Bruce Dickinson revealed that the format of his spoken word show was inspired by Quentin Crisp.
The renowned British writer and actor, who died in 1999 aged 90, was the inspiration behind Sting’s classic track “Englishman in New York” after the former moved to the United States late in life. In a recent interview with BBC Radio 2, Iron Maiden frontman Dickinson said he was impressed upon witnessing Crisp’s one-man show in his university years.
“[W]hen I did this biography, What Does This Button Do? … they said, ‘Well, let’s go on a short tour doing readings from the book.'” he explained. “And I went, ‘Well, that’s a bit boring. Why would anybody just turn up? They can read the book themselves.’ So I sort of enhanced it with a few ripe stories, and it went down very well. And then I added to it with a bit of improv. So the last 45 minutes is based on something that I saw Quentin Crisp [do], of all people.”
He continued: “When I was at uni, my then-girlfriend took me to see An Evening With Quentin Crisp … He was incredibly witty, fantastically entertaining. The last half of the show, though, was him coming out and riffing off of cue-cards that the audience had written for him. And I always remembered it.”
The cue-card part of Dickinson’s show has proved popular. “Scribble down what you like – insults … whatever it is,” the singer said. “I take them backstage during the interval and very rapidly turn that into some kind of script.” He recalled a prime example: “[S]omebody wrote on a cue-card, ‘Do you remember meeting my mom in a hotel in Budapest in 1983?’ And now my brain’s really racing. And at the end of it, he put, ‘By the way, you’re not my dad. I checked.’ When you get stuff like that, it’s sort of comedy gold, really. It’s quite a straightforward question, but it’s how you glue it together.”
He confirmed that, as well as accepting digs from fans, he’ll also “take the mickey out of, largely, myself.” He added, “I have been guilty of wearing — unrepentantly, I should add — some of the most ridiculous trousers in the world. … There’s a reason why I’m not invited to Paris Fashion Week.”