I’m destined to play Boris Johnson says comedian Milton Jones, heading to King’s Lynn, Southend, Norwich, Ipswich and Cambridge
PUBLISHED: 19:00 27 April 2017
Comedy is Milton Jones’ escape from normality. He talks more about stage Milton and real-life Milton, plus his latest show.
“People have said to me ‘on one level it’s quite clever and on another level it’s not clever at all’,” says Milton, 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 he’s established himself as the master of one-liners. Nonsense has always played a crucial role in his streams of non-sequiturs.
It - and his distinctive look - have helped the stand-up stand out among the T-shirt and suit-wearing comics on Mock the Week, which Milton has been regularly appearing on since 2009.
“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.
“The new lot all know each other, so I think it’s less competitive than it used to be. There’s more teamwork. It’s a more pleasant show to do.”
Basically, adds Milton, you’re covering all the subjects in the news that haven’t got someone dying in them so he goes through his arsenal.
“A lot of people think it’s a satire show, but it’s not, it’s a joke show – which suits me.”
A joke he performed on Mock the Week inspired his 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.”
In Milton Jones is Out There we see him questioning the importance of his own nonsense.
“As well as 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? Of course that results in more nonsense rather than less,” he says.
It’s difficult to mould a show in that way, to include a message and a narrative, via lots of one-liners.
“I end up with a massive bag of jokes which probably don’t fit, which is really annoying.”
The show isn’t really very political in terms of opinions or content, remaining fairly jokey.
“There is one pseudo-political joke, which is as near as I get. With my stuff, people remember the joke rather than the point. My aim with the tour is to add in a couple of moments of pathos, really questioning whether I’m on the right track,” he adds.
The on-stage Milton is a persona, which adds another filter for any opinions. He’s a character, but he still has Milton’s name?
“If I was starting again I would give him a name. He evolved as I tried out things – he was working so I stuck with it. But there are levels to him. I can pull things back and talk about my real life.
“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.”
He’s had many of his own series on Radio 4 and he’s working towards his own TV series.
“I’ve had three or four scripts that have come close. Who knows the truth of why these don’t happen, you get told one thing and whether it’s actually true, you don’t know. One day hopefully we’ll be in the right place at the right time.”
Milton’s never short of material.
“Fortunately I’ve done so many scripts now that if I think a subject’s coming up on Mock the Week I can put a key word into my material file. I have an all my material file on my computer. 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.”
Is there a particular formula to a Milton joke?
“It’s like balancing equations. There’s an ideal format, and yes it can work the other way round, but it’s not quite as elegant. It’s about getting the joke down to the lowest form of words, the minimal effort. That’s what really adds beauty to it.”
• Milton Jones visits King’s Lynn Corn Exchange, November 1; Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion, November 3; the Norwich Theatre Royal, November 5; Ipswich’s Regent Theatre, November 10 and Cambridge Corn Exchange, December 8.