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Showbiz Interview

Milton Jones: 'I'd rather not be seen as the crazy neighbour'

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Not a lot of people have the ability to constantly make people laugh, and even fewer can do it by uttering a single line. Milton Jones though has that gift - and this week he's showing off his talents at a special gig in his hometown for Dave's One Night Stand.

Speaking to Digital Spy, the spiky-haired oddball spoke about the past, present and future of his career, including his struggle to come up with his 2013 tour and rumours that the Mock The Week crew were forbidden from poking fun at Jimmy Savile...

Milton Jones

© PA Images / David Jensen/EMPICS Entertainment



You're one of the comedians taking part in the new series of Dave's One Night Stand - what was it about the format that attracted you?
"The [show] was quite serious because I don't know of hearing comics going back to their home town and doing a gig there. I used to be an usher in Richmond theatre 20 years ago, so it was literally a case of me standing on stage and saying 'I'm back!' I told you this would happen.

"So that was quite nice and it was literally a mile from where I live and I used to work there selling ice creams at the front. So that was quite nice and it was a nice, easy gig to do."

Is Richmond a particularly funny or exciting place?
"In a way it's particularly unfunny in that the house prices are ridiculous. I think probably the average age is about 55. I'll go down the street and think, 'They look familiar' and realise I was at primary school with them. [I've] moved a whole two miles in my whole life, which seems a bit strange. It's probably too late to move now."

You've been around on the comedy scene for quite a long time, but have only now really become a mainstream name - why do you think that is?
"I've been in the wrong place at the wrong time, or is it wrong place at the right time, for a long time. It wasn't until the executive producer of Mock The Week executive produced my DVD and said, 'Ooh you should try Mock The Week' that things really took off.

"I mean I've done odd bits of telly for years, but just on the periphery really. It was Mock The Week and Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow and Live at the Apollo all around the same time that sort of pushed [me] over the edge. There are lots of other comics who are in the same place, just being on the edge and I think if you just keep working hard and trying to be funny, hopefully you'll be in the right place at the right time. "

Mock the Week panel as of June 2012 featuring Chris Addison, Dara O'Briain, Hugh Dennis and Andy Parsons

© BBC / Angst


Chris Addison, Dara O'Briain, Hugh Dennis and Andy Parsons on Mock The Week

Talking of Mock The Week, the show recently celebrated its 100th episode - do you think it still has a long future ahead of it?
"Who knows? No-one even knows if they've got a series commissioned for next year or not. Probably there will, but you just take it one show at a time, at the risk of sounding like a footballer."

There were suggestions that comedians on the show had been censored a little given recent troubles at the BBC - do you still feel relatively free to say what you want on Mock The Week?
"Absolutely. You can say anything you like in the recording pretty well, but we were told beforehand... they're not going to broadcast anything on Jimmy Savile. So we weren't told you can't, it just won't get in the edit so there's not much point. My style isn't really that. I'm probably never going to be on the 'Too Hot For TV' DVD. I'm not Frankie Boyle, so it didn't really apply to me.

"It's always a surprise what they keep in and leave out the edit. I think [Savile] was just too sensitive a topic. A bit like Frankie Boyle himself, Mock The Week has got more viewers by being controversial, so they're not afraid of it. As long as it isn't libellous and they don't get sued, I don't think they care particularly."

You're known for your one-liners, which seem to be a deceptively simple form of comedy - do you think people underestimate how much work goes into your act?
"Well, it depends who they are. Often a one-liner is the minimum of words. So that does take a lot of work, and even saying the syllable differently can change the outcome of whether you get a laugh or not.

"It is a lot of work, regardless of what people think and obviously when you do a big show, there is a lot of them and... after about 20, 25 minutes you can feel the audience with blood coming out their ears, because it's too much to take in. It suits me well on telly because I can get in and out, chuck a grenade and get out again quite quickly, but for the longer shows I've got to think of other ways of varying it."

Milton Jones

© Rex Features / Anthony Upton



Where do you get inspiration from?
"Everything. I see life though the prism of comedy. I turn [everything] upside down and smash [it] on the floor and see if anything funny happens, really. [I've] booked in a theatre show next year where I'm literally looking at thousands of tickets and I don't have a show yet. So it is a case of anything, anything that I've ever done, trying to turn into a show, which is quite exhausting actually."

You're also known for your surreal persona - would you describe yourself as quite a normal person in real life?
"Well, maybe it's not for me to say. There's something about doing [comedy] that turns you slightly odd anyway I think, or maybe you have to be a bit odd to do it in the first place.

"I think comedians are two types. One is the same all the time, who can be hard to share a car journey with, as it's 'gag gag gag', and then they're more schizophrenic people who, it's one person on stage, one person off stage, and I'm definitely in the latter. It wasn't until I thought of my stand-up as playing a part that it began to slot in properly and I could begin to write for someone who wasn't me. Once I'd got the shirts and the sticky up hair, that all became a lot clearer."

Do you get nervous ahead of a big tour like the one you're heading out on next year?
"No. I've done three or four before, so I know roughly what to expect. Also with increased telly profile there's more faith in the room when you walk on stage because they go, 'Oh, that bloke'. I don't have to spend the first ten minutes trying to win them over because they already know roughly what they're in for.

"People don't want to hear the old jokes, but they want to see the same style. I remember supporting Rory Bremner years ago and he did ten minutes without impressions and you could feel the audience going, 'What? What's going on? I paid for impressions'. It's quite hard to shift style, but artistically you want to keep changing in order to move on and not go dead behind the eyes. So it's a battle between the two really."

Milton Jones

© Rex Features / Warren King



Do you feel you've become a little boxed-in then?
"It's double edged. If I get an audition for something it's usually a crazy neighbour or the bloke who just woke up because that's what people perceive me as, but if I didn't have a stand-up career then I might not have any auditions at all. So I can't have my cake and eat it.

"I'd like the chance of proving versatility, but in the absence of that then I'm grateful for what comes along. I've got to try and push the envelope of what I do already as much as possible."

Were you happy with the reaction to your Channel 4 sitcom House of Rooms earlier this year?
"Yeah, it got lot of really good reaction apart from Channel 4, which is a bit annoying. Who knows, someone may pick it up at some point. It would have been nice to, if not continue House of Rooms, then continue that kind of thing somewhere.

"Stand-up is great, but it is quite limited. One-liners are quite limited. You can't do half an hour on telly of one-liners, so developing characters is something I'd definitely like to do more of."

Would you ever consider something like a sketch show, or would you stay in that sitcom mould?
"I'd definitely like to give the sitcom thing a proper go and develop something and see if we could do that. Then I'd like to turn up in a Dickens classic, a two-dimensional part in Downton Abbey, something really that I can do that wasn't above me."

Dave's One Night Stand continues tonight (December 5) at 10pm on Dave.

Milton Jones takes his 'On The Road' set on tour from January 22, 2013, ending with a show at London's Hammersmith Apollo on March 19.

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