Pot Noodles, drowning your sorrows at 11am and the the Podimore Services Travelodge... | Jon Richardson on the life of a comedian

Pot Noodles, drowning your sorrows at 11am and the the Podimore Services Travelodge...

Jon Richardson on the life of a comedian

How did you get started in comedy?

The same as anyone else really...  I dropped out of university, split up with my girlfriend (she helped by dumping me, but I think we both knew whose decision it really was), started work as a chef from 6am to 11pm and decided it was time for a change.

Somewhat naively I entered the BBC New Talent Competition, believing it was for people who had never tried comedy before. I remember sitting in the dressing room before the show and hearing the other acts  (who all knew one another) talking to Rhod Gilbert about how he must be about ready to go 'full-time' as a comic.  My request for a steward's enquiry was turned down and I had learned my first lesson about 'the industry'.

What's the single best experience you've had doing it?

Eating a Pot Noodle and drinking a bottle of Martini Asti.  

The first big thing that happened to me in comedy was signing with Off The Kerb and being asked to support Alan Carr on his first big, national tour.  At Yeovil Octagon I celebrated my 24th birthday and Alan had the 650-strong audience sing 'Happy Birthday' to me.

After the gig I returned back to my hotel, the Podimore Services Travelodge (just off the A303) and had my birthday tea alone.  It should have been a fairly depressing experience but it wasn't – I'm perfectly happy on my own and as long as my mind is occupied I've got all the company I need.  

It's amazing how quickly you can go from orchestrating a room of 650 people to wondering whether it really does show up as 'Entertainment Services' on your bill and whether or not the receptionist really knows perfectly well what that means.

And the worst?

Probably drinking a bottle of Ernest and Julio Gallo White Zinfandel.  There was nothing wrong with the wine, just that I was drinking it at 11am, out of the bottle, sat on a windowsill in Edinburgh.  

My dog had just died and I was miles away from home at the festival with the prospect of two hours flyering ahead and two shows that evening.  I think wanting to have people around but being on your own is difficult, but for me the worst thing is wanting to be own your own and not being able to get away from people.  

Generating laughter is a horrible thing to have to do when you are in a bad mood and in Edinburgh there is nowhere to hide.  I learned from this though, that if you do get a dog you should give it a normal name, because you get very little sympathy when you look through blotchy eyes to tell someone that, 'Bilbo is dead'.

Is there anything you regret doing – or not doing – in your career?

I regret doing a pilot for a show called The Sack Race.  I had only been doing comedy for a few weeks and thought this was what would lift me to the top straight away: sold out tours, DVDs, money, women and wine.

The reality was having a microphone strapped to my pigeon chest as I wandered around London asking people (in a Welsh accent) where the Millennium Stadium was.  This being London most people looked at me like the piece of crap I was, but one man took time out of his day to walk me to the nearest Tourist Information Office and help me to the front of the queue so that I wouldn't be late for my Stereophonics concert.   If I could find that man now and apologise, I would feel a lot better about myself.

I also regret finding out that comedy is not just a matter of getting drunk with your mates and writing a sitcom.  It's a job.

And of what are you most proud?

Eating a calzone and drinking a bottle of Italian lager.  

Immediately after receiving the phone call telling me that I had been nominated for the Best Newcomer award in Edinburgh 2007, I phoned my Mum and my sister and then wanted to be on my own.  

I wandered out of the city in a direction I had never been in and found a little Italian restaurant where I had a mini-celebratory lunch.  

While I was eating, Frank Skinner walked in with his tour manager and took the table behind mine. Though he had no idea who I was and we didn't speak a single word to one another, the fact that we were both legitimate stand-ups at the Edinburgh festival is the most vivid memory I have of how proud I am of what I've done.  I felt something very deep down on a spiritual level I don't even believe in.  

I toasted Bilbo and went out to die on my hoop that evening.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

To finish writing something.  There are several things I'm working on at the moment and I don't mind if none of them get picked up, but I think you can only complain about the state of comedy on TV and radio if you've tried to do something about it...  If not, shut up.  

I get really excited about comedy sometimes because I think the inexorable rise of the panel show is breeding a generation of comics like Cowards and We Are Klang; determined to write and be involved in their own content and to make it as good as they can.  

I hope I'm one of them but if not, I'll enjoy watching it.

And your long-term ambitions?

A season ticket at Elland Road and a little pub in the Yorkshire Dales that serves good beer, nice food and pork scratchings.  I'm confident that when I look back I'll know I tried my hardest and did my best by people and that's good enough for me.  

What advice would you give to any comedian starting today?

I'm not really in a position to dole out advice, I think.  I still haven't achieved anything of note and spend a great amount of time seeking out advice from others.  

It's perhaps easy to say (because I'm young) but my only advice for people would be to take their time.  If you work hard at offering something unique and become good, your time will come.  

The internet, and more specifically sites like YouTube, mean that things like reviews and TVshows can be around forever now...  I would hate to be looking back in 30 or 40 years time and still be confronted with a clip of me using lines other people had written to make a member of the public look like a tit on a programme I thought would just air at 3:30am on Nuts TV and disappear.  

It won't matter to anyone but yourself, but it's no one else's voice you hear when you're trying to get to sleep at night.

Who, or  what, makes you laugh?

It's only in interviews that I realise quite how seriously I take myself, which goes some way to explaining why the comedy I like tends to be at the sillier end of the spectrum.  

It's natural to enjoy watching people who do something you can't.  I always cite Lee Evans as the reason I fell in love with comedy but more recently the acts I look forward to working with are people like Hans Teeuwen and Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue.  It takes real bravery and inner-contentment to allow yourself to look like an idiot on stage and I'm far too insecure to do it, but I have the most respect for people who give themselves over completely to their audience and surrender all pretention and 'toss' to generate big laughs.  

Outside of comedy I like watching people fall over or walk into glass doors.

  • Jon Richardson is on tour from tonight. Click here for dates.

Published: 6 Feb 2009

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