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I TALK TO Josh Widdicombe

Originally part of BBC Three's Comedy Feeds pilot series in 2014, Josh became a series in 2015 and now Josh Widdicombe is back with a second series.

So what started off online, moved to TV and has now moved back online (although a BBC One repeat is probably on the cards) thanks to BBC Three no longer existing as a linear television channel.

Josh is a quirky comedy about the highs and lows of life as an anxious old man trapped in an anxious young man’s body.

Played by Josh Widdicombe, Josh is back and he’s nerdier and more awkward than ever. His selfish flatmates are back too, Welsh charmer and football shirt aficionado, Owen (Elis James) and disaster-prone Kate (Beattie Edmondson).

Not to mention over-familiar landlord, Geoff, played by Jack Dee, who always seems to be popping round and getting in the way.

Here’s what Josh Widdicombe had to say about the second series of Josh when I caught up with him for a chat just before he flew off to Rio for the Paralympics (presenting The Last Leg, not competing!)...

So first of all, here we are talking about a second series. Can you believe it?

I’m going to have to! It's very exciting. We’re just really looking forward to everyone seeing it. We enjoyed the first series but we feel like this is a real step up. We’ve really learnt what we’re doing now and it was just great fun to make.

I can’t wait for it to be on. That’s the problem with doing something where you film it and then you have to wait months. You almost forget what you’ve done! And then you’re like “Oh god, yeah. That thing! That’s on TV again”.

Is that quite strange for you as I guess you’re used to live with both your stand-up and The Last Leg?

Yeah it is, but it’s nice though because you feel like you’re getting a reward because you do all the work and then suddenly there are six episodes going out and you don’t have to do anything! I’ve done all the hard work. I’ve done all the getting up at five in the morning.

Now it’s just avoiding the TV because I don’t watch it when it’s on. I find that too stressful, plus I’ve already seen it... but it’s really fun when things finally air.

You must have been pleased with the reaction to the first series?

Yeah, really delighted. I’ve never really had a reaction on social media that positive or over the top like that before so it’s just really nice to get a second series.

As soon as series one finished, we were like “Right, onto series two!” It’s a bit like when someone such as Alex Ferguson wins the league and the next day says “Right, this isn’t about celebrating. It’s onto the next one!” - You’re onto the next thing and it’s such an honour to get a BBC sitcom and a second series as well that you can’t help but put everything into this to make it as good as possible.

I started doing comedy to try and avoid work and I’ve ended up doing far more than if I had an office job.

What did you learn from the first series?

It was just to make Josh suffer as much as possible... the character! I’m not speaking in the third person. Let’s take him as far as we can because that’s what people want to see. That’s what sitcoms are about I suppose, just making people suffer. We’re really taking that to the next level in series two.

Have you found this series harder or easier to write than the first?

Much easier I think. It was still just as intense and stressful, but at least you knew that you’ve learnt lessons so you feel as if you’re on the right track here. Where as the first time you’re going “God! I hope I’m doing this right.” - the second time you go “I kind  of know a bit what I’m doing"

So by series fifteen I’l be going “this is a piece of piss!"

It’s interesting how you keep going back to the idea that series two is a step up. I definitely felt that watching it...

Oh thank you. You learn about the characters when you write a series and that’s why it’s great that the BBC gives things the chance to do serious. Something like People Just Do Nothing which is an amazing show and on at the moment, it took people to get to know it and find out about it.

Things take time to bed in and I think that’s really important.

What do you make of BBC Three’s move online?

I think BBC Three has some amazing comedy on it at the moment. It’s got People Just Do NothingMurder In Successville, Fleabag - they’re on a really great run at the moment so I hope I don’t let them win.

Do you approach the programme making any differently if something is for online?

You’ve just got to make the show the you want to make and you get a repeat on BBC One and BBC Two so it is going to be seen on terrestrial TV. At the end of the day, a sitcom’s a sitcom. You’ve just got to make what you believe in.

What’s in store for Josh this series?

Well he loses his girlfriend in the first in the first twenty seconds of the series, and gets eaten alive by an older woman, played by Tamzin Outhwaite. We wanted to do one of those episodes where everyone stays in the same place - one of those trapped episodes.

So episode two, takes place all in the space of an evening at an Indian restaurant, which was really great fun to do.

]Then we’ve got Jennifer Saunders coming back as Kate’s mum, and she’s now dating a new man played by Michael Ball. So it’s all very exciting!

It’s weird, you just ask people to do stuff and you presume they’ll say no. So we asked Michael Ball thinking he’s not going to want to do this and he was an absolutely lovely bloke. He’s brilliant, he’s great to work with.

What’s Geoff up to this series?

Well he comes to the Indian restaurant and ruins everything. In the first episode he’s broken hearted and he’s just causing a real nuisance really and ruining their lives.

I need to look at the scripts! It’s so long ago that I filmed it that I can’t remember what he’s up to!

Tamzin Outhwaite, Michael Ball, Jennifer Saunders… Any more names popping up this series?

I’m not sure what we can say, but we’ve got Emma Bunton doing a small cameo. Then we’ve just got great comic actors.

I’m very excited to get Miles Jupp in because I just think he’s one of the best comedy actors working in Britain at the moment. It’s just about getting people in who you think are funny and are excited to work with.

Last time we spoke you mentioned how the first series of Josh was “the most energised and fun” you’ve had on a job. Is that still the case?

Oh… is that what I said? (Laughs) Wow, yeah that is still the case. That is true. It’s great because you’re just working with friends so it’s just been a real real laugh.

I hope that comes across. At the end of the day you have to remember that you’re working in comedy. It is hard work, but you can’t take it too seriously.

It should be fun, otherwise that won’t come across on camera.

You’re going back out on tour with What Do I Do Now? – What can you tell us about that?

It’s the second leg of the tour that I did last year. We had a break to film the sitcom.

I think it’s my best show. I really love performing it. I’ve just started warming it back up and it’s really good to get back to.

When you haven’t done something for six months, you go back to it and you go “Ooh I remember this. This is really funny. I really like this.”

It’s just me grumbling about minor things. That’s what I do. I’m not going to deal with any big issues of the day, but if you want to see me grumble about the minor things in life, then I’ll be in a town near you.

Is it important to you to keep the stand-up going alongside the TV work?

At the end of the day, I’m a stand-up and that’s what I did. Everything else is great but you’ve got to remember why you’re primarily there.

So yeah that will always be something I want to do. But I tell you what… I’ve had six months off and I’ve slightly enjoyed having my evenings back! (Laughs)

But as soon as you go out on tour you forget what it’s like to have your evenings back so it’s fine. It’s just about forgetting that it is possible to relax at home in the evening and then you just love being back on tour.

The Last Leg is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated shows on television. It’s been a slow burner I think. Why do you think that is?

Aw thank you. People seem to be catching on. I think it’s been great that The Last Leg has just slowly built.

What’s bizarre is that it’s been going on for four years, but it feels like even now people are only just catching on to it.

And you’re like “Bloody hell! FOUR YEARS” and people go “What’s that new show you do on Channel 4?” – I mean, I started that in my twenties. I’m 33 now!

Josh is available from Thursday 22nd September on BBC Three


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