Eccentric he may be, but Paul Foot has built up a legion of loyal followers, or connoisseurs as he prefers to call them. SIBA MATTI finds out more about the unique brand of bizarre humour heading to the Comedy Bunker ...

A MATHEMATICS student from Oxford University is possibly the least likely person you would predict to become a comedy genius, but against all the odds, Paul Foot's dramatic U-turn has paid off.

Despite being on course for a high-flying career in finance, Paul turned his back on his studies half way through his course, after discovering an evening on campus for amateur stand-up comedians.

"I thought I would go along, if only just to say that, when I am on my death bed, I gave stand-up comedy a try," he remembers.

"I didn't really prepare any jokes or stories in advance, and just ad-libbed by asking questions like 'What is your favourite fruit?' and improvising from the answers.

"Amazingly, it went really well and almost immediately I decided this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My friends and family thought it was madness, but I was bored of my subject and when people started coming up to me after my set and urging me to carry on with comedy, I couldn't really refuse!"

But Paul, who hails from Buckinghamshire, draws inspiration from stranger sources than most of his stand-up counterparts.

"Ella Fitzgerald and Frankie Howerd are probably my biggest heroes," he says. "They were both fantastic singers and I could only hope to be as successful in comedy.

"My ideas come from my own mind and mostly things I see, whether that's a paper bag on the street or a van driving along. I like to think I have created a new type of comedy that's different from anyone else in the past 20 years. A lot of my routine is random and ad-libbed on the spot, and I also like to incorporate mime."

Paul, whose first professional job was doing a warm-up routine for Radio 4, also confesses on his website that he is passionate about fruit, especially passion fruit - although he totally denies that this interest has turned into an obsession.

"I would hire a lawyer to take it to the highest court if anyone claimed I was obsessed with fruit," he grins. "I would say I am 967 times more passionate about comedy than fruit, although I have renamed all the months of the year, and April is now Apricot.

"December is Decadence, because everyone likes to indulge during that month, and July is now Julie, just because it fits quite well, and a woman Iknow, Julie Apple, is very nice indeed! My favourite fruit is probably a sharon fruit, because it reminds me of the former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon."

Despite having an undeniably odd sense of humour, somehow Paul's routines have resonated with audiences across the country, leading to numerous television appearances on shows including Channel 4's FAQ U and BBC Three's Annually Retentive, alongside fellow comedian Rob Brydon.

"Brydon was a beast!" Paul jokes. "He used to corner me and grab hold of me in the green room and start shouting obscenities about me. Whenever I went on stage with him, he would slap me around with a slipper!

"I think he was secretly envious of my career success and I'm thinking of getting a court order against him, as I believe he has developed a personal vendetta against me."

But working with Rob was the perfect springboard for state-side success, where Paul was a finalist in the sixth season of NBC's Last Comic Standing. The programme sees thousands of hopefuls from more than 20 countries showcase their comedic credentials, before the 12 funniest acts are chosen to perform at the final. The last comic standing wins £250,000 as well as an exclusive deal with NBC - but Paul isn't bitter about losing out.

"I was up against some tremendous comedians and I was particularly impressed with Jim Tavare, who also comes from the UK. Americans have a different style of comedy from mine - in fact, my style is different from anyone else, and I fitted in just as badly there as I do here.

"Of course, I feel really bad about the fact that I went to the US and made lots of friends and had a great time and made loads of money - I am actually devastated," Paul smirks.

And even if, deep down, he did feel a pang of disappointment, Paul can rely on his loyal Guild of Connoisseurs to comfort him.

"The Guild is a secret society of people who enjoy my humour, and I am the president. When I see a connoisseur, good etiquette decrees that we bow to each other. I have been very lucky that all of my connoisseurs are indeed fully appreciative of my humour, and none of them have turned out to be weirdos, although people sometimes devote their lives to me - obviously a very good thing."

So what can audiences (who are probably right to be apprehensive!) expect to see at the Comedy Bunker?

"I will probably start a discussion about how ludicrous life is and attempt to fathom the world's secrets, including the meaning behind loneliness.

"We all feel the bitter pain of being alone and I will focus on people's personal experiences. Other than that, expect the unexpected," Paul adds with a coy smile. [

* Paul Foot is at the Comedy Bunker on Wednesday, March 25. The show starts at 8.45pm (doors open 8.15pm). For more information and to book tickets, go to or call in at The Fairway, Ruislip Golf Centre, Ickenham Road, West Ruislip, HA4 7DQ.