Back on the road. We chat to comedian and actor Joe Pasquale
- Credit: Archant
Having starred in Spamalot in theatres around the UK, comedian and actor Joe Pasquale is ditching the chainmail for his first stand-up show since 2013. Event sat down with him for a Q+A.
Q: Are you excited about returning to live comedy after a two-year gap?
A: I’ve never really gone away from stand-up – I was just doing other stuff! Stand-up gives you such a buzz. It’s like riding a rollercoaster. I enjoy that sense of fear – it’s like going to a really good scary movie. I don’t want to sit there watching The Blair Witch Project. A bloke running around in the woods with a camcorder? That’s not very frightening. Give me The Exorcist every time! Give me something that scares the living daylights out of you!
When I do stand-up, I like that feeling of flying by the seat of my pants. The great thing about stand-up is that it’s different every night. You never know what will happen at any given show – and that’s what I love about it. That’s why I took up flying, parachute jumping, boxing and running. That fear is what stand-up is all about. You go out there without a net. Nothing is guaranteed. Just because last night went well, you can’t expect tonight to be great, too.
Q: Do you enjoy the interaction with the audience?
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A: Yes. I love bantering with people. There is a lot of audience participation at my shows, but that changes every night. Recently during a Spamalot performance we had a lady on stage whose English wasn’t great and she didn’t have a clue what was going on. I had to busk it with her for two minutes, but the audience loved it. It brings the house down when you do something like that. I really like bantering with people who don’t know what’s going on because invariably I don’t know what’s going on either!
Q: Your shows always include lots of props. How do you put these together?
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A: I’ve just been on eBay buying a lot of props. I buy a lot of rubbish. You can find anything on eBay. For the stand-up tour this year, I’ve bought a water pistol, a psychic premonition box, and a plastic baked potato. No show is complete without a plastic baked potato. I’ve also bought half a hundred weight of marshmallows to throw into the audience. I’m going to play basketball with them and whoever wins gets to come on stage and do magic tricks.
Q: What else will be happening in the stand-up show?
A: Well, I’ve also bought a Lovejoy mullet wig which my stage manager Raynard will be wearing while he does magic tricks in his pants and holds an antique candelabra. Raynard will also be re-enacting the You’re So Money Supermarket ad. It’s all just nonsense, but that’s what people expect from me.
Q: You have done a lot of theatre in recent years. What do you particularly enjoy about it?
A: I like the fact that once you’re doing it, it can’t be edited. What you see is what you get. You stand or fall by the live audience. They’re the ultimate arbiters. The better they are, the better the show is.
Q: You played King Arthur in Spamalot for two years in the West End and on tour. What was it about that show that you like so much.
A: I love the script – it’s always about the script. It was the same with The Producers – you can’t better what Mel Brooks and Eric Idle wrote. Monty Python are the ultimate alternative comedians – everyone else stands on their shoulders.
Q: Have you always adored Monty Python?
A: Yes, I grew up with the Pythons, but my dad wouldn’t let me watch it when I was a boy as he thought it was too rude. “Too many boobs,” he’d say. When he was on nights, though, my mum would let me see it, and I loved it. My dad came to see me in Spamalot in the West End, and he had a brilliant time. He said, “Sorry, I was wrong about Monty Python. I never gave them a chance back then.”
Q: What effect did winning I’m a Celebrity.. Get Me Out of Here have on your career?
A: It was a turning point for me. People whinge about it and ask “Why did you do that”? I really enjoyed it. I think people respond to you in the jungle because it’s not the sort of place where you can pretend to be something you’re not. You can’t hide for three weeks because you’re starving!
Q: You started off in showbiz working as Green Coat at a Warners holiday camp. What was that experience like?
A: I learned a lot at Warners. I had to referee the wrestling bouts between two fat sweaty blokes. The wrestlers would come to us on a Friday afternoon having already done 12 shows that week on the holiday camp circuit. Their leotards hadn’t seen a washing machine, and they were minging. The wrestlers would put me in a headlock, and it was hell, like being caught between a bison’s buttocks. But it was showbiz, and it encouraged me to perform.
Q: What happened then?
A: I started calling the bingo at Warners and then when a cabaret act would let us down, the entertainment manager would say to me “You have to entertain them now.” I got on New Faces in 1987. I had nothing to lose. All I was doing was calling the bingo and shouting “Get off me, fat bloke” at the wrestlers. That wasn’t my catchphrase – it was merely stating the facts.
Q: Did you do other jobs before New Faces?
A: Yes, and they were all bad. I worked for the Department of Transport and Environment’s Dangerous Goods Branch. All I did was send out “haz-chem” stickers to lorry companies and photocopy files. I was so bored, I ended up photocopying my bum – that was the most interesting part of the job. I passed a test there. I told them a monkey could have passed it, and they threw a banana at me. I could have stayed in the civil service and worked my way up to become Prime Minister. But instead I decided I wanted to be head-locked by a fat bloke!
Q: Did you have any other day jobs?
A: I was a porter at Smithfield meat market. I was called a “humper.” But at least I got a chicken and a lump of beef at the end of each week. You don’t get that in the civil service – unless you work for the Department of Agriculture. I also spot-welded Ford Cortinas. I lasted a month in that job. It was like a scene from The Terminator, although we were spot-welding Cortinas rather than Terminators.
Q: Is there anything in your life you wish you could change?
A: If I could go back in time, I’d have trained to be a geologist (he’s currently studying for a BSC in Geo Science the Open University). Although whether anyone would take me seriously if I was forecasting earthquakes is another matter. But you can’t change things. At least I’ve done a lot of different things now.
Q: If you could swap places with someone for a day, who would it be?
A: Professor Brian Cox. He’s changed the face of science and got people interested in science for the first time. I’ve met him, and he’s great.
Q: What’s your biggest flaw?
A: My attention span is very short. In fact, I’m surprised I’ve lasted so long in this interview! So I’ve just read this book about building “mind palaces” like Sherlock Holmes does. It’s an incredible way to memorise things.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’m playing Wishy-Washy in Aladdin in Southampton. I love panto because I’m given carte blanche to throw the script out of the window and do my own thing. The script says, “Joe does five minutes here.” It’s lovely. I can do what I like. That’s what they book me for – to play with the audience. They love it because they can let their hair down.
Q: Do you think you’ll ever retire?
A: No. You don’t pack this business up – it packs you up. I just really enjoy it. You can’t take it too seriously. People die, and then you realise what’s really important in life. What I do is not important. It’s not like being a brain surgeon. You’re not under pressure in my job. All I have to do is turn up and make people laugh. Pressure is when you’re a brain surgeon in the middle of an operation and you’re desperate to sneeze. I mess around for an hour, but no one is going to die from it. Whereas if a surgeon sneezes into your brain, that could be fatal.
Q: Finally, what do you hope people take away from your stand-up show?
A: I just want them to have fun. In everything I do, the fun lies in taking people back to the absurdity of life. If you’re coming to my show for something serious, forget it.
Pasquale is at Clacton’s West Cliff Theatre tonight, Southend’s Palace Theatre tomorrow and Great Yarmouth’s Britannia Pier August 20.