The unstoppable Phill Jupitus is back on tour again and this time, thankfully, it’s in his new chosen home: Scotland. In SASSY KNACK (hope you enjoy the pun), Phill will be sharing yarns and thoughts from his time up north with his usual wit and flavour. With the tour commencing in Dunkeld on 19th May, Phill spoke with The Fountain about what the audience can expect from this show as well as his wider plans whilst north of the border.
TF: You’ve your new tour in Scotland, SASSY KNACK, clever title, to some of the most scenic parts of Scotland, how exciting? Is that deliberate, inhale some clean air, inspire fresh comedy?
It’s my agents and my promoters that work with a local Rob who does Scottish tours and he is very much aware that there is an audience out in venues scattered around Scotland, and he just finds them. It’s not about let’s hit these key markets, it’s more about let’s take something to places that don’t normally get something like this. The gig that I did in Ullapool two years ago and to think that I am going back there is great, it’s a tiny little village hall, with only about eighty people there. There is a very weird thing I find when I am doing these gigs, the Scottish tours, a lot of the audience know each other. You do feel like you are doing a private party sometimes but I like that.
There’s an energy with people thinking, it really is him, he really has come to see us, which reminds me a bit of why I started doing this in the early days, the energy of the live performance or the performer is a key thing. I don’t like that feeling that you are kind of just going through the motions, people see the name, buy the ticket because they have nothing better to do. I like the fact that live performing is a sort of unique thing, and going somewhere special ramps up the uniqueness of that energy. As soon as my agent asked if I wanted to do another Scottish tour I didn’t even blink, and I will do a longer one if I can. I would be very happy, I mean it wouldn’t be sustainable, but to only play Scotland. These gigs feel good to me, this feel fantastic.
TF: Out of the eleven dates, which are you most looking forward to?
I have to say, that as a childhood fan of The Wombles, you know what I am going to say, it was Tobermory, it just leapt out at me, I didn’t even know what it was when I first heard that word, and now it’s a place that I am doing a gig. From a completely childish perspective it was that, but oddly, Dundee, I am very much looking forward to playing Dundee. The first time I ever came to Dundee was when I was tour managing The Housemartins in 1986 and it was great. I remember it being a really good gig and I keep saying I have never played Dundee, well I have because I did that gig with The Housemartins but I was only compering it so it was when I was doing the poetry, which I am doing again on this tour.
The poetry side of what I do, I let slip for years, and I started doing it again at the Fringe about eight years ago and it re-awoke that side of the creative process for me, the freedom of stand-up comedy is that you don’t have to adhere to form in any way, you can be very loose and improvisational. Whereas poetry is almost the exact opposite, it’s all about form and structure and I found that having to write poems about things that I might have under other circumstances, done stand-up material about, was in a way, weirdly, counterintuitively quite freeing. So I like going on initially and doing half an hour of poetry and then having an interim and then doing stand-up in the second half. And also I find the poetry flies a lot better in Scotland than it does in some other places I think. There is such a great verbal tradition, it’s almost like it’s half-wired into your DNA and so, I find that when I do the poetry in Scotland there is a lot of “I didn’t know you did that.” And people dig that as well.
TF: And what can we expect from this new tour, you mentioned there will be poetry?
As one becomes more mature, as I get older, and I’ve been doing this now for well over thirty years and that whole structure of audience arrives in venue, has drink in bar, sits in auditorium, waits for bloke to arrive, bloke walks on stage and does act, bloke hides for twenty minutes whilst the audience has another drink, bloke re-emerges, does act, leaves, audience gets excited and maybe he comes and does another bit, I’ve wanted to play with that structure. So for this tour I am on stage all night, so as they arrive I am sat on stage with music on my iPad, and when I get clearance from the venue, I start the gig from on stage, and I do the first half of poetry. In the interim I hang around with the audience in the auditorium, and I just chat with them. I’ve never really done that before.
Normally the only time you meet your audience is when people want autographs or selfies, who hang around at the end. I thought to get rid of that odd, awkward bit of let’s meet at the end but just wandered around and forced myself on people. I just ask why did you come, have you seen me before, it’s nice to chat to people to have basically been bank whelming an absurd lifestyle for me for thirty years, it feels more polite to walk amongst them and say thanks for coming, and ask what they do for a change. So I started doing that on my UK tour last year, and I don’t think I would do it any other way now. It’s just nice to meet people and chat with them. So, yes, I am in the room with the audience from the moment the doors open, and then when the gig finishes they go quicker, it’s nice.
TF: Since being up north have you checked out the Scottish comedy scene, venues like The Stand etc, is there anyone up and coming that you would recommend we all look out for?
I think being in Fife, that’s the one thing that certainly there’s no comedy gigs, there used to be one in Dundee I think, but I don’t think there is a regular night in Fife anywhere. When I am in Edinburgh, well there is loads, there’s The Stand, The Monkey Barrel, I know that Karen has set one up, the Gilded have set up a regular weekend set now, there is a very buzzy scene in Edinburgh but of course Edinburgh gets the world’s biggest, buzzing comedy month in August, so I always find it quite odd.
Last year, I had done the Edinburgh Fringe and in the space of the month, I had done 68 shows and I was coming out the back of that, and I was about to do the final leg of my UK tour (another forty dates) and my agent phoned up and said, the pleasance in Edinburgh want you to play, and I was like are you sure, I have just done the Fringe and I have done 68 gigs, I have basically played to 7 – 10,000 people in August, are you sure that we can do another, and they thought the Pleasance could do another. The week before the gig the Pleasance, they called me up and said, you’ve sold 17 tickets and I was not surprised, they’ve been able to see me in August and two of the shows were free. What I quite like is that I can set that part of my life to one side, I am not desperate to gig. As much as I love performing live, there is nothing as good as the feeling as when you stop.
TF: And after SASSY KNACK what can we look forward to, will you be performing at the Fringe this year?
Yes, but to a much more reduced capacity. A couple of years ago they started doing Whose Line Is It Anyway, Clive, Greg and Mike McShane and some of the regulars from the show were doing a kind of live version of it at the Assembly. I am not sure which venue they are doing that this year but they are doing it again and I got a phone call to ask if I wanted to do a few. I originally was not going to do the Fringe at all this year because I am doing the Pittenweem Arts Festival, I am showing my collage and sketch work as part of Pittenweem this year, so that would be the first week in August so that knocks out most of the Fringe but the Whose Line people phoned up and I thought why not, you know, it’s money and it’s nice, so I am doing it in a slightly reduced capacity.
For more information and tickets for the tour click here.