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INTERVIEW: Elvis hasn’t left the building


Stand-up poet, comedian, and “walking shortbread tin”, Elvis McGonagall, a regular voice on Radio 4 and on stages across Britain, and for the past few years a Stroud resident, has a new book out. 

Elvis, who came to prominence at the Cheltenham Poetry Slam in 2003, has a neat and deadly line in scabrous satire, and happily, this shines through in Complete and Utter Cult!, published by Bristol’s own Burning Eye.

It’s hardly an ideal time for a stand-up poet who, like rock bands, relies on gigs to sell his merchandise, to put out a book, but as with his previous collection, Viva Loch Lomond, it’s a biting look at recent history.

In Complete and Utter Cult!, Elvis tackles everything from the pernicious effects of the patriarchy to disappearing rainforests via Brexit milkshakes and a pandemic. All the feel-good hits, in other words. It does at least contain ‘a love poem’. 

Stroud Times’ arts correspondent Adam Horovitz caught up with Elvis at a politely safe distance in the Gracelands Caravan park he claims to live in, to see how he was getting on in a world not ideally suited to people who thrive on bouncing around on stage on a regular basis.

Adam Horovitz: How has the pandemic affected your satirical eye? Is it easy to write at the moment?
Elvis McGonagall: My satirical eye is weeping bitter tears of despair because Boris Johnson has sat on satire and squashed it flat.
AH: Have you been touring the world on Zoom, when you weren’t recording for the radio? Is technology your friend?
EM: I was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of Zoom. However, I now tap dance and do jazz hands there regularly. Watch this space.
AH: What, other than writing, has been keeping you sane of late? Have you developed a macrame habit? Do you have a sourdough starter you wrestle with daily? 
EM: My wife. And my day job as a butler to two elderly gentlemen. Of the feline variety. No macrame. No sourdough. No Zumba. I do enjoy cooking though – Mrs Elvis is very fond of my Asian coleslaw. Nice. Bob Mortimer’s tweets are good for mental health. As is a big, fat glass of whisky.
AH: The mythic Gracelands Caravan park you say you live in seems to be as moveable as the caravans it contains; how has it (and you) coped with being uprooted and parked up in a corner of Stroud?
EM: Parking up in Stroud has been a revelation. There is a level of creative lunacy that is reassuring. Plus people smile and say hello here. From behind their masks obvs.
AH: What are your immediate poetry plans (or plans of any kind!) once we are free of lockdown?
EM: “Plans”? “Free”? I admire your optimism. Not even Baldrick can make “plans” now. All we have is blind hope and flights of fancy. I’m dreaming of going to The Prince Albert for a pint then whisking Mrs Elvis away to a remote Greek island. As for “poetry plans” – just the usual sweating away at the coal-face of inspiration trusting that there may be live gigs again. Somewhere. Some day soon. 

Complete and Utter Cult! is available to order from Stroud Bookshop or Yellow Lighted Bookshop, until such time as you can get one from Elvis himself at the end of a gig. 

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