Victoria Theatre, Halifax, Sunday, November 19
‘People have said to me, “On one level it’s quite clever, and on another level it’s not clever at all,”’ says Milton Jones, analysing his own comedy. ‘I think that’s a compliment,’ he laughs. ‘I’m not sure. You could take it either way.’
Over the last 20 years Jones has established himself as the master of one-liners. The professor of puns. The king of the zingers. And nonsense has always played a crucial role in his streams of non-sequiturs.
Even Jones’s on stage appearance screams ‘absurd’: the wild hair, wide eyes and garish Hawaiian shirts. Put those alongside his beautifully constructed pieces of wordplay, and it’s helped the 52-year-old stand-up stand out among the t-shirt and suit-wearing comics on ‘Mock the Week’, which Jones has been regularly appearing on since 2009.
But, in his new touring show – ‘Milton Jones is Out There’ – we see Jones questioning the importance of his own nonsense in our increasingly divided times. Could we see an end to the silliness and pun-foolery? Answer: absolutely not, as he explains to Go readers here.
The blurb for the new show talks about you ‘running for prime minister’ and having a ‘manifesto of nonsense’. What can you tell us about the show?
‘As well as me doing loads of trademark jokes and little sketchy pieces, the show sees me thinking: with all that’s going on in the world, maybe I should be doing something more serious rather than talking nonsense. I seem to have a crisis of confidence in terms of: is nonsense of any value? And of course that results in more nonsense rather than less.’
Is it difficult to mould a show in that way – to include a message and a narrative – via lots of one-liners?
‘Yes, it is. I end up with a massive bag of jokes which probably don’t fit, which is really annoying.’
What are the key differences between the persona and the real Milton Jones?
‘I think most comics are accentuated versions of themselves, to some degree. I am, apparently, quite clumsy and I don’t approach things particularly rationally. I quite often see the other side of things. The differences are, hopefully, I’m not socially obtuse! I’m quite conventional – I’m married, I have three kids, a house… – so it’s almost an escapism from normality. I don’t have to be responsible. I don’t have to pay car tax.’
How easy is it to find the right kind of shirt?
‘It’s quite hard. It can’t be “whacky” in a stag night way. It needs to be more, just “…no”. There has to just be too much brown in it or something.’
The shirts certainly make an impression on ‘Mock the Week’. You’ve been on the show for a long time now.
‘I was on recently and I was the third oldest person there in terms of appearances. It felt quite odd. I think the BBC now uses “Mock the Week” to try people out, and it means there’s a whole new batch of people coming through, which is great. I feel like a senior statesman.’
And a joke you performed on ‘Mock the Week’ was the inspiration for the new show…
‘Yes, about Boris Johnson. “An idiot with stupid hair running the country?” Bing! That’s where it started. I feel like I’m destined to play Boris Johnson at some point.’
Do you actually have a file of your jokes?
‘I have an “all my material” file on my computer, yes. You’ve got to wade through it, but it’s worth it because there’s loads of stuff in there I’ve forgotten off the top of my head.’
Tickets for Milton Jones Is Out There are on sale from 01422 351158.