The Jon Richardson Interview
The Jon Richardson Interview:
Hello Jon. You've recently been struck down by a fever and been in a Melbourne hospital. What was that all about and are you feeling better now??
I'm feeling 100% per cent better now and am keen to make up for lost time at the festival. The best guess seems to be that (somehow in the 27 degree heat) I got pneumonia. I've never had to go into hospital for anything before, so it was disappointing to find out that I'm not invincible, but I was incredibly well looked after by doctors and festival staff alike. I'm very lucky to be surrounded by good people.
Forgetting the fever, how are you enjoying the Melbourne Comedy Festival?
Melbourne is a fantastic city, I can see why so many comics come back here year after year. This is the furthest I could possibly be away from home but the feel of the city makes that much easier to cope with. Getting to hang around with some of the best comics in the world is a privilege too, so all in all I would have to concede that life here has the edge on my day to day existence in Swindon.
What have you been doing in your spare time? Been down to the beach yet?
I've been to St. Kilda a few times, most recently to watch the penguins coming in at dusk. My love of penguins was sadly surpassed by my love of a bargain and ‘beer, burger and chips for $10' at a nearby pub was something of a highlight. Next weekend I'm going to watch some Aussie rules football at the MCG. It's bound to be a dreadful game since I've turned down two trips there so far and missed classic games both times. Go Melbourne! Let's destroy those Adelaide bastards!
British and Australian comedians seem to go down well in each other's countries. Are then any jokes/stories that don't work so well for you in Oz?
I've dropped a few routines from the show I did in Edinburgh, but generally most things translate pretty well. It's not that audiences don't understand the references, but I would like to believe that with all my material to hand there are things with more general appeal that I can talk about. It's a good thing for a comic to look more analytically at why their material gets laughs; if your punchlines all depend heavily on local UK knowledge then it's probably time to write some new stuff anyway.
We read somewhere that you enrolled in Hispanic Studies at Bristol University. What did that entail?
It was the study of the language, history and literature of Spain, Portugal and South America. Unfortunately I was far too immature at the time to be interested in most of it and I was impatient to earn money and achieve absolute independence. I think if I were to be enrolling anew at the age I am now I would have much more chance of finishing the course.
You always seemed to get called an overnight sensation in comedy, but you won best newcomer awards for a few years, before becoming successful at the Edinburgh Festival. What do you feel was your breakthrough moment?
The ‘overnight sensation' label is a fascinating one, because it's almost entirely bollocks. It's a gap-filling statement to make, because it's easier for a journalist to ask why a rise has been so meteoric than to ask about whether gradual career progression is an inevitable result of continued effort and commitment. I've always given absolutely everything to comedy so had things not progressed at all I doubt whether I would be doing it any more. There are of course moments that are significant milestones; signing with my agent, getting nominated at the Edinburgh festival and appearing on Have I Got News For You are things I don't ever want to forget doing. In my head I'm still the terrified 21 year old waiting to go on stage before his first ever gig, wondering whether anyone would laugh; that makes sure that you keep focused on how much you have achieved so far rather than lamenting the things that haven't happened yet.
What other comedians did you warm-up for on your journey towards the top of your game?
I've worked with some amazing comics throughout my short career. It always frustrates me to see newer comics arriving just before they go on stage and leaving as soon as they are done, because something I always appreciated was getting to watch great comics for free by sharing the bill with them. I got to support Lee Evans when he was warming up for his last tour, which meant a great deal to me, but I learned the most from working with some of the best comics on the live circuit. Craig Campbell, Ian Cognito, Stewart Francis, Mike Wilmot and countless others may be less well known as far as TV exposure is concerned but can teach you all you need to know about how amazing comedy can be in the right hands.
What's your career highlight so far?
This is such a hard question, because it's always tempting to say some of the more recent big things I've done. I won't forget appearing on Have I Got News For You if I live to be a hundred years old. It's still the benchmark panel show in the UK and when the theme tune kicked in before the recording I managed to compose myself enough look around me and take a moment to realize how special that moment was; I didn't stop smiling from that moment on for about a week. As amazing as that was, my career highlight has to be the first laugh I got at my first ever gig. That was when everything changed for me and I knew that my dreams were achievable. If that gig had gone badly for whatever reason I know I would never have got back on stage, so whoever it was that was looking over me that night, I owe them a beer. Maybe two.
How did you get into radio presenting?
Purely by chance. One of the great things about comedy is the doors it opens that you might never have expected to go through. When I started doing comedy I never imagined I would have my own radio show one day, but through a combination of hard work and hanging around with comics more successful than yourself, there you are!
Do you think the BBC will reverse their ridiculous decision to axe 6 Music?
