Why I unironically love Joe Pasquale | by Ollie Horn

Why I unironically love Joe Pasquale

by Ollie Horn

Two seismic events in the world of UK stand-up this week: Joe Pasquale is out on the second leg of his extended The New Normal - 40 Years Of Cack! tour, and my NextUp special, Ollie Horn: Not Much, is available to stream. 

Declaring in a comedy club green room that Joe Pasquale is my favourite comedian would earn me as much street cred as asking if anyone has tips for removing a piss stain seconds before going on stage. (Just in case you might be wondering: trousers off, douse with warm water, dab with a paper towel, then dry under a hand dryer). 

I am very unironically a massive fan of Joe Pasquale. I’ve recently been re-watching a bunch of his old videos on YouTube, and I’ve found myself laughing in an entirely different way to the way I usually laugh when watching stand-up. 

You just get swept up in the magic, clowning, puns, prop gags, songs, sketches, and genuinely good joke writing (and, yes, I’ve also watched the Stewart Lee routine – I’m aware that I should enjoy the jokes in the same way I walk around British Museum, and enjoy the output without worrying too much about the provenance). 

It’s visceral, it’s joyous, and it instantly makes me feel like a ten-year-old me again, watching him command a full room of fans of all ages, bent over, crying, and dizzy with laughter. 

I first saw him live at the Playhouse Theatre in Weston-super-Mare, and it’s the same place I booked my front-row ticket (yes, ‘ticket’, singular, my friends were busy) for his current tour. Snatched on release day with the frantic energy of a Taylor Swift fan, without any of the jeopardy.

Even my most skilled contemporaries don’t get laughs as achingly big as Pasquale attaching a toilet roll to a leaf blower and pointing it at a member of the front row. Instead, we bang on about therapy and social justice and how we can’t afford rent, which might be cathartic, but it’s rarely funny (apart from when I do it – watch my special). 

And he’s joyous at a time when most people only really hear about stand-up when there is a scandal or ‘cancellation’. 

Believe the news, and stand-up causes anger, division and harm more than it brings happiness. I don’t think that’s true.  Britain’s Got Talent’s winner last year was clown Viggo Venn. Sam Campbell won the latest Edinburgh Comedy award by being daft with props and non-sequiturs. Stamptown has just moved to the Pleasance Grand. Maybe Pasquale was on to something. 

I met Pasquale while writing last year’s Edinburgh show, and I talk about this encounter in my special. He gave me some surprisingly insightful advice on how to be a better stand-up that has changed the way I approach gigs. You’ll have to watch the show if you want to know what it is. 

And I don’t think me being in my Pasquale era is about nostalgia. I’ve not yet reached the part of my 30s where I hopelessly reconnect with the culture that shaped me, believing that music peaked at whatever Now That’s What I Call Music album was released when I was in Year 7. (The Vengaboys’ Uncle John From Jamaica is a banger, however). It’s about me working out, a decade into the game, why I really want to be a stand-up comedian. 

Joe Pasquale is an inspiration, with a career that’s spanned decades: touring shows, play adaptations, multiple books, and countless brilliant TV appearances. So let it not go unnoticed that I can write about a beloved childhood TV entertainer, 40 years into his career, without recourse to words like ‘disgraced’ or ‘alleged’. 

I hope to be as silly as him one day. 

Ollie Horn: Not Much is streaming at NextUp. Joe Pasquale is on tour (dates)

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Published: 9 May 2024

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