be right now. Right now isn’t too bad. I’m drinking a cup of tea, I’m standing on my balcony in Brighton Marina. It’s east-facing, which isn’t so good, because it’s a bit chilly now. But I am looking out over the boats. I’m happy.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I’d have liked to have been an actor. But I’ve met a few actors and I feel like it makes you a bit mad. So I think I’d like to be a psychiatrist instead, which is the other side of the coin. I would enjoy helping people, probably actors.

Are we all doomed?

I’m afraid we are, unless I go and glue myself to the Mall, right now.

“Get Your Shit Together” by David Shrigley is published by Chronicle

[See also: Kate Lee’s Q&A: “People are surprised by how ruthlessly commercial I am”]

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This article appears in the 07 Dec 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Special