Claire Dukes and comedian Phill Jupitus talk badges, QI and his latest show Juplicity.
I only found out three days prior to the interview that I would be having a chat with Phill Jupitus. It was deadline week and needless to say I was little unprepared. But I had written down the bread and butter of questions and convinced myself, whilst agressively brushing my teeth, that everything would go swimmingly. And it did.
As I was brushing up on ‘research’ the phone rang at exactly 9.15am – right on time. I answered and had to admit to Phill that I had somewhat ended up down a QI rabbit hole on YouTube. Lucikly he laughed, and we dove straight in.
Phill’s been on QI for over 10 years and has become, as he put it, “part of the furniture” so the nerves of being on the programme have disappeared. I said it’s quite nice when new panel guests admit they’re intimidated to be on the show, (I’d be bricking it) and as it turns out new guests are often purposely sat next to him for that exact reason.
As fun fact, which he learnt on QI, Phill asked me “Do you know that they put goats in with racehorses? It’s because goats have a calming effect on the horses, so they put them in there before the races”. This obviously led me to ask, “are you the goat of the QI panel?” “Yes, apparently I have a calming effect on the new visitors” he remarked. This now makes a lot of sense. A few minutes in and I’m chatting away as if I’d met the guy before, and with that my own nerves galloped away.
As well as QI Phill is also a known name from the likes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, BBC Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, and The Museum of Curiosity. It’s a bit cheeky, but I was keen to know if he had a favourite show. “I don’t have a favourite show; more favourite individual moments and I can tell you two of them right now. The first is when Terry Wogan presented Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and I remember I didn’t stop smiling or laughing the entire time. It was the quickest recording ever for that show. The floor manager went up to Terry and said, ‘You nailed it, we don’t need another take’. Now, that was the only time that’s happened in 18 years! The second is when the programme came to an end, Terry thanked everyone, and then he got a standing ovation – again, that has never happened before.”
Phill’s own show, Juplicity, seems to be the next logical topic. When asking what it’s all about, he explained: “People often ask me what I do, and I’m not really sure what I do – genuinely don’t know. I mean I’m a presenter, a stand-up comedian, a poet, and I sew, so the show contains elements of all the things I do. There’ll be music because I was in a band, I will also be bringing back Porky the Poet with new material, and you know a bit of performance art as well.”
With Juplicity Phill is all about playing with convention. I rarely get the opportunity to talk about my dissertation, but not only is Jupitus quick-witted he is also very intellectual, so I mentioned some topics I covered including The White Cube, Lars Von Trier’s Dogville, and Brecht’s ‘breaking the fourth wall’. To my delight Phill chimed in “The fourth wall! Ah yes I am definitely mucking about with that. So for example at the interval I will just say ‘interval’, I don’t go anywhere. I won’t be performing the whole time but I won’t leave the stage during the show” he explained.
He continued “I find it weird [the process of going to a show] cause you go to the bar, get a drink, wait, and then the performer comes on, does their bit and then leaves. What I want to do is deformalize the moment where we start, so when people arrive I will already be on stage listening to records.”
Juplicity sounds as informal as you can get. During the interval Phill will have his bucket of badges and hand out biscuits. I asked what biscuits, he responded: “Tunnocks teacakes – I’m not an idiot. They’re round and soft, so when I throw them out they go the furthest distance with the least amount of damage. There was one time in Yorkshire though, I threw the tea biscuit and it landed in a gentleman’s pint and it exploded. To that man, I am sorry.”
My immediate response was that the guy couldn’t really complain, he’s got himself a “beery biscuit”. This is the moment that I made Phill Jupitus laugh (add that to my cv) and pretty much kept the tone for the rest of our light-hearted chat. I said he could use that should he need extra material to which he also laughed and might actually consider. Naturally I’ll find out when attending his show at Swindon Arts Centre, March 11.
Beery biscuits aside, back to that bucket of badges. Phill shared an anecdote of when the collection began. He was 13, and to this day he said “it is my first and only crime. What I remember most was the moments after I stole the badge, because it was the 20 most terrifying minutes of my life – never again.” Just as an FYI, the badge in question he still has to this day and it’s an Animal Muppet badge. He continued “But you know, I saved myself 30p.”
Since his descent into badge collecting Phill has been approached by many fans just giving him badges, and now boasts a collection of over 400 (you can’t blame him for losing count). So, Phill is inviting fellow enthusiasts to bring along their badges to his shows for an interval of sweet treats (hopefully without injury) and badge swapping.
I can’t really remember how long we were on the phone, before he had to dash off to another appointment his assistant had pencilled in his schedule. And I couldn’t decide whether or not we were both being incredibly British and polite when remarking on our lovely chat. Needless to say Phill Jupitus is incredibley humble, easygoing and an all round lovely guy. After hanging up the phone I realised that I didn’t actually ask any of the questions I had so readily prepared for – no awkward small talk needed. It was the perfect start to my Friday.
Juplicity will also be showing at Salisbury Arts Centre, April 27 – for further information click here.
For Swindon Arts Centre, March 11, click here.