Rocking with laughter

Milton Jones
Milton Jones
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Milton Jones is back on the road stopping off at Sheffield City Hall next Wednesday, February 20, with his new tour, which is imaginatively entitled On The Road.

Perhaps most recognised by his garish shirts and sticky-up hair, Milton Jones is a master of one-liners.

With regular appearances on Mock the Week as well as Live at the Apollo and various bits of Radio including nine series for Radio 4, such as Another Case of Milton Jones and The Very World of Milton Jones, the latter of which received a Sony Award, Milton is becoming more and more popular.

Appearing last at Sheffield City Hall in 2011 with his Lion Whisperer tour, which played to over 100,000 people, his 2013 tour On The Road is set to play to even more with new material and a few pictures he drew himself. Clever, surreal but mainly just stupid, stupid, stupid.

To add to Milton’s accolades, he’s also a former Perrier Best Newcomer and Perrier Nominee and held the Chortle website’s Headliner of the Year title for 2011. His sitcom pilot The House of Rooms written with Dan Evans went out on Channel Four in January 2012 and he has even written a novel Where Do Comedians Go When They Die?

Find out more about the man behind the jokes with a Milton Jones Q&A;

Where were you born?

Kew Gardens. Not in the actual Gardens themselves, in the village near by. Not a very urban place to grow up really, although parts of it were ‘like a jungle’ – eg the Palm House.

Is Milton your real name?

I’m afraid so. As a child I heard all the jokes about being ‘keen’, sterilising fluid and always having bits of food in my hair. Actually, that last one might not be to do with my name. One of my ambitions is to one day overhear someone make fun of Milton Keynes by calling it ‘Milton Jones’.

What kind of a family do you come from?

My dad was a physicist and my mum was a housewife. I had a nice suburban upbringing, went to a good school and mixed with normal people. Obviously, my only worry growing up was that if I ever wanted to become a comedian I would have nothing to be really angry about.

Did you make people laugh at school?

Maybe behind my back, but I was always quite a quiet kid and kept myself to myself – probably the sort who often eventually gets hold of a gun and takes hostages. Fortunately I discovered acting instead.

So you wanted to be an actor?

Yes, but no-one else wanted me to – well, I didn’t have much work at the time. But the thing about stand-up is that if you have the bottle you can get up and do it if you want. So I gave it a try. My first few attempts weren’t great but I was arrogant enough to keep going. When it began to work I noticed that unlike acting, you didn’t have to rehearse or share the laughs with anyone else. But also unlike acting if it went wrong there was no-one else to blame.

So how did you end up doing one-liners?

I’ve always had a short concentration span. I think I appeal to other people who have short concentration spans. (Not that they will have read this far.) I think if a one-liner succeeds you put a tiny but entertaining cartoon in peoples’ heads.

What’s it like being on Mock the Week?

It’s a bit like doing a comedy exam in public. The hardest part is to get a word in when other people are talking. But next series I will be distracting people with my lucky klaxon.

Where do you get your shirts?

Retro shops usually. If people don’t remember my name at least they remember the shirt. Actually people have started turning up to my shows wearing that type of shirt now. They shouldn’t do it, they don’t understand what they’re messing with!

You’ve also done nine series for Radio 4 – do you prefer radio or television?

Radio is great because its reading some words out while someone presses ‘record’. TV requires lots of meetings, equipment and hundreds of people – most of whom I have no idea what they do. But television is ultimately more powerful, and reaches a bigger range of people. I love Radio 4 though, it’s a bit like listening to the voice of your parents after you’ve left home. Oh yes, my mum would often read us the Shipping Forecast until we fell asleep.

How has the comedy scene changed during your career?

Stand-up is much bigger now, but also less risky and inventive than it used to be. When I started there was an act called the Iceman who brought a giant block of ice on stage and melted it with a blowtorch while shouting weak puns about ice.

Okay, he’d be unlikely to sell out the O2 Arena but the circuit has lost some of its tin-pot charm.

Also all the reality competitions mean audiences often see things in terms of ‘who won?’ rather than just enjoying the variety of a show.

You have three children now, don’t you?

Yes they are the light of my life. I forget their names. They are also my severest critics of course – if I wear the wrong thing, if a joke doesn’t work or if I consistently refuse to let them out of the fridge. My wife is an illustrator so its always been hard for us to get them to take exams seriously as they weren’t much use to us. Anyway our children will probably all rebel and become accountants.

Tell us about the new tour show

On the Road will contain jokes, music, and pictures. It will also have descriptions of the tour so far – gigs in Glasgow, Narnia and 14th century France. Don’t come if you don’t like jokes though.

What’s the best or the worst heckle you’ve ever had?

Once when I was on stage someone shouted ‘What is this?’ It was a philosophical heckle really. I didn’t know what to reply. It was too big a question for me to answer.

In a way I’d like to have ended the show then and there. But we all carried on like idiots.

Do you have any hobbies?

I like running. Its sort of the physical opposite of what I do for a living. (standing still and talking). And obviously I’ve had a lot of practice trying to escape from angry audiences. I still play the odd bit of football too.

I hear you have an old VW camper van?

True. It’s called Mother Teresa because it’s blue and white and old. Over the years we’ve often crammed all the kids and their stuff in and headed off to the country to solve mysteries, like they did in Scooby Doo.

Any plans for the future?

After On the Road I would like to do more TV acting, have my own TV show and maybe be in a film. Then I would like to own a castle, a small city and so on until eventually I have an empire that stretches from West London to the outskirts of China. But to be honest, it’s more likely to be the same round of radio, TV panel games and odd visits to arts centres.