Joz Norris has retired or possibly died, who cares? All that matters is Mr Fruit Salad, a fictional chimaera he created as a form of self-care, has developed autonomy and is putting on a solo show. Absurdist meditation on anxiety and grief performed by an idiot from Pontefract who doesn’t exist. Sell-out show at VAULT Festival and Leicester Comedy Festival 2019, Joz Norris is Dead. Long Live Mr Fruit Salad is in Edinburgh for the month of August and Joz spoke with The Fountain about the show in more depth.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how excited are you?
The Fringe is always the creative highlight of my year, so I’m as excited as I always am. You get to spend a month sharing and exploring something you built with people who love it, and spending time with all your other daft friends who are into doing this strange thing with their lives. You get to completely believe in the bubble of making things and being silly for a big old stretch of time. I’m even more excited this year because last year I didn’t do a full solo show, I just did some acting in a friend’s play instead. So I’ve tried to push myself further and harder this year and make something that really commits to a certain aesthetic and tone in order to feel different from anything else I’ve made before. I’m excited to see how that additional work transforms my experience of the Fringe.
TF: Joz Norris Is Dead. Long Live Mr Fruit Salad. certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?
The idea, in a way, is similar to a lot of other character comedy shows – the comedian can’t be there for some reason, so the character is filling in for them. I did a show with the exact same premise in 2013, but a considerably less thought-through version. The big difference with this show that excites me is that the character at the centre of it (Mr Fruit Salad) isn’t a character, he’s a way of looking at things and a way of doing things. He’s well aware he doesn’t exist, and as such he becomes a prism through which to look at myself and to look at a lot of big ideas – why we hide from people at the same time as trying to make connections with them, why we shrink parts of ourselves, why it’s so hard to communicate to other human beings how we’re feeling. It’s a daft, stupid nonsense show in which someone who is effectively a cartoon character indulges in the ridiculous, but I’m trying to use that to cast light on some ideas I really care about.
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
My shows always tend to be built around a single image that leaps into my head and everything else expands from there. In 2016 it was me growing out of a cardboard box and in 2017 it was me tangled in a giant web. I won’t spoil this year’s as it’s a nice surprise, but it’s essentially a visual idea that crops up in a lot of Looney Tunes cartoons and some of the Pink Panther opening credits, and I realised that because of the visual, two-dimensional nature of Mr Fruit Salad, it was an image I could actually put onstage this year. So the show’s heavily influenced by cartoons and by the physical nonsense of Laurel & Hardy, and the conceptual storytelling of Geoff Sobelle, and the ambient music of The Caretaker, and the novels of Ben Lerner, and the film Toni Erdmann and, as ever, the very heart of my understanding of what comedy is comes from the Muppets.
TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?
My hope for this year’s Fringe is to make a show which I can look back at and truly believe it succeeded in expressing the feeling I wanted to express. Most of my shows I look back on and think “Hmm, almost,” and so far the only show I’ve made which I think truly knocked it out of the park in terms of expressing a single idea just how I wanted to was my 2016 show Hello, Goodbye. Mind you, I think that process of looking back and thinking “Hmm, almost,” is the creative process, so I don’t mind too much what happens. I’d like people to have fun watching the show. My tip for first-time Fringers would be to not worry about anything AT ALL other than two simple things – are you enjoying performing your show every day, and does sharing it with people make you proud? And do you focus on the audience every day as a group of new friends who you want to enjoy what you’ve made, or are you busy thinking about yesterday’s great audience, or tomorrow’s audience when that reviewer will be in? If you can sort out those two things and get the right attitude to both of those questions, then everything else is noise.
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
I’d like to go to the beach at Portobello, because I’ve been going to the Fringe for eight years now and have still never been. I’d also like to go to the Camera Obscura, because that sounds fun, and I’ll be going round the Botanics and Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat like I always do because they are places that make me feel very peaceful and very happy.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond Joz Norris Is Dead. Long Live Mr Fruit Salad?
I’ve got a bunch of scripted projects in development to be pushing ahead with after Edinburgh – a couple of TV ideas, a couple of short films, a webseries, a radio thing, and Ed Aczel and I will be premiering our latest film. I’d also love to do a London transfer of the show if possible, and Thom Tuck and I are potentially working on a theatre piece about the mathematician Douglas R. Hofstadter, so I guess we’ll start work on that. Might try to grab a few days in the countryside first before I get stuck into all that, though, I’ll be tired.
You can see Joz Norris Is Dead. Long Live Mr Fruit Salad at Heroes @ The Hive until 25th August at 16:40. For tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/