Limmy: “I like just being a bit of an arsehole”

Andrew Hankinson talks to the Scottish comedian about his work, turning down Question Time and why he asks awkward questions on Twitter.

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Sometimes Limmy says something funny that changes the way I think. To me that’s the sign of a great comedian. But on other occasions I go: that’s just a tweet about someone shagging their granddad. It’s not clever, what was I thinking?

If you don’t know Limmy, his real name’s Brian Limond and he’s a Scotsman who became a web developer in 1998 and created his own website, putting interactive games and oddities on it, like a picture of multiple versions of himself having an orgy. I ask why.

“If you don’t see the things that you want,” he says, “Or if you’re really prone to boredom like me, you have a compulsion to make it yourself – ‘I’ve not seen anything that really gives me that buzz in my mind, so I know, I’m gonna put a picture of my cock on my website and see the reaction.’ 

“That’s what I used to do, or, ‘There’s a picture with five or six of me shagging, I’ll make that up. Look at it, I’m getting my arse out, you don’t see my cock mind you, but I’m getting my arse out, and I want to stick it on my site, tell people about it, and wait’.” 

In the early days he got a “buzz” from people visiting his site, then he got it from people talking about him on forums, or recognising him on the street, then from viewers praising his sketches on BBC Scotland’s Limmy’s Show or his appearances on Charlie Brooker’s Wipe, and now he’s hoping to get it from people reading his book, Daft Wee Stories, a collection of short tales. Lots of praise, lots of buzz, yet he remains cultish, and discomfiting to some – one person told me they find him “repellent”.

“Hahahahahahaha…”

That’s what comes down the phone when I tell him. He knows his puerile tweets, like the torture fantasies featuring Iain Duncan Smith, aren’t for some (me included). Likewise, his opinion tweets are a little rich for many timelines: “I don’t know much about this Corbyn cunt, but I have the feeling he’s a goodie.” And his information-seeking tweets, about subjects such as transsexuality, inevitably get a volley of derision, despite his earnestness.

“For topics that are relatively new to me, and new terms and new terminology,” he says, “And these lifestyles I don’t know about, and haven’t had experience in, Twitter can get everybody talking about this sort of thing. These lives and experiences that I don’t come across often in my normal life, I can go on Twitter, my online life, and immediately find out about things. My straightforward approach is: ask questions and get answers.”

Some people have told him to shut up and stop asking questions. He won’t, but he has been questioning himself. He talks me through a scenario of someone on Twitter asking how we know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. 

“It’s got a Nazi, sort of neo-Nazi connotation to it. It’s got a wee Holocaust denial edge to it, like, ‘How do we know?’ I mean, it could mean that, or it could be a naive person, or a person quite innocently saying, ‘Actually, see seriously, how do they know? Like is there a programme I could watch? I’ve been told that number. How do they know?’ But to somebody else, that’s got a lot of history that sort of question, so I thought, ‘Is that the sort of thing I’m doing when I ask questions about things?’”

He’s never asked the Holocaust question on Twitter – he says he’d never ask that, and he knows the answers – but the point is, he’s not trying to provoke with his questions, he just wants information, so he can decide for himself. Though he was a bit provocative in the run-up to the Scottish referendum. 

“I did get, as it was getting closer, a bit less fucking diplomatic – ‘Listen, would you just fucking vote fucking yes because, I tell you, if you don’t, this is what’s going to happen.’ There were lots of people agreeing with me and lots of people saying, ‘Fucking stick to the comedy mate,’ or, ‘Fucking shut up. What, you think we’re not going to have these same problems if we’re an independent Scotland? Do you think we’re something special? Are these more decent people than down south?’

“So as it was coming up to it I was getting a bit less diplomatic, but after it… I wasn’t diplomatic. And then a wee bit after that I was back to being diplomatic. It was the point where I just went, ‘Fuck it. Fuck it. That’s what we want, that’s what we get. That’s a democracy.’”

I ask if he wishes he’d put himself forward as an SNP candidate for the General Election. 

“Fuck that.”

He says it would be too much work – “I like just being a bit of an arsehole, a bit of a funny sort of guy on Twitter, then fucking off and doing something else.”

He’s been asked to appear on Question Time twice, but said no twice.

“I thought, it sounds alright, sounds almost a good laugh, picturing somebody watching me, going, ‘No way, Limmy’s on it,’ and I might even be able to reenact my fucking yes or no sketch. I could do that, slip it in as a wee joke, but really my main thing is, if I was getting asked on these sort of things, like, serious questions, I cannot really keep it up, I cannot keep up the seriousness.”

I tell him I’d worry about not being clever enough, or quick-witted enough.

“Exactly. Aye,” he says. “I like saying things from my gut and going, ‘I’m sure this thing makes sense that I’m saying,’ and someone can come along and say I’m talking shite, in Question Time-speak, and I would go, ‘Alright,’ and I wouldn’t know at that point. I would go, ‘Oh, alright, I agree with you then,’ and later, because I’m not quick on my fucking feet maybe, I would watch it, or 10 minutes later, or two hours later, I’d look back and go, ‘Fuck, what am I talking about fucking agreeing with them?’ I forget things and I do have gaps in my fucking knowledge and I’d get shown up as a bit of an idiot.”

Another opportunity he passed up was reappearing on Charlie Brooker’s Wipe – he was asked to do bits for 2014’s end of year Wipe, this year’s Weekly Wipe and the General Election Wipe. He agreed, but was busy with his book, so had to let them down for the end of year Wipe. Then the producer asked him to send his Weekly Wipe ideas. 

Limmy’s response: “‘Listen, I’m gonna have to bail out of that and all, I’m really, really sorry, I can’t fucking do it.’ It wasn’t pure last-minute notice, but obviously it must have been last-minute notice enough because the producer didn’t get back to me and I didn’t hear anymore.”

His own TV programme, Limmy’s Show, ended after three series, and his follow-up sit-com ideas have been “knocked back” (a shame, as a spin-off of one of his Limmy’s Show characters, Falconhoof, sounds hilarious). So the book’s a big deal. Next he wants to write a book of longer short stories and a novel. I ask if the freedom of books attracted him.

“Aye,” he says. “Freedom, and the opportunities are there.”

So no TV for a bit, just Twitter, the book and regular appearances on Counter-Strike, an online game of terrorists versus counter-terrorists. He tweets links so people can watch him play. The losers are executed in creative ways – knifed, drowned, blown up in a van. Limmy’s most recent idea: the losers to go in a tunnel, a smoke grenade is thrown in, then they come out of the smoke one by one and say, “Tonight Matthew, I’m gonna be…” 

“Whenever they say that name, then we shoot them,” he says. “So you’ve got somebody walking out saying, ‘Tonight Matthew, I’m gonna be Celine Dion…’

He makes a shooting noise. 

“It’s fucking lovely,” he says.

He gets horrible, he gets dark, but he brings it back to funny.

“Daft Wee Stories” by Limmy is published on 30 July 2015