I hope so. The biggest obstacle is that it needs someone to make a very public admission that they were wrong - and no one likes doing that. To argue that the audience is too small is to go against everything the BBC should stand for. If any network has an obligation to provide programming that is unique rather than commercially successful then it's the BBC. I don't agree with the statement some people are making that they should close BBC3 instead. It's a simple piece of snobbery to pick on shows that have silly titles, but if 15 year old kids love watching them then that's all there is to it. We need some intelligence back in viewing as well as programme making; if it's not for you... turn over! We can't allow the people who write the most letters decide what those of us who have better things to do get to watch and listen to.
You are a Leeds Utd fan. They are having their usual post-Christmas wobble. Do you think they'll grab an automatic promotion spot or will it be the Play-Offs again?
I will be heart broken if Leeds don't get promotion this year. Every year I resolve to care less about football, I know there's no point in it whatsoever, but I just can't seem to help myself. I've been getting up at the crack of dawn to watch Leeds' games live from Australia, which has been a mixed bag. At least if your team loses an evening game in the UK you can go straight to bed, but when you're in a stinking mood and it still isn't 8am, that's a long day to be avoiding people!
Do you think Gary McAllister was given the elbow somewhat prematurely? Surely a Leeds legend like that should have been given a little more time?
I'm a huge fan of Gary Mac. It has become a cliché that all managers need time, and I agree whole-heartedly, but it is also very difficult to watch a team you care about under-achieving. Leeds will continue to panic and make silly decisions until they are back in the premier league. If you are talking about premature sackings, I think giving David O'Leary the boot was one of the stupidest things we ever did. He certainly made some dodgy signings, but they were all there to play for him and he had a much better chance of getting a good game out of Seth Johnson than Peter Reid or Terry Fricking Venables did.
Who is the more evil: Peter Risdale or Ken Bates?
I was asked to contribute a piece for a newspaper recently about the running of Leeds United. I declined for the same reason I will dodge this question, which is that as soon as a regular football fan starts looking into the finances of the game and how it is run, then you can expect to lose your love of the game very quickly. I like watching any match and seeing whether or not my goodies beat the baddies, the boardroom is no place for fans.
Would you swap all that success for Leeds under David O'Leary for financial stability and a place in the Premier League still?
I wouldn't change anything that has happened to Leeds. It has been difficult supporting them over recent years, but you have to take the rough with the smooth. If the last few years have taught me anything it's that league position and all that goes with it is so much less important than being in the stadium, getting involved in the banter and enjoying the theatre of sport, whether it's against Manchester Utd or Matlock Town. No team has a right to be in the Premiership, but if you are lucky enough to be there, enjoy every second of it. One thing I would say though... It's high time lazy, lazy commentators stopped referencing how many years it was since Leeds were playing Valencia in the Champions League. Move on, we have.
Did you watch or read ‘The Damned Utd'?
I've done both. Much preferred the book to the film, though Michael Sheen is fantastic.
Found yourself a pub in Melbourne to watch the footy or are you watching the games tucked up in bed?
I've been watching them at home, just because the hours are so antisocial. Lunchtime UK kick-offs are OK, starting just as my show finishes here. I had a few comics over to my apartment to watch Man U and Chelsea the other night, that was a great game. Made me a bit homesick.
How do you think England will get on in the World Cup?
I really don't know. There's an optimism in the people I've spoken to that we're going to do well - usually I would shy away from that but I'm totally willing to get swept up in it. If you aren't going to let yourself get immersed in the dream then you're missing out. England for the win! At least we're at this tournament, that's reason enough to get excited.
First single ever bought?
Everything I Do - Bryan Adams
First album ever bought?
Bad - Michael Jackson (I think, not entirely sure)
Last album bought?
The Boatman's Call - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Favourite other comedians?
I always love watching Sean Lock and never tire of listening to my Mitch Hedberg albums. Recently discovered Louis CK and he's straight into my all-time top 5. I'm lucky to still love comedy so there are loads of comics I like.
Favourite TV Show?
At the moment I've got hooked on ‘Australia's Biggest Loser'. Big fan of any show that proves that the best and only way to lose weight is to alter your diet and exercise more, and what a buzz that can be.
Not a city, but Keswick in the Lake District. About he most beautiful place I can imagine and home to some very, very happy memories.
Absolutely love Indian food. It's not an exciting answer, but it's my death row meal for sure. Chicken Jalfrezi, boiled rice, garlic naan, pint of the below. Oh yes.
St. Austell Tribute - The finest ale I've ever tasted.
Who would you consider ‘playing away' from the missus with? (hopefully with her consent):
Not an issue! The world is my oyster, as it were. Wouldn't cheat with anyone if I were In a relationship though, I'm a bit of a stickler for that!
Who would you consider turning gay with? (hopefully with their consent):
Probably Cesc Fabregas - Amazing player and cool Spaniard to boot.
Hero in Life:
I try not to have heroes, because I think if you put other people on a pedastal you are excusing yourself for not being able to live up to their example. You shouldn't be afraid to put pressure on yourself to do the right thing all the time, because it's definitely possible, it's just much harder.
2010 uk tour dates