Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: Stephen Lynch

Ahead of his Belfast show next week, the Tony Award-nominated musical comedian from America reveals what comes first, the tune or the joke, and how he likes to deal with fans who spoil his punchlines

By Andrew Johnston

You started out in drama and musical theatre. What inspired you to go into comedy?

I couldn't get a job in drama or musical theatre.

Who are your main influences?

The holy trinity: David St Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls (aka Spinal Tap). Also, the Smothers Brothers, Monty Python and Tom Lehrer. I love all those guys.

Musical comedy is not an over-populated genre. Why do you think this is?

Because most of it is tacky and terrible. It's people using guitars like props to help sell flimsy premises or do bad song parodies. I'm only interested in good songwriting. This has probably helped me succeed.

When writing, do you start with the tune or the joke?

The tune. I have hours and hours of unfinished songs that need lyrics. Lyrics present the challenge.

I have written starting with the joke, then sort of sculpting the song around it, but those usually end up being my s**ttiest songs.

You've written about Nazis, AIDS, drugs and religion. Are there any subjects you wouldn't touch?

A religious Nazi drug addict with AIDS. That's just too much.

No, anything I find funny, I'll write about. My goal is not to offend people, because I don't think just being offensive or shocking for its own sake is funny, but if I ruffle some feathers along the way, that's fun, too.

Do you ever have problems with audiences who know the lyrics to your songs spoiling the punchlines?

Sometimes fans will get a little too interested in 'helping' me out by shouting out punchlines just as I'm singing them.

I politely ask them to refrain, and if they don't, I take great pleasure in having them bodily removed from the venue. It's very cathartic!

How much fun was it playing Robbie Hart in The Wedding Singer on Broadway?

It was exactly as much fun as you would expect it to be.

Did you hear from Adam Sandler on what he thought about you playing the character he made famous in the movie?

He came to our opening night in Seattle, before we moved the show to Broadway. He told me he liked it, but I don't believe him.

Are you looking forward to performing in Belfast for the first time, and what can the fans here expect?

Yeah, Belfast should be fun. I booked a couple of extra days there, so that we might run about and explore the city a bit. And I get a lot of very enthusiastic messages and tweets from Northern Ireland, so I'm expecting a good turnout at the show. Maybe I'll even throw in my Nazi AIDS drug song!


Stephen Lynch plays the Mandela Hall, Belfast, on Friday, November 8. For details, visit

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