Meet Andy Kirkpatrick, the man scaling the heights for a good story to tell

Andy Kirkpatrick’s stand-up show mixes comedy and tales of his many adventures on mountains and film sets, writes

Richard Fitzpatrick.

ANDY Kirkpatrick never takes an ordinary path. Whether it’s risking his life as a mountain climber — once while climbing the Troll Wall in Norway, he waited to die while a “car-sized flake” he was standing moved a few centimetres before stopping — or the route he took to hook up with his wife, Vanessa.

Kirkpatrick, who grew up in Hull, England, is now living with her in Bray, Co Wicklow. About three years ago, he came to Ireland to give a lecture. “I was invited to speak in Dublin,” he says. Bear Grylls was also invited, but Kirkpatrick was far more affordable.

“I only charge €1,000 so I got the gig. I ended up getting married to the woman who invited me to speak at the university. It was a good gig. Basically, I didn’t go home again. I’ve stayed ever since. It’s Bear Grylls’ loss.”

Kirkpatrick has been touring his mix of comedy and motivational speaking on the perils and rewards of mountaineering to theatres since 2006. When he’s not on the theatre circuit or hiking across some of the most forbidding landscapes on earth, he picks up some unusual commissions. He once spent two months working as Johnny Depp’s “chocolate safety diver” during the 2005 re-make of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

“For the film, they built this huge set at Pinewood Studios. They had about a million litres of this brown liquid that was supposed to be chocolate. My job was to make sure Johnny Depp didn’t fall into the chocolate. It was quite dangerous — you have big drops off these polystyrene-like cliffs. You know that plastic grass you get in a butcher’s window? The whole set was covered in it so if you stood on a steep bit, you could slip down it and off a cliff into the chocolate. It was the strangest job ever. He didn’t die so technically I saved Johnny Depp’s life.”

The chocolate was about 3½ ft deep. After months of stagnation, it was pretty rank and started stinking of raw eggs and induced eye infections. It put Kirkpatrick off eating chocolate. The set was like a giant building site. There were other hazards to negotiate as well, including giant, heavy gobstoppers — weighing about a kilogram — hanging from trees that often fell to the ground.

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“It’s really weird working on a film set,” he says. “The lighting is the same every single day. It doesn’t change. You lose all sense of time. After two months of it, you’d be stood there going, ‘Have I just arrived here or are my about to go home?’

“The last month was the Oompa Loompa trying to do his dance scene. He had no timing. He had a voice coach who was getting him to try and mime the words to the song and he had two dance coaches trying to get him to nail the dance routine 50 times in different spots, which they were going to be put together so it looked like there were hundreds of him. It was a whole month listening to the same song over and over again —‘Oompa loompa doompeda dee’. It was insane.”

Having to deal with monotony can be a feature of his more extreme endeavours. He once skied across Greenland. “You have to ski 500 miles just across ice,” he says.

“There is nothing there. It is completely barren. It’s super cold – minus 25 °C with massive winds. You’re just skiing in a straight line for a month. Right in the middle of Greenland, we saw something coming towards us. We thought it might be a polar bear. It turned out to be four Greenlandic women who were skiing from the other side of Greenland. We asked them, ‘Why are you skiing across Greenland?’ They said, ‘Because we haven’t been to the other side.’”

Andy Kirkpatrick’s new show Psychovertical: A Higher Education is on a nationwide Irish tour, including Sunday, 24 March, Triskel, Cork.

andy-kirkpatrick.com


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