Part of the Humourology series
Season 2, Episode 22
Milton Jones – One Liner Merchant Mirth Maker
Award-Winning Comic Milton Jones joins The Humourology Podcast to recount on a career of comedy. From handling hecklers, to owning the one-liner, Milton has established himself as one of the country’s top performers. Hear how he exerts his expertise on stages across the country only on The Humourology Podcast.
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Paul Boross is joined by one of the nation’s most recognisable comics. From his crazy hair to his even crazier shirts, Milton Jones has established his stage presence as one of the wittiest wizards of the one-liner. Milton shares his experiences on the stage and discusses just how important humour can be when the curtain goes up.
“Humour, if used properly, fills in that gap between hope and actual reality. And that’s very valuable.”
Join us this week as Milton Jones draws on years of experience to provide a Masterclass on comic performance, handling hecklers, and the power of proper stage presence.
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Humourology Podcast Series 2, Episode 22: Milton Jones – One Liner Merchant Mirth Maker
Milton Jones (00:00:00):
But my perception is that humour is loosely based on truth. And you know, that we’re all failed human beings and we’re all have things wrong with us. And we’re not… what’s the other quote? The famous one that humour is often the gap between aspiration and reality. I think in whatever environment you find yourself, it’s very healthy to know that you’re not all it and that we all make mistakes.
Paul Boross (00:00:37):
Welcome to the Humourology podcast with me, Paul Boross and my glittering lineup of guests from the worlds of business sport and entertainment who are going to share their wisdom and their use of humour with you. Humouroology is the study of how humour can dramatically improve your business success and your life. Humourlogy puts the fun into business fundamentals increases the value of your laughing stock and puts up punchline back into your bottom line. Please remember to like subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcast. My guest on this edition of the Humour ology podcast is an award-winning comedian known for his legendary one-liners. With his dead pan delivery. He has built a career performing puns that kill. He is s a warlock of wordplay and a wizard of wild hair. His stand-up has garnered several awards, including the Perrier best newcomer award, the Sony award for best comedy and the Chortle best headliner award. Just to name a few, when he isn’t masterfully performing on the stage, you can catch him surfing the radio and television waves on shows like thanks a lot. Milton Jones, which ran for four series on BBC Radio 4. On TV, he’s been on Live at the Apollo Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow, and is a regular on the BBC television series Mock The Week. If his legendary standup career has yet to catch your attention. Wait until you see his favourite shirts. Milton Jones. Welcome to the Humourology podcast. Hello
Milton Jones (00:02:23):
Paul, how are you?
Paul Boross (00:02:25):
I’m very well, indeed.
Paul Boross (00:02:26):
Thank you. Lovely to see you here in normal attire.
Milton Jones (00:02:31):
Yes, this is me on my day off.
Paul Boross (00:02:35):
I’ve heard you say that you were quite quiet at school, which is probably why you ended up doing one liners so every word counted. Was the young Milton Jones already thinking about funny lines, but maybe a little bit reticent to say them out loud?
Milton Jones (00:02:56):
Yes. I mean, when I go back and I meet someone from my old primary school, they say, I really didn’t say very much at all, but what I did say was quite often funny, even though that is my perception of it, what happened was later in school, I started doing drama and bits and pieces like that and actually impersonations of teachers. And actually a teacher thought a new boy had joined the school… I’d been there all the time, but he hadn’t actually noticed me until I started doing drama which I didn’t know is good or bad. I suppose I’m sort of an introvert by nature. Really. It’s weird because my wife is more of an extrovert and if we’re going to a party, she’ll say, oh good. We don’t know anyone there. I’ll go, oh no!, This sounds like the worst thing possible to me.
Speaker 1 (00:03:45):
So, yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t say very much, but there’s also that thing about performance being the shy person’s revenge on the world and I think that applied to me as well. You know, I felt like I had something to say, but it was easier to do it if I put on a mask and did it, and that sort of what I ended up doing for a living. Mind you, if you told me I was going to be doing that when I was six or seven, that would be the most scary thing I could think of in my entire life. But actually I feel like it’s almost someone else doing it. I’m possessed when I’m doing it. So it’s okay.
