Comedian Rob Carter: ‘I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about’

Christopher Bliss' Literary Salon

Christopher Bliss' Literary Salon - Credit: Archant

Bridget Galton talks to Rob Carter, the comic behind a spoof literary salon which lampoons the pretentious intellectualism of author Q&As

Literary talks can be tedious events marked by pretentious intellectualism.

Comedian Rob Carter gloriously punctures the format with his spoof literary salon hosted by failed author ‘Christopher Bliss’.

Carter’s egotistical alter ego appears at the Camden Comedy club on the first Friday of every month, interviewing genuine authors and offering them unwanted writing tips.

“He’s a very nice, polite, well mannered man who is not very talented but isn’t aware of it,” says Carter, who debuted the character at the Edinburgh Fringe two years ago.

“He’s a very bad writer who thinks he is very good and he’s hosting this literary salon because he thinks it’s his duty to tell the world how to become a better

writer – as Kevin Spacey once said; ‘if you are lucky enough to be successful in this job, it’s your duty to send the elevator back down’. This is Christopher doing that

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and bringing everyone up to his level.”

It goes without saying that Bliss’ literary victims including award-winning playwright Barney Norris, Irish novelist Ruth Gilligan and gay rights activist Paul Burston are in on the joke and must be good sports.

“Christopher likes to give them unwanted feedback on their novels and tips for their upcoming books,” adds Carter.

“It’s fun to watch them dodge questions where he has clearly misunderstood the plot or characters. But it’s fun for the writers too, because they do a lot of literary festivals and interviews which are all fairly similar, with the same questions everyone wants the answers to.

“It can get a bit tedious but this is completely different because they have to deal with being interviewed by an idiot. The better the writer, the funnier it is to try and throw them and make them laugh with his silly questions.”

Far from being humiliating, all the authors so far have reported the experience as “a breath of fresh air,” he says.

“They sort of know what to expect and the audience is on their side. They get to learn about the author and the writers get to sell their books. It’s not like Ali G where they have the piss taken out of them. It’s more Christopher unknowingly taking the piss out of himself.”

The evening is split into two, with Christopher himself being initially interviewed by comedian Luke Courtier, who encourages the audience to adopt French literary names and get into the spirit of the evening.

“He reads too much into Christopher’s bad novels and parodies the interview process. Playing with the form of a literary salon and getting the audience into a state of over analytical nonsense.”

Having studied Maths at Cambridge, Cartter says it helps him play someone who “loves the sound of his own voice but doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about, because I don’t really know what I am talking about.”

After realising a career in banking “wasn’t for me”, Carter trained at LAMDA drama school and has had cameos in Peep Show and Fresh Meat as well as making the final of the BBC New Comedy Award.

“At Cambridge it was brilliant there was so much drama and comedy going on that I fell in love with it and spent more time doing acting than maths. I have since spent my life messing about and trying not to get a real job for as long as possible.”

At the Camden Comedy Club above the Camden Head pub, 100 Camden High Street, NW1.