Why Lembit Opik's now happy to be laughed at

Politics, as the saying goes, is showbusiness for ugly people. Having had a go at one career, former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik is now trying his hand at the other, hoping to carve himself an unlikely niche as a stand-up comedian.

Mr Opik, who lost his Montgomeryshire seat at the general election on 6 May, was booked to make his comic debut in a London comedy club last night after a friend of his, Robert Meakin, a journalist, persuaded him it was a good idea. Mr Opik admitted beforehand that he had no idea how the gig would go, but promised to send up his party leader, Nick Clegg.

"My career in comedy could last either two minutes or 40 years, depending on how tonight goes," he told The Independent yesterday afternoon, adding that he was very nervous. "I woke up at 5am today and couldn't get back to sleep."

Having appeared on humorous panel shows such as Have I Got News For You, Mr Opik has some background in entertainment but admits he is inexperienced. "I have done a lot of media but very few people make their stand-up debuts at the top of the bill in front of the nation's press, so it has got rather out of control. It has become a bit of a monster: it seems like a similar rise to fame as that of Nick Clegg in politics recently," he said.

The former MP, who has courted publicity over his romantic ties with one member of the female pop duo The Cheeky Girls, said Mr Clegg had called him earlier in the day to reassure him that he did not mind having fun poked at him at the Backstage Comedy Club in central London.

Mr Opik confirmed the Liberal Democrat leader would be the butt of a fair share of his jokes. "He is 10ft tall at the moment and my comedy career is 6ft under tonight," he said, adding that his favourite gags are political and that they would form the main focus of his set.

He said he does not tend to tell too many one-liners, but instead modelled himself on acts such as Ricky Gervais and Larry David. "You don't have to be a comic genius to see that my recent history writes itself as a comedy script, and the challenge really is to see if comedy is something completely different to what I have done before or whether it is like being an MP but a bit funnier," he said.

The show is named after an incident in which a member of the public approached him after his general election defeat and asked: "Didn't you used to be Lembit Opik?"

Mr Opik admitted that he hoped to return to Parliament one day and said that, while he supports his former Liberal Democrat colleagues, he found not being part of their success difficult to accept.

"This coalition is a good result for the party and a great result for the country," he said. "But I did not expect to lose the election, and seeing my party in office always evokes Gore Vidal, who said, 'Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.'"

He said he was determined to remain politically involved and was even entertaining the possibility of running for London Mayor. Admitting that the last few weeks had been "hard", he said he looked back "in angst" at election night but hoped to look back "in happiness" at his comic debut.

Mr Meakin, an occasional contributor to this newspaper, admitted his culpability in suggesting that Mr Opik try his hand at stand-up. He said: "I told him, 'People are going to laugh at you anyway so why not get paid for it?' Lembit said to me the other day, 'You may have created a monster.'"

It's the way he tells them...

* Heard the one about the anarchist who was killed in a condemned toilet? He was crushed by the cistern.

* What is the best cheese to use to conceal a horse? Mascarpone.

* What is the best cheese to use to coax a bear out of a tree? Camembert.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star