Speaker 2 (00:04:19):
Was humour valued in your family?
Speaker 1 (00:04:21):
Oh, yes. So my grandfather, my literal real grandfather was a fruit salesman in Swansea market. So he had to sort of get up and, you know, he’d hold two cucumbers together and say it was a massive, great cucumber. You know, he had patter basically. And then my other grandfather was a missionary in Germany. So he also had that kind of standup gene of getting up and addressing people. And I think sometimes that is genetic. Sometimes you talk to comedians and you know, it’s sort of in the family getting up and talking.I guess it’s a sort of genetic thing. And certainly at home, my dad was a fan of The Goons and we read scripts, even though we didn’t know what we were talking about just did silly voices and all of that was very encouraged. And there was sort of a lot of laughing at home, a lot of playing tricks on each other. And fortunately I managed to turn it into a job
Speaker 2 (00:05:26):
Well, didn’t we both. Isn’t it true that, I mean, both of us and we originally met at the Comedy Store a long time ago. The laugh is, is a drug that acceptance that, that thrill is really quite hard to replace by anything else.
Speaker 1 (00:05:45):
Absolutely. And I think the reason I ended up doing one liners was cause I was actually quite nervous. I needed to get as many laughs as possible in as short a time as could be done. So if that’s what you’re aiming at, you end up doing one liners and that’s handy for me when I’m doing television. Cause I get straight to the joke. Harder when I’m on tour and have to do an hour and 20 minutes show, you know, cause that is a lot, it’s 250 one-liners and that’s a lot of writing. So it’s a lot of effort to make happen, but yeah, but also, if people are socially awkward, if you can make people laugh, that fills a lot of the time so that you don’t have to come up with other material as it were. That’s sort of interesting, but not laugh out loud.
Speaker 1 (00:06:32):
And it’s sort of, it’s a kind of deflection process, you know, socially, you’re kind of going, no, look over there, there’s a lion or whatever, just to stop people looking at you. Even if I go to a party or something, I talk for an hour or two, but then I need to go to the bottom of the garden and just recollect my thoughts for 10 minutes and then come back in again, because it’s too intense. So this whole making people laugh is a way of going no back to you back to you all the time.
Speaker 2 (00:07:02):
So it’s essentially a shield, is it? That humour is the shield that actually then people can’t get inside that or… What’s happening?
Speaker 1 (00:07:13):
Yeah. I don’t think it’s black and white, as we know, there are almost two types of comic. There’s the one who’s the same all the time. Gag, gag, gag on stage off stage they’re on all the time. And then there’s the more schizophrenic which I like to think I am. That is one person off stage and one person on the stage and the moment, you know, people see me putting my hair up with the shirt on, that’s when the mask comes on and I go out and do, but the moment I step off it’s well, is there some milk to pick up on the way home or, you know, go straight back to mundane things. So, hat’s the one I am. But you know those people who are on all the time are very funny to be with or they probably don’t want to share a car journey with them for too long.
Speaker 2 (00:08:06):
Exhausting is the word isn’t it really? I know. Cause we’ve talked over the years that you feel it’s crucial to create an atmosphere for comedy to work. You know, it’s not just about the lines. You have to create the atmosphere. In the real world, and our listeners have generally in the real world ,where people have real jobs, do you think it’s possible to create an atmosphere where humour can thrive? Is that something that you can take from the stage and transfer into other words?
Speaker 1 (00:08:39):
Well, in a way it’s difficult for me to answer because I’ve never had a proper job. So I haven’t been in those environments very much, but my perception is that humour is loosely based on truth. And you know, that we’re failed human beings and we all have things wrong with us and we’re not, you know, what’s the other quotes, the famous one that humour is often the gap between aspiration and reality. And I think in whatever environment you find yourself, it’s very healthy to know that you’re not all it and that we all make mistakes. And one thing I have seen in other environments is sometimes a speaker will get up and make a mistake and not mention it and try and get away with it. And we know if a comic does that, he’ll lose the trust of the crowd. And it’s very important to just have a realistic view of yourself and what you’re doing so that people trust you and no company is perfect.
