EXCLUSIVE Craig Charles Interview

The man also known as Dave Lister talks about Red Dwarf X and his new Funk And Soul CD…

You must be delighted with how Red Dwarf X went down with the fans?

Yeah, we were all very concerned. We didn’t want to do anything that was going to spoil the legacy of Red Dwarf. We tried the experiment of doing it filmically with “Back To Earth”, which I kind of feel missed the mark, although I was really happy with it – if you watch the director’s cut, where it’s just one film, it’s not done as three episodes, I think it really stands up. But Red Dwarf is a sitcom, and we wanted to make a situation comedy, like we did back in the day. It was very important that if we were going to go back to Red Dwarf being a sitcom it had to be as good as the classic series, like three, four and five, where it was really at its peak. So we wanted to be back on the ship, not in Starbug, back on board the Dwarf. We wanted it to be character-based. We wanted it to be personality-led, rather than story-led, so it was all about the interactions of the characters and how they got on with each other. Getting back to a live audience. Getting back to being a situation comedy again and I think we’ve achieved that. We’re all really pleased with it and really happy with the way it’s been received.

You guys have been doing it together a long time. Do you make each other corpse a lot?

Completely. Wait till you see the DVD! I think even more so now. I think we’ve become less regimented. Back in the day we’d try our best not to. Now we just take the piss out of each other. We do make each other laugh. The four of us were together doing a load of press and publicity for the launch, and I don’t think I’ve laughed so much. Some of these running gags between the four of us have been going for 25 years, and yet we still laugh at them. We’ve all got our own little quirks and foibles and the people we play are very much caricatures of ourselves. There’s so much love between us now that we can really, really take the piss out of each other and we all know that it’s done out of love. There’s no egos involved. Nobody’s trying to hurt anybody. We’re just going for the laugh. Comedy can be a brutal game.

Does making Red Dwarf feel like you’re going out and having fun with your mates?

It is like having fun with your mates, although it is a lot harder than cutting records on a turntable and making people dance. Most of that work’s been done for you. All you’ve got to do is get the selection right. Comedy, you’ve got to get the feeds right, you’ve got to get the punchlines right, you’ve got to work on your inflections. It’s a very physical thing as well. For an ensemble piece like Red Dwarf, if you’re doing the feed line, you can’t over egg the feed line, because you’ll kill the gag. There’s an awful lot of things you need to think about. Plus you’ve got to get the scripts right. I’m just so proud that Doug Naylor got the scripts right, because the scripts were rocking. I’m so pleased with it

Do you guys have much input to the script?

We do. Especially on this series. This series there’s been more ad libs and stuff coming in than  before. But Doug does 98% of the work. The scripts are finely honed by the time you get them. Then it’s just down to us to try to bring them alive. But we’ll be taking the piss out of each other in the green room, and the script we receive the next week will have a load of the stuff that we were saying in it. Doug’s such a thief. He’s like a social commentator. He’s an anthropologist. He studies us.

Since the last time you did Red Dwarf in front of a live audience you’ve done other acting jobs like Coronation Street. Do you think you’ve evolved much as an actor?

I really hope I’ve evolved as an actor. If I didn’t, I might as well just pack in now, really. There’s been some really nice reviews written about my acting being good in this series, which has been really nice. You’ve got to remember that back in the day the only acting we did was when we did Red Dwarf. In between, I’d be doing stand-up, or presenting this or presenting that or doing something else. So Red Dwarf was the only acting we ever did. Before Red Dwarf, I never acted at all. I was a stand-up poet. Chris was an impressionist. Robert was in a comedy troupe called the Joeys.  And Danny was a dancer. So I think we were all a bit rough around the edges. Which, in many ways, was what made it work. But I act every day now. Because you’re acting every day you get better at it. I hope you do anyway. It’s not for me to say though, is it? I can’t write my own reviews!

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