“In school I was the one who would take the joke too far. I’d say it out loud.” – an interview with Justin Moorhouse
By his own admission, Justin Moorhouse is ‘a jack of all trades, master of none.’ First and foremost, he’s a stand-up comedian with eleven years of experience in the industry; but he’s also got his own radio show and, perhaps most notably, played Young Kenny in Phoenix Nights. Radio Teesdale’s Katey Wallace sat down with Moorhouse to talk about his first solo tour, Can I Stay At Your House?, his lack of sexual education in school and whether he’ll be working with Peter Kay again.
KW: Hiya Justin. You’re currently on a tour called Can I Stay At Your House? How do you feel about doing a solo tour for the first time?
JM: I’m kind of enjoying it. I’ve done little tours around the North and the North-West in particular, but for this I’m going down to Brighton and across to Kendal – places like that. I’m going everywhere, really. I’m actually at home today, just looking at a squirrel outside my window. You don’t need to know that, but it’s the truth. It’s not a cute sight; it’s going through the bins.
KW: I suppose the idea of a tour is the natural progression for comedians these days…
JM: Yeah, it is. I’ve been standing on stage trying to make people laugh for the last eleven years, so it’s what I do. I don’t find it easy, but I find it natural, and when you go on tour you’ve just got a bit more time; people come and see you, so you don’t have to try and impress them in the first minute like you do in a club where you have to go, “I am funny! Please don’t throw chicken wings at me!” So it’s good, and it’s nice, and you’re in a theatre and you get all that and a little dressing room, and a little towel and a bottle of water…it’s quite show-business.
KW: I guess now is the perfect time to get into stand-up since it’s becoming a very mainstream art form. How does comedy compare now to when you were a whippersnapper?
JM: Well it’s become very, very popular, and it may be something to do with economics, you know, it may be the fact that people are kind of being careful about what they spend. They can come to see me and it’s not expensive; I’m not the Eagles – I’m not fifty-five quid a ticket!
When you’re in recession and the times are tough the birth rate goes up and comedy does well. Those are the two definite positives, really. Comedy always does well when you’ve got things to talk about, and I’m not a political comedian but I can talk about things like prices going up and the riots. Things like that.
I approach every day like it’s a new day…which is a good way to do it because that’s what it is! And I go on stage and talk about what’s on my mind, and what I think, and I try and make people laugh. I’m not really a preaching comedian like some. I’ve got opinions and I kind of share them, but I’m not trying to change the world!
KW: So that’s your drive then? Simply to make people laugh?
JM: Do you want to know what my drive is? I’m a shallow, ego-driven, little show-off. And the day as a stand-up comedian that you realise that you’re a pathetic human being who was bullied at school and just wants to be loved then that’s it! You know, that’s the kind of people we are, and most comedians are like that; little show-offs who want to make people laugh. Horrible, little, dirty-
KW: What were you like at school then? Did you really get bullied?
JM: I was lazy. I was naughty, but I never really got into trouble, I’ve never got caught, really. I was with the good kids. I wasn’t in the gang – I wasn’t with the bad gang – but I never did my homework, I never did that sort of thing. And my son’s fourteen now, and he got his report at the end of last term, and it said, “You know, he’s a bright boy, he can do well and everything, but he doesn’t seem to work hard and he spends most of his time trying to be the centre of attention.” And I’m thinking, I wonder where he gets that from?
Looking back, I think all my mates were funny, and I think we had running jokes – and I think I was the one who would take the joke a little bit too far. I’d be the one to say it out loud; I’d be the one who, you know, got detention when in sex education the teacher said “Before we go into the ins and outs of sexual intercourse,” I pipe up with, “What about the ups and downs, sir?” “Outside.” So I never found out about the facts of life! I don’t even know how I got two kids; no one ever taught me.
KW: Can you remember what any of your report cards said?
JM: Could do better.
KW: Classic. There was talk not long back about a Phoenix Nights film. Do you know anything about that?
JM: Peter [Kay]’s talked about it a couple of times, and it’s one of those things where he’s probably said, “You know, I’d quite like to do a film – that’d be interesting.” Then cut straight to: Phoenix Nights The Movie here next week. I’ve not heard anything. I’m sure if they asked me I’d do it, but I don’t know. It was just a job that I did, and I got asked to do it and I was grateful for it and I’d love to do it again, but it’s not like I can ring Peter and go, “Can you, uh, can we do that film then, please?”
KW: Do you think any of the cast realised what a success that show was going to be?
JM: I think it was a bit of a sleeping success. You know, it’s been on television and it’s been online and people have watched it, but then it was one of those where people have got the DVD and have passed it round.
Then more people bought it, and it was viewed more on DVD, I believe, than it ever did when it was on TV. Andrew Ryan, who’s doing some support for me on the tour, bought it in Ireland and he gave it to a bloke at work, and he said to Andrew a couple of days later, “Mate, it’s brilliant. It’s like a box of chocolates. You don’t want to finish it, you just want to enjoy it and watch an episode a day.” So hearing stuff like that is really nice! People loved it and it’s great to be a part of it. I was only a little bit of it – it wasn’t my thing – but it was great to be part of. Beautiful.
KW: How did you get the part of Young Kenny, out of interest?
JM: I kind of knew Peter [Kay]. I’d met him a few times, and he was quite popular in the North. I mean, he was just about to hit the big time. I’d met him a couple of times when I started doing stand-up comedy, and I said to him, “Can I audition?” and he went, “Yeah, course you can. You’re the first person who’s asked for an audition and not for a part!”
Justin Moorhouse is at the Darlington Arts Centre on Friday 11th November 2011. More information can be found on his website here. Also, an audio file of Katey Wallace’s interview with Justin can be listened to here via Radio Teesdale’s Listen Again feature.