Interview: Justin Moorhouse

Interview: Michael Simon
Wednesday 27 April 2011
reading time: min, words

"Hostility isn't a problem, really, indifference is much worse. If people are indifferent you can't change them."


Justin Moorhouse is currently most recognisable as Young Kenny from Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights. He spent the majority of the series wearing tiger face paint, after being made up with car paint by a con man, but there’s considerably more to the man than that. In fact, Justin has his own prime time slot on Manchester radio station Key 103 as well as making various appearances in pantomime and on the small screen. Indeed, Justin is reported to be Jimmy Carr’s favourite comedian, the two of them being old friends. Later in the year Justin will be touring his brand new stand up show Who’s the Daddy? around the country. His favourite joke involves poo…

So, am I right in saying that you're on the radio for three hours a day?
I am yes.

So what exactly do you talk about for all that time?
Well, we do a lot of music, and we have features, and we have guests on. It's not just hours of me chatting away. It's just having a bit of fun, you know?

Do you get to pick your own music or does the station decide?
No, unfortunately we get the music picked for us.

So do you end up playing stuff you don't particularly like?
Sometimes… I don't know. I guess we play the songs that everybody loves!

I heard that you were nominated for an interactive programme award. What makes your show interactive?
Well, we have phone-ins and text-ins and we have people getting involved in the show. We have a jokes competition every day where we set the subject and people send in the punchlines. We did one with “What's the difference between Beyonce and the Labour party?” The best response was “One has a party political broadcast and the other has a partly revealed broad ass.”

So does your radio work feed into your comedy material?
It can do. The radio show is kind of like the stand-up I do, but slightly watered down. You might talk about something on the radio that makes me laugh and then I'll adapt that to use it on stage.

Do you tone down the radio show a little bit then?
Well, you can't swear on the radio. I swear on stage and it can be a little bit outrageous, but obviously we haven't got that on the radio. It takes a little while for the texts to come through but I've had “Get off, you’re rubbish.”

So have you ever got in trouble for anything that you've said on the radio?
No, not so far.

Did being Young Kenny help you get the radio job?
Obviously that's been a help. I was doing a gig in Manchester and the boss of the radio station came to see me and had a chat with me afterwards. I don't think that he'd known I was in Phoenix Nights, but it's never been a hindrance, it's always opened doors.

Is there such a thing as a distinct northern sense of humour?
I'm not sure really. I haven't really noticed that I have to do anything different when I'm in the south, or at the moment, when I'm at the Edinburgh festival. Besides, people only attach that to someone who's Northern anyway. You wouldn't call something London comedy, would you? You wouldn't say Only Fools and Horses is Cockney humour. All sitcoms have to be set somewhere don't they?

Were most of the people in the show from the comedy circuit?
Yeah, more or less everyone on the show was a stand-up. No one had had any real acting training.

So your current show is about parenting?
Yeah, it's about having a kid and being a dad and what it's like raising a child now. It's still stand-up, it's not a slide show saying “Look at my kids, aren't they cute.” That's the show that I'm doing in Edinburgh at the moment, it's called Who's the Daddy? and it’s an hour long show. When I come touring it'll be fresher and there'll be more interaction with the audience and that sort of thing.

So is that all coming from personal experience then?
Yeah, it's all true, I might embellish the truth but I don't make anything up. It's all true, I've got two kids, a boy who's ten and a girl who's two.

Does your ten year old get to see the show then?
No, no, no! No, he won't be seeing it. It's not suitable for ten year olds!

What does your partner make of you using your life for comedy material?
She knows it’s for the job and everything and if she wants to get along with me she's got to let me do it. Sometimes on the radio, because it's very local, I work and live in Manchester, I don't go into the ins and outs of our domestic life. You have to have something and if I talk about the fact that she's done something stupid, then she has to live with it. It's never been a problem really, but my little lad at school sometimes has his friends at school thinking that I'm a millionaire because I'm on the radio. So I have to explain to him, “Tell them that, no, Daddy's not a millionaire. If I was a millionaire you wouldn't be at this school, work that one out!”

