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I TALK TO Jon Richardson

After 15 years in comedy, four Edinburgh Fringe shows and three tours, comedian Jon Richardson is releasing Old Man on DVD... just in time for Christmas!

And it's been quite the year for Jon Richardson who not only has continued to be a team captain on 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown but he's also starred in his own series for Dave, Ultimate Worrier where he attempts to analyse, assess and log every single one of his many, many worries.

His latest tour, Old Man Live delves in to the last few years of Jon’s life, bringing the audience along with him on the life-changing journey. He has left the perennial single life behind and become a husband and father, seen the UK vote to leave the EU and watched the rise of Donald Trump, all of which leaves him asking one question; why does it seem that no one else alive can correctly load a dishwasher?

Filmed on the final night of his colossal critically-acclaimed 158 date sell out UK and Ireland tour at the historic Grand Theatre in Blackpool, Jon tackles all subjects and frustrations with his own distinctive perspective. No stone is left unturned as he hysterically takes on everything from haircuts, social media, weddings, pregnancy and the difference between the sexes, while providing some tremendous life tips along the way.

Let's get this out of the way first of all... stand-up DVDs. Are they still a thing?

Well, we'll find out won't we? I mean there wasn't really any other option. There's no Netflix deal for small cardigan wearing northern men and people don't buy VHS anymore. That's definitely true, I think we can all agree that VHS would have been the wrong move.

DVDs... My mum wants one. She told me that she likes to have a DVD and I think there are still people who will want to buy the DVD but it will be on Amazon download and those sort of things so it will available online.

But you can't wrap up a download can you?

2018 marks 15 years that you've been doing comedy and this is your third stand-up DVD. Did you ever imagine you'd be doing this for so long? And so successfully?

No! When you start off you don't think you'll be doing it before your next gig really. You're always waiting for that catastrophic death that makes you never do it again.

Every now and again I realise that I've been doing it for so long but I didn't realise it was 15 years. I can't think of any other job in the world that I could have kept down for 15 years. I think it's because of the variety really.

Although I'm a stand-up, I get to do lots of bits and pieces. It's never just the one job really. It's actually five or six different things. Bits of radio and bits of telly and live work, so it's a real mix of things that I get to do, but stand-up's the one I love.

Hopefully I'll be doing it a lot longer, maybe not into Joan Rivers territory, because if you get grumpier as you get older I haven't got a lot further to go to be honest. I've got about 10 years left until I'm just swearing into the faces of the audience as they walk in!

When you put it like that, 15 years and three DVDs, it's well beyond anything I ever dreamt of.

When did you discover that other people will find you funny and that being a comedian was something you could achieve?

I knew I was the funny one latterly at school and through to university. Although I dropped out of university and spent the one year I was there doodling and doing impressions of lecturers to make my friends laugh.

The idea of doing it professionally is something else. And that was the biggest obstacle to get over really. The transfer of that skill, which as you say, being a funny person and then backing yourself to pay your bills doing that, it took me a long time to build that confidence.

It basically just came down to trying it. There wasn't a point where I thought I deserved to do it or that I was good enough, there was just a point where I thought 'unless I try, I'm never going to be happy'. Because it's always going to be in the back of my head that that's the thing I should be doing.

I used to watch Have I Got News for You and play along almost as if it was a quiz show. I'd think about what I would have said there and what joke I would have told there. It wasn't a confidence thing, it was just having to try it to make sure.

I would have actually been happy even if I'd have tried it and failed. At least i would have know that I'm funny in the pub but definitely not funny on stage.

What do you think you would be doing if you had failed at comedy?

I'm not sure. I was cheffing at the time, but i'm not sure if that's a sustainable thing long-term. There aren't many chefs I know who have been doing it a great deal of time who are particularly healthy people, because you're locked in a windowless box underground for every evening of your life. So I think that would have probably imploded at some point.

I did sales for a bit and I can tell you that that would not have been a viable career. Not the one for me or the company I worked for. There was nobody that benefited from my six months as a sales rep.

Beyond that, I don't know. In the current political climate that we live in, who knows what job would have presented itself? Maybe I would have been a YouTube sensation!

Going back to the DVD then, why did you decide to call the tour Old Man?

The show as it developed happened in two halves anyway. The first half is genuine stand-up of me and my life and getting older and being an older man. And the second half is about getting married and having a child. That's sort of old man in the dad sense.

So it's a dual meaning and it just seemed to fit. I looked at the image we had for the front of the tour poster with me in the cardigan and I thought you can't really call it Stud Muffin or Triple Threat because it's not really going to fly.

Do you enjoy being out on the road? 158 sellout dates is an incredible achievement! But it must be difficult to be away from home for so long?

It was hard. It's the first show I've done as a married man with a child. Usually the being away in hotels is a privilege. I love hotels. I love staying somewhere that someone has tidied specifically for you, a door you can lock and knowing that no one is going to bother you.

This time, there were difficult elements of of being away from my family but I absolutely love touring. I would have actually gone on a bit longer because it's such a privilege and I always think that every gig is going to be the last one and every tour I think will be the last time people pay to come and see me because someone new will come along.

As you get older and a bit more balanced, you realise what a privilege it is that people come and pay money after a tough week to come and see you in the hope that you'll make them laugh. And as a result, I think this tour is the best one yet. It's just gags, I've let go of a lot of my angst and fury at the world.