Speaker 1 (00:09:55):
No group of people have it all together, have learnt everything cause they will be far more successful if they were. So, humour, I think, used properly fills in that gap between hope and actual reality and that’s very valuable. Having said that I was thinking about this what I was going to say today, and also humour sort of needs defining in the sense that, you know, Adolf Hitler probably had a sense of humour – he thought, but I suspect it was rather based on bullying and picking on people. So humour per se is not necessarily a great thing, you know, in its broadest definition, I would argue that truth is a good thing. And when you go and see standup comedy, what you’re seeing is a stylized version of people telling you the truth, hugely exaggerated. And I remember one of the first things I ever saw going to comedy clubs.
Speaker 1 (00:11:02):
I saw Eddie Izzard do a routine about the missiles in the first Iraq war. You know, that they were telling us that these missiles were, were so technical. They could, they were precision things and they were only killing bad people. And Eddie did this great routine about, oh, the, the missiles are brilliant. They go to the house, they read who’s in, they ring the doorbell, they go upstairs, they check, you know, and he sort of nailed the whole thing in a little routine. It was satirical about the government and their lies. And I just thought, ah, that’s what I want to do. Not that, I mean, I’m not political in it and you know, I don’t do that kind of stuff, but just the idea of, yes, that’s what we’re all thinking. And we can’t quite nail it, but you’ve nailed it. And now we’re all together having agreed that this is bad thing, but we’ve all noticed it. And if you can make people resonate with what you’re saying I think that’s a very healthy thing to do.
Speaker 2 (00:12:02):
I completely agree. And I, I think it’s, it’s one stage on from the court jester, isn’t it it’s truth to power, essentially, which is a very valuable, valuable thing because you suddenly get perspective on life and without that perspective we’re lost, aren’t we?
Speaker 1 (00:12:24):
Yeah. And absolutely, I know, see you realise you’re not alone in thinking what you’re thinking. And uh, I mean, did they, lots of different angles on comedy, you know, surprise is another thing, you know, if you, if you can keep on the surprising, which is probably something I rely on more where you set up a world and you say one thing you know, you say, I spent the morning attaching a lock to the front of my house to slow down burglars who arrived by barge. You put a little cartoon in people’s heads that you pull the rug on when you get to the punchline. And that, I think part of it, Paul is that as English people or Anglo-Saxons or whatever we are, we’re not very good at expressing emotion. So as we go through our lives, lots of tension builds up gradually, and it’s all tiny, it’s a death by a thousand cuts.
Speaker 1 (00:13:27):
You know, it’s looking things that we don’t… I think it’d… and then we get to a professional space where someone’s making jokes and we suddenly have all this tension come out at us in terms of laughter at stuff. And it would also explain why Italians and French people don’t have the comedy circuit in the same way. I mean, they have clowns and stuff, but I think they’re much better at getting their emotions out in the first place. Whereas Brits tend to be quite uptight and slightly passive aggressive. So they need an excuse to let out their emotions. And we are, we are the sort of prostitutes that go there and help them, you know, to get all the tension out.
Speaker 2 (00:14:12):
Um, it’s comedy hand relief, basically.
Speaker 1 (00:14:16):
There’s another name for a show,
Speaker 2 (00:14:21):
But yes, I mean, but that, that’s the resistance to actually doing anything is probably what creates the need for it.
Speaker 1 (00:14:31):
Yeah. And we’ve all walked out in the hundreds of audience and felt the tension in the room, the expectancy, please help me. We want we’re here to get something off our chest, but please tell us what it is or part of what it is, or give us an excuse to let go.