So are there any areas that you'd never go?
Well, I don't know if I'd talk about the ins and outs of my sex life, but I'm a comedian, so everything's fair game really.

How does radio compare to live performances? In a way, on the radio, you're alone, but reaching a much larger audience than on stage…
Yeah, that's strange, it's trying to imagine those people listening and what're they're doing. On the stage you get an immediate reaction and you can tell if something's going right, or if it needs to be changed or pitched differently. On the radio you're out there on your own really. I always have someone with me in the studio, so I've got a repartee with someone, at least. You can get things out of both really.

What kind of crowds are you going to be playing to when you tour Who's the Daddy?
The sort of audiences I get are around two hundred people. I'm trying to build up a reputation for myself on the live circuit and stretch out a bit, on some nights in Manchester I'm doing a two thousand seater venue. Hopefully people will enjoy the show and come back next year and I can sell a few more tickets. You can do as many interviews and put up as many posters as you want, but if people see you and tell their friends it makes all the difference.

Have you ever done your show in Nottingham before?
I've never done my own show there, but I've worked with other people. I worked with the Just The Tonic club and I've always had a good time. The manager Darrell is Mr Comedy in Nottingham and I've always had a good time playing the club.

What kind of thing does your routine normally take in, other than parenting?
The most important thing to me is making people laugh about the everyday things in life. I don't do politics; I just talk about my experiences. I don't always talk about parenting, but it's not Beyond the Fringe.

I've heard that you're Jimmy Carr's favourite comedian.
I got that into my posters, yeah! We started out together and we turn to each other for advice to this day. He's brilliant, he's a really, really nice man. He's much nicer than his on screen persona makes you believe. He comes across as a hard faced comedian, who delivers the lines with a little bit of venom, but off stage he's done good to me on many occasions and I couldn't be happier that he’s as successful as he is. I don't think he's skint is he? He's got the lifestyle that I want to achieve, he's on TV, but he works every week of the year and he's constantly on tour to a live audience, which is the most important thing.

It might be a generalisation, but where there's an almost innocent quality to Peter Kay's routine, Jimmy Carr's is comparatively cruel. Where do you fit in there?
I’m right in the middle of that! To be honest, in my routine, the butt of the joke is me. I try to make it self deprecating and I don't really like making victims or that sort of thing. It's an interesting thing to try and analyse what you do and I've never really sat down and thought “I can't write that because it's not what I do.” You just do what comes naturally, and it never really becomes more complicated than that.

So how do you write material?
Well, I sit down and write an hour's worth of stuff and when we take that on tour it'll last longer. I began writing this show in February or March and going into little comedy clubs and trying it out, to see what worked and what I'd chuck. That works into ten or fifteen different routines and then I write them down and put them in order. It's been good really, starting from scratch. Generally when you're on the circuit stuff gets moved around and changed, but this has been brand new, from scratch.

Do you ever get a hostile audience?
Yeah sometimes, but that's the nature of the beast. Hostility isn't a problem, really, indifference is much worse. If people are indifferent you can't change them. If people are paying to come and see me, they usually won’t be like that! Hopefully it'll be an assembly of joy.

So where are you aiming for the future?
I've done a couple of bits of serious acting but not a lot. Because I’m doing the radio show, time constraints make it really difficult. If you want to be in a drama, you have to be available all week and I haven't got that sort of time to take off. It's perhaps something to do when I've finished radio, so who knows?

Is there a particular job that you'd ever give up doing radio for?
Well, I love doing radio, but who knows, it might not be a question of me giving up radio, but it giving me up.

So, to conclude, what's your favourite joke?
What's brown and sticky?

A stick?
Nah, dog poo.

Justin Moorhouse plays Just The Tonic at The Forum on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th April 2011.

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