Winner of ‘Best Host’ at the London Cabaret Awards, Benjamin Louche is a cabaret & burlesque host, compère, ringmaster, emcee, bon viveur, bawler, brawler and bloviator, and has been charming, disarming and alarming the UK cabaret scene since 2009. Your disreputable and aberrant host to The Double R Club and beyond, Louche is available for bordellos, weddings, bar mitzvahs and children’s parties, political assassinations, hoedowns, lowdowns, hostage situations, Mexican standoffs, housefires, earthquakes, jumble sales, crime sprees and all of your common-all-garden end of the world scenarios. Benjamin is also a trustee of Cabaret vs Cancer, along with his wife Rose Thorne and Lily Satchdragon aka Lilly S Johnson. “Watching Louche talk the talk is one of the most absorbing experiences you could have by a stage without breaking health and safety regulations.” – This Is Cabaret “With manic, staring, kohl-ringed eyes as shockingly bloated as the freshest corpse, and cheekbones slashing deeper than the most loving, serial killer’s knife, Louche is living, Salvador Dali perversion.” – Gay UK
1 HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A HOST?
Ten years this September!
2 HOW DID YOU BECOME A HOST?
My now wife, Rose Thorne, had been burlesquing for a few years at that point and so I’d been brought into the world of cabaret and burlesque as ‘the boyfriend’. Slowly the idea for The Double R Club began to form and then came the question of who would host it. I thought I’d give it a go…
3 DID YOU HAVE ANY PREVIOUS HOSTING EXPERIENCE?
None whatsoever. I’d trained as an actor and in physical theatre so had been on stage on and off for many years but hosting was a whole different (and terrifying) kettle of fish.
4 MISTAKES PROMOTERS MAKE WITH HOSTS?
Not giving the host the information they need. Not having any details of the acts is bad enough (though too much is perhaps even worse -if they want me to simply read out blurb from a performer’s website then my job could be done effectively with a program and/or notice board) but so many times I’ve had emails from promoters outlining the running order etc. and yet not giving the artist’s stage name, instead giving either their Facebook name (which can often be different) or their real name. Extremely annoying!
5 FAVOURITE SHOWS THEY HAVE DONE, WORST EXPERIENCES?
For me, nothing beats The Double R when it’s rattling along doing its thing, after all it’s our show, and I flatter myself that we’ve created something that exists nowhere else. But the Cabaret vs Cancer Ashes To Ashes show of 2018 at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club was a very special night. Blizzards had descended and London was at near gridlock, many people were emailing to ask us if we were going to cancel. In the end, both acts and audience struggled through the snow (we Skyped in Laurence Owen stranded in Norwich!) and the atmosphere in the room was electric. Truly one of the best stage experiences of my life.
As far as worst experiences, well there have been bad venues, bad promoters and bad audiences, but I’ve kind of reached a point when, if a bad show is not down to me, and there’s nothing I can do to save it, then I can shrug and say “ok, not my problem” -I’ve also learned when to give a flat “nope” when I’m asked to do something that either wasn’t agreed to, or that I feel is wrong for me as a host.
The “nope” is a powerful and important thing to learn, both for hosts and performers.
The bad shows that stay with me, that sting, are the times when I’ve fucked up, when I’m the one that’s been rubbish and all I can do is try and learn from them. It’s an ongoing process.
6 WHAT IS THE MOST CRAZY THING YOU HAVE HAD TO DO ON STAGE AS A HOST.
Well at The Double R ‘crazy’ comes thick and fast so choosing one instance is tough… covering while our stage manager clears up live meal worms when, as part of her act, a performer pulled them from her knickers?
7 WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT HOSTING.
When a show is running like a finely-honed machine, when everyone understands their part in the machine and when everyone’s there for the right reason.
8 WHAT DO YOU HATE MOST ABOUT HOSTING
Lack of information, or lack of correct information from the promoter.
Acts / promoters / audiences that don’t understand the role of the host.
9 HOW DO YOU HANDLE DIFFICULT MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE?
Firmly. Humiliation can work, but spending too long belittling them only puts them in the spotlight. Most of the time ignoring them does the trick.
HOW TO HANDLE A HECKLER?
Depends on the heckler. If they’re funny and really just somewhat overenthusiastically joining in then you can play with them for a bit; this can be great. However, if they’re just trying to be a dick then shut them down as quickly and as firmly as possible. No mercy. These kinds of hecklers are genuinely trying to ruin everyone’s evening by using their ego as a weapon.
10 FAVOURITE UNEXPECTED INTERACTION WITH AN AUDIENCE MEMBER
Many years ago it seemed to be popular among a certain kind of audience member to shout out at male hosts “get yer cock out!” -to this I replied that such a question was a rookie mistake, that no professional cabaret performer would bring their own penis to a show. I told the heckler that I kept mine at home, in a shoe box, a clown show box; paused for a laugh, then went on: “I say it’s in the shoe box sir, and it usually is, but sometimes your mother likes to borrow it.”
11 HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE DREADED RAFFLE…RAFFLE WRANGLING ADVICE
Speed is the key! And many hands make light work. Never wait for one prize to be collected before drawing the next ticket.
12 HAVE YOU EVER HAD A CROWD YOU COULDN’T GEE UP AND WHAT DID YOU DO?
Oh Christ plenty of times. It doesn’t happen often but some audiences are made from just the wrong ratio of drunken, entitled and/or obstreperous people that react badly when mixed together and are just not interested, most often in a host, but sometimes even in the acts. You can, and should, only ‘chase’ an audience for so long. After that you’re simply wasting everyone’s time. We are performers, yes, but not performing monkeys. You can of course try to focus on a group that are listening, are responding (maybe a table, sometimes a single punter!) and simply direct the show at them; but sometimes, at a certain point, a “fuck ‘em” attitude is the only way and you all just grit your teeth and plough through.
13 IF YOU AREN’T GIVEN MATERIAL BEYOND THEME, HOW DO YOU WRITE YOUR OWN?
Over time you develop a cache of go-to bits and pieces to fit a selection of themes and acts. All you really need is one line that you can then improvise around.
14 HOW DO YOU EDIT IT ON THE FLY BY THE AUDIENCE RECEPTION?
You have to relax into it. You do this kind of thing in conversation all the time, the only difference is, now you’re doing it to an audience. You know your intro and so lose nothing by leaving it to go play with a new idea. It’ll be there when you come back.
15 HOW DO YOU LIKE TO INTERACT WITH THE STAGE HANDS, DO YOU BRING THEM INTO THE SHOW OR KEEP THEM IN THE BACKGROUND OR DOES IT DEPEND?
Some stage managers enjoy being referred to and brought into the show, whereas some see their job as to be as invisible as possible; like glamorous ninjas. A good stage manager is worth the audience’s weight in gold, so whichever they prefer is fine with me. I do like encouraging a round of applause for the stage manager as their job is utterly essential.