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23 November 2010

Milton Jones - Comedian

Milton Jones - Comedian

Milton Jones is a stand-up comedian. In 1996, he won the Perrier Comedy Award for best newcomer.  Famous for quick-fire one-liners, puns and slightly surreal humour that remains consistently family-friendly, he has had various shows on BBC Radio 4, at the beginning of which he is sometimes announced as 'Britain's funniest Milton'.

He has also appeared in five episodes of Mock the Week, performs regularly at the Comedy Store and tours the UK. Candy O’Donovan caught up with him at Greenbelt 2010.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

Er, a cabbage farmer. Yes, my parents grew cabbages…

Do your family come to your shows?

They do sometimes - I was at Reading festival this week and they all were all there. They're always slightly nervous about what I'm going to say. But my elder son is 20 now and writes me gags. I try material out on the family, but they're quite tough and I need to catch them in the right mood. If I produce a piece of paper at dinner time they all go "Oh, no".

They like the fact I can get tickets for things like Reading Festival - they don't particularly come to see me. If I do Mock the Week my daughter can get her picture taken with Russell Howard which goes down pretty well.

Who inspired you to try stand-up comedy?

Stand-ups were never very interesting when I was growing up. I was more inspired by Leonard Rossiter and Ronnie Barker, because at the time I wanted to be an actor. As stand-up evolved in the 1980s, folks like Ben Elton, Eddie Izzard and Jack Dee seemed to speak our language. I did follow the early stand-up work of Patrick Marber (The Day Today, Knowing Me, Knowing You... with Alan Partridge).

What's the appeal? And the downside?

You get all the laughs to yourself! And you get to meet many famous people, sometimes politicians. However, I did a show with Alistair Campbell recently - he was the compere and very charming. He introduced the show and then sat in the front row writing down everything we said. At half time we asked him "Are you writing down our jokes?" and he just flipped. That sort of experience makes it difficult not to be cynical to some degree about fame and the business - everyone has a spin and agenda that isn't actually on the surface. You only see what they choose to give you. It's only when you spend time one to one you find out what they're really like. So I wouldn't believe anything written in the paper, even if it was about a friend of mine, until I'd talked to them. Because I've met journalists before, with respect…

How does being a Christian affect the way you do stand-up?

When people start off in stand-up comedy they often swear more than they need to - it's an easy way to get a laugh and lards up thin material. I don't want to do that, so I have to get to the joke quickly, which is why I do so many one-liners. Christians can take longer to get started in comedy because of that, but we get the benefit later as we can do family shows.

It's not a good channel for evangelism - if I was to talk about how I see the world in faith terms, people wouldn't laugh, probably. As soon as you say you're a Christian, it doesn't matter how much you smile and hug, because you're basically telling people - if they aren't a Christian - they're wrong. You could play on stereotypes about bad breath or bad clothes but it feels lame and I wouldn't want to go near that. 

If I managed to be evangelistic at all it would be by the way I do something, not what I'm saying on stage. I like the idea of breaking a stereotype, but if you go out specifically to do that you can become something you're not.

It sometimes annoys me when people say "Oh you're a really nice bloke" - as it's only relative.  If that's the best thing about you, then it's really bad.

Tell us a joke

Some people see the church as a giant helicopter. They're scared to get too close in case they get sucked into the rotas.