Speaker 2 (00:14:51):
And the other part of that is the confidence to do it because part of the audience are looking at you. And this is for anybody who ever has to get up and make a speech is looking at you. And one of the things you can see writ large on their faces is please don’t be shit.
Speaker 1 (00:15:10):
Yes. Well, quiet. And you must, I, one of the ways I found of not looking nervous was to look really, really nervous just to look, to adopt, to look of semi-terror. And that sort of became funny, you know that clearly I was acting, but it was a mask that helped me mask my own nerves. And eventually I lost that because you just get used to standing up and in the end, your body can’t take it anymore in terms of the nerves. And you just go, oh, I’ll just do this. And, yes, that’s the other thing you don’t want to apologise for what you’re doing in any way, physically or verbally, you’re doing what you’re doing and the best MCs, you know, the person who goes on first look like they don’t care. They go on and whether it’s Alan Davies or, Bob Mills years ago, (Arthur Smith), Tim Clark, whoever it is, it’s like there I’m here. I’m going to have a good time. Are you going to join me? You know, not please, please like our show don’t do that. it must have faith. The audience, it’s like a religious meeting almost. They must have faith straight away, but they they must go in totally committed in order to get the trust of the audience,
Speaker 2 (00:16:39):
But your job i- and this is something that audience can take away – your job is to look like you’ve got this covered. And it’s funny that you mentioned Alan Davies, who we both know well. But Alan used to play with that concept. If you remember in the early days and would go on and stumble about and look like he was just sort of, uh, and then he, you could feel the tension rise in the audience as they were going, oh no, he is shit And then he would break that moment with that level of surprise and go to the mic and go, don’t go thinking I’m shit. I’m just doing what you do at work. You don’t automatically, you know, you don’t automatically sit down and start working straight away. Do you? I’m, I’m essentially in the toilet reading the Daily Mirror and having a shit,
Speaker 1 (00:17:32):
He would subtly then go on to talk about the beer he was drinking. And he would have material on that. And that would be five minutes of his act, but it went so smoothly from, I don’t know what… don’t think. I don’t know what I’m doing. And then you didn’t notice the gear change, but how (Seamless). Yeah. And that’s what the best people do. But they only do that because of practise. Well, they’ve got to have an initial, isn’t the cliche. And I’ve said this many times, and I’ve forgotten who said it originally, is that doing standup – and you can probably apply that to speaking in front of people – is learning a musical instrument, except you do all your practise in public. And a lot of people will either give up doing standup, as we know, or I think Eddie would say this of himself, but to begin with he wasn’t a hundred percent brilliant, but he kept going, kept going, kept going and had that marathon mentality that he has of just, this is what I’m doing. And I’m going to keep total commitment. That’s what it takes. Isn’t it, it’s a, it’s like sport. If you’re going to hit a tennis ball or do a rugby tackle, it’s far more likely to come off. If you give a hundred percent rather than go tentatively, oh, I hope this works. It won’t. If you do that, and the same is true of public speaking, you’ve got to go, bam, this is me. This is what I’m doing.
Speaker 2 (00:19:03):
And it, and when things go wrong, which you touched upon us as well, be confident enough, and that’s the word to go? Well, I really screwed that up. I mean,
Speaker 1 (00:19:15):
Yeah, yeah. And the worst thing you can do is pretend that you haven’t made it made a mistake. Alan Davies as well, I remember him saying that he – don’t know why we’re talking about Alan Davies all the time – but it was a big jump in his career when he took the mic out of the stand, because he had been sort of hiding behind it. You know, it was there and maybe two hands on the mic even but as soon as he went, right, this is happening. It gave him the sort of performance and the, it was like a visual symbol of right now, I’m coming at you. And I have the confidence to do that. So listen to what I’ve got to say,
Speaker 2 (00:19:57):
But I think that’s a great thing because that also plays into the whole body language thing of you are freed and if you just look at the statistics from a psychological perspective of who gets attacked, on public transport, say it’s generally people who make themselves smaller, who actually go, oh, don’t notice me. Don’t notice me. Whereas statistically, if you don’t want to be attacked, you make yourself bigger. And I’m sure tat this is just a biological imperative, but people are less likely to go. And it’s the same onstage, you know?