Does the show change throughout the tour?

It's never scripted so there's a bit I'll do where I know what the story is but I never word it the same way twice because I think that would send me insane.

Every tour I try and build in a bit that is dependant on the audience. So in this tour there's a bit where I Twitter stalk someone in the audience who's tweeted me at some point. I go back through their Twitter history and relay it to them live in the room. So that naturally is different every night.

Because it is a live format, if I was just doing it the same way every night, you might as well record the DVD on the first night and not tour because you want people in the room to know that that night will never happen again and that set of circumstances with you all together is a special one.

How long did you spend putting the show together?

It's probably the same period as the tour. I tour every three years and I start the next tour the minute the last one ends. I'll start now going back to clubs doing ten minutes, unannounced and do an open spot and try stuff I've never said before then.

Then 10 minutes becomes 20, and 20 becomes 40 and then you start doing hours and then you start doing a mini tour before a tour so it's probably about 18 months getting the show together and 18 months touring. Anything up to two years really to get the show good enough.

How important was it for you to film the DVD in Blackpool, in the Grand Theatre?

I don't know whether it's a result of the profile going up or what, but I actually got to pick the venue this year for the DVD and in the past I haven't been able to make that choice.

We filmed the last one at the Hammersmith Apollo which is amazing because it's such a historically significant room for music and comedy, but as soon as I got to pick, I knew I wanted it to be where I'm from in Lancashire and I think the Blackpool Grand is one of the most beautiful theatres in the country.

I didn't want any shots of people on the pier or sticks of rock or silly hats or anything like that, I wanted to show Blackpool as somewhere that has such an amazing theatre where people just go and watch shows the same as anywhere else.

It mattered to me not to do it in London and to do it where I'm from.

Is that your favourite place to perform?

I've got loads actually. We're so lucky in this country to have the ability to tour in so many different places compared to America or Canada where you have to fly six hours to get to newer build corporate venues.

In Glasgow alone there are five or six exceptional theatres and Harrogate where I was last night, there are two gorgeous rooms to perform in. Places that are themselves tourist destinations and places I would choose to spend the day anyway. And within them all you have an exceptional theatre; Buxton Opera House, Leeds Grand, Blackpool Grand.

It's really exciting to look at a tour list and be excited to play certain rooms like Glasgow King Theatre and Edinburgh Playhouse. It adds an extra element to the tour because not only do I get to tell these jokes, but I get to tell them in rooms that will make the show better.

Is there anywhere you haven't performed yet but would like to?

Not really in this country. This tour we went as far as Orkney and went down as far as Jersey and also Ireland. America is the only place I've never done any stand-up and I don't have any desire to break America. But as somewhere just to try it and see whether jokes that are funny here would be funny there, why not?

I'm going there on holiday in January, but I don't suppose I'll be saying anything funny!

Have you ever been sent a cardigan by a fan?

No! You'd think I would have actually, but no. Someone sent me a lovely pen once because I talked about how when I'm writing a tour I use those four coloured pens. I plan my set out in black ink, I have green ink for ad-libs, red ink for stuff that doesn't work, so someone sent me a lovely engraved one of those.

I get mugs and some nice stuff but oddly, no one has ever sent me a cardigan. Perhaps they think that's the one thing I don't need. To be honest, if you were to look at me you might think he needs a social life and he needs to get out and perhaps some nice alternative clothes, but he's probably got enough cardigans.

My wife would say especially that i have enough cardigans!

Your last solo show in Edinburgh was in 2010, do you ever see yourself going back?

I stopped because I felt like I'd reached the end of my Edinburgh journey. I started off in a 50-seater that people thought was a toilet! I kept getting people walk in to have a piss and i had to explain that I was doing a gig.

And then I got to play the Assembly on the Mound and do a week of my show in the room that meant everything to me. When I first went to Edinburgh, that's the room I saw Tommy Tiernan in so for me that room represents the pinnacle of what you can achieve in Edinburgh.

So once I'd done that I felt like if I went back again, I'd just be taking the tickets away from other comics and I know what it meant to me in that first year the difference between having 12 people in and 17 was massive. That just tips the room in to playable and you can start getting some momentum and you get that one good review because you smashed a gig.

I still go up and if I'm up there visiting I might do a 20-minute thing at a charity gig and if I came up with something new - if I wrote a play - the festival would definitely be where I would take it. But in terms of stand-up, I'm privileged now that I can play the Edinburgh Playhouse at any point in the year so I just leave the festival for the newer acts and leave August to people who have crafted that show for that festival.

What's next for you?

Some more Cats Does Countdown obviously because that show will go on forever! I think we've done over 100 now which is crazy. The original Cats show is topical so the news changes and the show changes, but this is literally the same people playing the same game every week. It's a credit to the people who devised Jimmy's sketches, the writers and the production team who keep that show going.

How it's still going baffles me but I'm quite happy to turn up, put my best cardigan on and play word games. Because that's pretty much what I do at home anyway! And hopefully there'll be another series of the Dave show Ultimate Worrier.

Jon Richardson: Old Man is released Monday 19th November on DVD and is available to buy here. Or you can win a copy here.


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