PHILL JUPITUS: JUPLICITY | INTERVIEW
Never one to take the easy option or settle for simplicity, Phill Jupitus has spent over 30 years entertaining the nation whilst rarely doing the same thing twice. Most will know him from his stint as a team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks or his excellent (albeit acrimoniously ending) 6 Music radio show. In fact, it’s quite possible that standup is NOT something you know him for. This shouldn’t be too surprising though, given his bouts of solo stage comedy aren’t too frequent (the last being some four years ago). Nor are his standup efforts the straightforward ‘one man and his mic’ affairs we’re all too used to. His last show, You’re Probably Wondering Why I Asked You Here, involved him playing characters who had died and invited the audience to ask questions about their imaginary lives. Michael McIntyre he is not.
Jupitus’ new show is also something a bit leftfield. Incorporating a little music and a good pinch of comic poetry courtesy of Porky the Poet (AKA Phill’s alter ego), as well as some more traditional standup stylings in the mix. But what got him back out on tour?
“Standup is always something I’ve had in my armoury, even when doing other projects, it’s there on the bench, wearing the number 12 shirt, waiting for the call. My last show wasn’t straightforward and neither is Juplicity.” The name comes from the dual nature of the show with its poetic first half and story-driven second. “I’ve never really enjoyed the ‘banter’ with the crowd so much, I prefer interacting more with the audience. In the interval you’ll find me wandering around talking to people, like the dad at a wedding, checking everyone’s alright and having a good time.”
So the first half is poetry á la Porky, but who is he? “Porky is not a character. I really admire character comedy; Kevin Eldon and Simon Day do fantastic character-based poems that takes the piss out of poetry, and poetry does need the piss taken out of it, but Porky is just me. It was a nickname at college, and also Ian Dury wrote a song about Percy the Poet, so it made sense to use it as a stage name. It looked good on posters too.”
The latter section is more familiar territory, though the comedy is more about story-telling than Tim Vine-style one liners… “the ability to rattle off jokes that quickly like Tim is a real skill, but the thought of it gives me a headache. Story-telling on the other hand, is something that comes naturally to me. Not that I tell stories with friends – you can sense them thinking ‘he’s doing his thing now’, so I don’t tend to hold court.”
“In this show I start off telling the audience – ‘I’m going to tell you about some things that happened to me, and I’m going to exaggerate and embellish wildly’. I like each night to be different, to not have things set in stone. I’ve found I’ll sort of ‘discover’ the show in front of an audience, in the moment. If I thought about it all at home in advance too much, the show might never happen.”
Phill has a pleasingly unstarry quality in conversation, despite being a instantly recognisable TV figure. “I’ve skirted round the edges of being a real household name, during the peak years of Buzzcocks for example, and had people come up to me in the street, which was weird. I never sought attention or went to celebrity parties; I never saw myself like that, or that kind of life as something to pursue. I don’t consider my career as a career so much as a disorder, a function of my inability to hold down a normal job.” Maybe for audiences, that’s not a bad inability to have.
Phill Jupitus, Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, Sat 9 Dec. Tickets: £15. Info: 01646 695267 / http://www.torchtheatre.co.uk/
words MAX HARVEY