Speaker 1 (00:20:36):
Well, I was going to say, we’ve all seen open spots who, who just freeze or get, you know, brain freeze. And there comes a point at which they’re never going to get it back and you need to put off that moment as much as possible. And if you can laugh at yourself, you know, I mean, like you say, they made a mistake or even something like, oh, this is going well. Or, you know, just something that acknowledges you have an idea of how it looks like. Even if it, even if it’s not complimentary to yourself, that will give you another minute. And hopefully you can get something over that, you know. I’ve got a thing cause I’m on tour at the moment and the show is, an hour and a quarter or whatever it is. And, occasionally I’ll make a slip with words and I say, stop, right.
Speaker 1 (00:21:36):
I made a mistake. I’m going to go back to where it all went wrong. And then I say, good evening, it’s nice to be here. And just go right back to the beginning again. And that sort of, you can feel the room go what is made. Oh, it’s all right. He knows what he’s doing. Yeah. So if you could find a way like that of owning up, but you know, when you see a comedian dealing with hecklers, now, sometimes the impro can be great. But often when a heckler is blown away by a comedian is because that comedian had that heckle before and didn’t know how to handle it. So he went home on the bus and he worked out exactly what he was going to say next time. And people tend to shout the same stuff usually. And when that stuff came back, two weeks later, he was ready and it looked like magic to everyone. But it’s only cause he did the work and you can sort of do that, I guess in speaking and think, well, what could go wrong? The computer might freeze the, the caretaker might walk in, uh, my notes might go everywhere. What am I going to say at those points? And for me, that’s what I would do. I’d try and work it out. I may think of something spontaneous in the moment, but I’m far more likely to do that. If I’ve already got some bullets in my gun ready to go for things that go wrong because you’ll be part of the show.
Speaker 2 (00:23:14):
Exactly. And that’s one of the many reasons why I advise everybody to go and catch your new tour because you will not only laugh until you’re hurting. You will also learn a lot about stage craft and about how to manage these situations. I’m really interested about your tours because when I’ve seen you, you get a multi-aged audience. And I think you describe it as something similar to a pantomime crowd. How does somebody, in other words, appeal in businesses, appeal across ages. Some of our listeners will have in work situations where there’s a great age range. So what is the key to actually being able to connect across the ages?
Speaker 1 (00:24:06):
Well, I mean, clearly it would depend what the business was about and then how it was sold. But I try not to talk about things that most people don’t know about. Do you know what I mean? The information or the way you speak, mustn’t use words that people, that 20% of the people don’t get, it’s got to be as clear as possible. I mean, sounds horrible. I did, I did a cruise once that I hated it was like doing a council estate on the sea and it was,… it was just anyway, they had little talks that were put on by speakers and you know, clearly the people in the audience, the punters on the boat weren’t used to being in the audiences, but I watched the speakers and whether they were talking about ancient Greek gods or whatever, you know, some really obscure lecture, they asked a question about every 30 seconds to each, how many people here have got… have you ever seen a picture of this?
Speaker 1 (00:25:19):
Or how many people? And you’ve got pens just shooting up all the time or people saying, yeah, yeah. Well, so engaging is what I’m saying. If you can find ways for people to engage and it doesn’t necessarily have to be funny, it just means that they wake up and they think they’re not watching telly. And that’s really important to do that. So, I mean you know, when I’m doing one liners, bang, bang, bang, bang, sometimes after a while, you can feel them just fading away. You can feel the beginning to watch instead of laugh. So, at that point, I need to have a question. Now it might be a question that I’ve, pre-thought the answer to, or it might be where did you get your trousers? You know, it could be really stupid in a way, the more random, the better from my point of view.
Speaker 1 (00:26:13):
cause it’s more likely to be funny, but to, to constantly not give them the chance to glaze over, we’ve both done corporate events where the boss gets to speak first and sometimes they don’t listen. The audience don’t listen, they’re too busy filling their glasses. Or do you think, hang on a minute, this company isn’t going far. No, one’s listening to the boss. And you know, and I remember once someone who’d been there 40 years was getting a plaque or something and no one was listening, I’m going to say, this is terrible. You need to at least have peoples engagement. Otherwise there’s no faith in the leadership I guess, and the leadership in the room at the very least. And you, you need not put fear in people, but just enough to make them think I need to pay attention. Otherwise I could be picked on.
Speaker 2 (00:27:19):
That’s you know, because actually there could be, and if you go too heavy handed, you could read the room wrong and they could turn against you because you’ve been cruel to somebody. So it’s actually that , you just said some very important words with, with a smile on your face because I will always do that. You know, and, you know, you can do the school thing of it is, is that something you’d like to share with the class and, and psychologically, as soon as you say the word class to anyone, they will actually revert to childhood. So they’ll start to behave in a different way, but it’s the commanding of the room. And that’s why I think you do that so brilliantly,. Was that aided by – I know you studied drama drama school – was that aided by that? Or was that learnt from years and years of standup?
Speaker 1 (00:28:15):
I think it’s more the latter. I think you’ve been in so many rooms with so many audiences that instinctively, you begin to work out what you need to do here because you suffered before, when it went wrong. And so instinctively, you know, if the audience are very rowdy, you need to be very still. And if the audience are very still in quiet, you need to get into them and to be active and full of adrenaline. So if the audience is very up in Glasgow on a Saturday night, when I go on stage, I stand still for ages and just wait for them to come to me almost until the laughter and the shouting has completely died down. And then I can do my thing because they need to get rid of that. And if I sort of engage with them at that level, if I’m on for an hour and a half, they’re not going to last, they’re going to get tired and they need to just, need to, it’s like Friday afternoon in school fingers on lips, stand behind your desks where we’ve got some stuff to do. So just be quiet and let of that’s all get through it. But I think that comes, as you say, from having done it again and again, and there’s something inside you that tells you that, that that’s, what’s because you’ve made the mistake of doing the other thing. Yeah.
Speaker 2 (00:29:44):
So it becomes natural. It’s it’s instinctual, but it’s, it becomes your norm where whereby you just do it every time and they talk about instinctive. I think I’ve heard you say that comedy is only given to the few that it’s an instinctive thing. The timing thing. I’m interested, obviously the Humourology project is all about. Is it just given to the few? Can anybody learn it? And what’s your, your thoughts on that?
Speaker 1 (00:30:22):
Well, in a way, I think it’s a bit like music or drawing or something in that some people are clearly geniuses but most people can dabble and you know, also probably important to make the distinction between making people laugh and being laughed at, it’s not quite the same thing you know, people could make people laugh for the wrong reasons, as well as, you know, perhaps they’re not so self-aware or what it is. But it’s like, you can turn into a professional musician if you put in the practise after you’ve been in a thousand rooms, you can begin to smell the atmosphere and which way it could go. And there’s no way around that. Really.
Speaker 2 (00:31:11):
Yeah. I think that’s really true. And I think that the whole… that’s the instinctive bit though, isn’t it about the sledgehammer to crack a nut, but I suspect we’ve all done it at times on the way up learning that and go, oh… I mean, I once did it at a vet’s conference, which I was hosting many, many, many years ago. And I went in and had a go at the CEO really early on, probably just a little bit too hard. And he didn’t have much of a sense of humour about himself. And everybody just looked to him to see if he was laughing and he wasn’t. And for the rest of the night, I was just trying to claw it back, you know? And that’s the first impressions thing that it’s very hard to turn that barge around once you’ve made that first impression. So I always say to people concentrate on your first impression. So I think that’s one of the things that you do so brilliantly is you go for the, the look that sort of people go is it’s a little bit crazy? But at least there they’re watching and going, oh my God, what’s going to happen. I presume that’s just years of learning to buy yourself a little bit of wriggle room in the first
Speaker 1 (00:32:39):
Impressions. Yeah. So it also slightly, because what I feel I do comes from left field. It helps to give a big sign post towards the left field in the way I look, you know, with big hair and, big shirt. At the moment, you know, after COVID and stuff, I’m going on stage and saying, you know, big hair and going, It’s nice to be back to normal, isn’t it? And that sort of works well because I think often is it interesting to opening lines and quite important in that I’ve heard someone say that you want to kind of encapsulate what you’re going to do in the next 20 minutes in your first paragraph, you know, in your first joke, my first joke is really important because it says, this is where I’m going to be coming from.
Speaker 1 (00:33:33):
You know, it’s where it’s silly picture image thing. What am I saying at the moment? I think it’s this isn’t a tour, but like I did a gig the other day and I said, oh, it it’s great to be back to normal. I saw a sheep pole dancing the other day in a kebab shop. And that works well. It’s like short, short stuff, image, bang out. That’s what’s good for me. So I don’t know. It depends, you know, what you’re talking to the people about, but, you want to sort of set up a mini entree or a starter for your meal that you’re about to…This is what it’s going to be like.
Speaker 2 (00:34:12):
Well, is the other analogy. It’s a headline in a newspaper. This is where you, and it’s sort of like the hook and oh, I want to hear more about that is it’s a tease but it’s a defined tease. I don’t know if there is such a thing. There is now. Yeah, exactly. So Milton, what makes you laugh?
Speaker 1 (00:34:37):
Well, I mean, as you know, one of the problems with doing it professionally is that it is sort of harder to make people laugh. And even if something is brilliant, that comics will be standing at the back going, oh, yes. Yeah, I see that’s happened. So we tend to laugh at things that go wrong. I mean, you know, our friends on the stage trying something new that doesn’t work and you’ll hear two laughs at the back going Ha Ha like that. And there’ll be the comedians off the stage,
Speaker 2 (00:35:08):
Well, it’s funny you talk about the stuff going wrong because in the old Calypso Twins days, we obviously got people out of the audience and there was a lot of audience participation, but the best laughs we ever got were from Kim Kinnie and Stan in the sound booth. And you’d do something and it would go to shit and you’d just do a look. And they’re still some of my favourite laughs.
Speaker 1 (00:35:40):
Yes. And occasionally a comic will put in a line just for other comics that the audience has no idea what they’re on about, you know, there’s that old heckle put down when someone heckles you, you say, sorry, and then they repeat it. And then you say, no, I’m just sorry. You know that?, Noel, James, I really like Noel James, just for the comics. Someone heckled him and he said, pardon? And they repeated it. And he said, no, I’m just pardon. It’s like the audience totally baffled, but
Speaker 2 (00:36:15):
Oh, that is brilliant. Yeah. Yeah. Oh God. I know that one. What do you like with heckles? Cause I’ve seen you be brilliant with hecklers because I think you really listen to them.
Speaker 1 (00:36:26):
Well I think the best thing with hecklers in a comedy environment is to try and use their own weight against them. It’s a
Speaker 2 (00:36:33):
Sensei thing, is it? It’s sort of…
Speaker 1 (00:36:35):
If I can, I like to try and win them over. And just because what happens is that a heckler has been thinking for two or three minutes, what shall I shout, what shall I shout and then they shout it. But then if you engage them in conversation, they’ve no idea what to say. So they’re probably likely to, you know, make a fool of themselves but you know, I just, if they’re angry or something, I want to know what kind of day they’ve had or you know, obviously we’ve all got bullets in our gun that we can shoot if absolutely necessary. But I always think it’s more interesting to try and get something else that is clearly spontaneous.
Speaker 2 (00:37:17):
That’s where you look like, well, you have a superpower at that point. Do think comedy is a super power in and of itself.
