Interview: Milton Jones
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Best known for his mad scientist hair and his Hawaiian shirts, London-born Milton Jones is a one-liner comedian whose jokes and puns are delivered in a deadpan and slightly nervous style. He chats to TNS about his career, his television work and his upcoming tour. How did you get in to stand-up comedy? Years ago, I tried to be an actor and that didn’t work. You can do stand-up really quickly if you’re prepared to get up and do it, so that’s what I did. Gradually that took over and sort of coincided with their being more of an interest in stand-up. You’re responsible for what you write. You can do two or three shows in one night so you’re not waiting for someone else to phone all the time. Altogether, it’s a more secure way of living. How did you get into one-liners? I didn’t choose to do one-liners. I think I was so scared I needed to get to the joke as quickly as possible, so that’s what you end up with. If you try to get to the joke as quickly as possible, you end up with a load of really short jokes and then someone else says “Oh, you do one-liners” so you have to agree with them. That’s just how it happened. It’s great for the telly and radio because I can get in really quickly with a joke but, if I’m doing an hour and a half show, that’s a lot of one-liners. It’s quite hard work to put a whole show together. Is it difficult remembering all your gags? Sometimes I don’t remember them in truth. Usually they’re clubbed together under subjects, so I do all my school jokes, all my work jokes together to give it some kind of resemblance of order. But quite often I come off stage and go “Oh, I forgot to do that.” As long as I don’t forget halfway through a sentence, I usually get away with it. Is it hard being a Christian and a comic? I think, in a way, I wouldn’t be a comic if I wasn’t a Christian. I wouldn’t have the courage to do it. I think it’s probably harder to be an actor than a Christian actually because you’re doing what other people have asked you to say. Sometimes you wouldn’t be sure if that you wanted to do it. Whereas at least I write all my own stuff so it’s my own fault if I don’t like what I have got. I think, probably at the beginning, it took longer to get going because I didn’t want to go down certain roads of writing. I didn’t want to swear my way through ten minutes. I wanted to have actual jokes, and that took longer to learn I think. You mentioned you don’t swear in your stand-up. Do you think that limits your content? Obviously it does in some ways but the other side of that is now that I get whole families coming to see me and I’m often asked to do shows that are what they call “family-friendly,” which, if I developed another style, I just wouldn’t be able to do. What tips do you have for anyone trying to get in to stand-up comedy? You’ve got to try as hard as you can for two years and, if you’re not getting anywhere after that, give up. The key thing is to do as much as you can and don’t wait for the phone to ring. Turn up at clubs, get on stage, go to Edinburgh, book a show, rent a theatre. Someone described it as learning a musical instrument, except you do your entire practise in public. There’s a lot of really funny people who give up because they can’t stand failing in public. You’ve got to develop a thick enough skin to fail in public. It’s all about being tenacious as much as being talented to begin with. Quite a few people, who I won’t name, who weren’t funny at all but have just kept going and now they have a career. It’s about being bloody-minded that you just keep on going and, conversely, there’s some people who are really funny and have just given up. For me, it was just I didn’t have any other thing that I was good at, so I just had to keep going. I think it’s hard if you’re multi-talented and you get a job doing something else but, in a way, it’s worked out for me because there wasn’t anything else.
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