Sheffield’s Last Laugh comedy festival is going from strength to strength in its ninth year, with more than 90 acts appearing in the city in October.
One of the first big names to appear on stage at Sheffield City Hall Memorial Hall will be Phill Jupitus, one of the stars of much-loved TV pop quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
But, rather than the usual stand-up show, Phill has gone for character comedy in You’re Probably Wondering Why I’ve Asked You Here…
The comedian will play three characters – The Late Vernon Herschel Harley, a legend of stage and screen who died at the age of 114 just last Thursday, The Late Kurt Schiffer, the ‘Korvettenkapitan’ of the U42B, part of the German Navy’s feared Wolf Pack, which was the scourge of the Atlantic shipping lanes during the Second World War, and The Late Phill Jupitus, who died on June 24, 2052 on the eve of his 90th birthday.
He said: “I did a stand-up show two years ago that was just me telling jokes. It was great fun but I didn’t want to do the same thing again.
“So this time I was looking for a way of keeping myself interested in the job and I wanted to approach it in a more experimental way. That’s how the idea of doing character comedy evolved.”
Phill said: “Stand-up is generally risk-averse but I wanted to build something with an element of risk because that’s when the best stuff happens.”
The comedian, who enjoyed critical acclaim playing Edna Turnblad in the West End musical Hairspray and King Arthur in the UK and Irish tour of Spamalot, loves the element of the unexpected in the new show.
“The joy of stand-up is that when it’s at its best it is like improvisational jazz. It’s different every night – ‘You should have seen Art Tatum’s show on Tuesday!’
The audience can ask questions of the characters, which is where the improv comes from.
Phill said: “I’m trying to make each gig unique to that night. I want each evening to be special.
“The great thing about You’re Probably Wondering Why I’ve Asked You Here…is that it’s a show where I know the characters, but I don’t know what they’ll be asked.
“I wanted to find a way of incorporating into the live work the kind of thing that happens on Buzzcocks, where it flies in an entirely free-form manner. That flight of fancy element came from the panel show.
“Once the audience get what you’re doing, they start to participate, and that’s when the show really takes off.”
Phill appears in Sheffield next Thursday, October 3.
Box office: 0114 278 9789 or go to www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk