Andy Parsons is out on tour Healing The Nation, with dates including Chichester’s Minerva Theatre on Saturday, February 8.
So how does he think he’s done so far?
“Well, given I have been doing this for quite a bit now, I suppose I haven’t really made much difference. I went out in the autumn, so you would have to say that the results so far aren’t brilliant!”
But then again, as he says, as those who know him might reflect, he probably isn’t the first person you’d send out there on a healing mission.
“But the prime minister has said that he is about healing the nation. We have just got to hope that he isn’t being ironic as well. We will just have to see how it develops. We can at least have a certain amount of confidence that certain divisions are behind us and that we can move on from 2016 (ie the referendum). I think we have got a sense that the nation has now moved on from that battle and that we have probably got to make the best of it. But if you are looking at the things that we traditionally find important like tolerance and rule of law and sense of humour, then you would have to say that they are struggling at the moment. Our democratic process is struggling.
“My Twitter thing is ‘initially upbeat often disappointed’. There may be a starting optimism, but there is certainly also a fair amount of frustration and annoyance… the way the truth is being bent, for instance.”
And this is probably where comedy comes in.
“We have a proud tradition of comedy and of laughing at the powers that be. We can always feel a bit better about our politicians by pointing out the failings of the people that control the purse strings… but actually there are few examples of where comedy has changed things.
“But at least with this government we can start in hope with the early stages. We have got five years ahead – of disappointment probably, but at least in the early days when the government hasn’t mucked anything up, we can give it enough rope to hang itself. It certainly seemed that my audience were half and half, but I am trying to talk about the things that everyone agrees about. We all want hospitals and jobs and education. We just disagree about how to go about them. But if this government fails to create jobs, fails to create hospitals, fails to improve the NHS, then we have got the right to hold them to account and the anger will not dissipate.”
As for our much-vaunted British tolerance, how much is that at threat?
“Comedy is a very good place to debate that, and I do think we are less tolerant. You can point to the spats on social media. That’s a place where there is less tolerance.
“But I am involved with a campaign to combat loneliness, trying to get people to talk to each other and generally appreciate other people’s space. With nine million lonely people in the UK, it’s really important and arguably increasingly important to have initiatives like the chatting benches and those sorts of things. And I do think there is a need to get back to more people talking to each other and to having a greater sense of community.”
Andy has been seen on Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo, Q.I. etc and also BBC’s Question Time, The Daily Politics, This Week and Newsnight. In the past year or so, Andy has hosted People’s Vote rallies at the Electric Ballroom, Central Hall Westminster and in Parliament Square.