Speaker 1 (00:37:26):
Like any kind of art, there are some times where you see someone who’s so on the form, so on the edge of their own talent and taking such a big risk, you sort of take your metaphorical hat off. And there are only certain people who are sort of at that level and they’re not at it all the time, really not. Um, so the answer is it can be, it can be, and some people are better at it than others. And usually I think what’s interesting. I think with standup performers is they get very good at what they’re good at, but they tend to neglect what they’re weak at. So in terms of being a muscle man, they have an enormous muscle here, but the other arm is, you know, which is quite interesting if you’re ever in a show and you have a director and they say, why don’t you try doing it the other way and go, what? Okay. And it’s, it’s quite… it makes you quite nervous to begin with, but it’s just because we often take the least line of resistance and just go, this works, I’m sticking with that. But I mean, maybe that’s a thing that can be applied to business as well is being prepared to take criticism, not from everyone, but from people who know what they’re talking about.
Speaker 2 (00:38:43):
you are… you know, you do a tour every two years, you’re on tour at the moment. You’re one of the hardest working people in the business. Now you go, well, maybe I have to, but I think what people forget is that everything that looks easy, it involves a lot of work.
Speaker 1 (00:39:06):
There was about 10, 15 years ago. I was, I was working, but I wasn’t really working at the level I wanted to be. And the thing about doing one liners is it’s, you don’t have to talk to people. You can just shoot them out. And someone said to me, you need to be more interactive. And so I went and emceed some clubs, tiny clubs, which was really painful to do for me because I’m not as sort of blokey your mate sort of a performer that is kind of necessary. And I was fortunate that some people let me do it in small clubs, but I actually became a bit looser as a result. And sometimes, you know, whatever you do, if you can put yourself in that place of where it’s difficult, because you know, if you’re at a certain level in your career, you can coast. But if you’re prepared to put in a bit of extra work and suffer the pain of some failure, frankly, then you can get stronger and better and more well-rounded.
Speaker 2 (00:40:15):
Well, and it’s the psychological imperative of coming out of your comfort zone isn’t it? I mean, an all of us are naturally, well, I’m good at that. I get away with that. So I’ll continue to do that. But as soon as you step out, you learn something it’s about learning, isn’t it. And you go, but I would also add another word in there. You’re brave becauseI mean, you know, if I had a pound for every time that somebody has said to you, you’re so brave for doing that, but you are genuinely brave because you are trying new things because you could doing something that you don’t know, that’s where the true learning is. I think.
Speaker 1 (00:41:02):
Yeah. Yeah. And in a way, the more successful you are, the harder it is to take that risk because you don’t want to look a fool or, you know, people have come to see you maybe and it could go wrong. But so it gets harder. And also as you get older, you go, oh, can’t be bothered with this, this pain business. I’ve done that. Been there, done that. But actually if you, if you want to, we all know comics as well, who are a bit dead behind the eyes because they stopped learning or they stopped taking risks. And sadly it is possible to have a well honed act that actually isn’t, you know, it’s gonna work, but there isn’t the sharpness there because it’s worked exactly like that for the last hundred times. And so I always go out with three new jokes.
Speaker 1 (00:42:01):
Now, sometimes the room is in such a mess. I’m not going to try them because I won’t even know if they work to be honest, but I always have three things in my back pocket mentally that I will try if it’s nice enough. And sometimes it’s just the process of getting those ready. That is good for me. But then as you will also know a new bit, that works well, first time is one of the biggest buzzes. You know, you do a new bit and you go, woof, you go, I’ve got a new bit. I can use that for however many years or whatever, whatever it is that, and maybe it’s a topical joke or something like that, but no one else has quite nailed yet. Or, um, and it just gives you… you look forward then to doing that bit in your act because it’s the new bit.
Speaker 2 (00:42:55):
And I think also that something that people can take away is the discipline, because I love the idea that you’re going, I always develop three new gags for each gig. Now that’s an extraordinary discipline, but if you’re doing a load of gigs, you’ve built that in, it’s a machine at that point. And you’ve built that in and here are my parameters. This is what I’ve got to do. I have to do that. And I found obviously, you know, spending a lot of my life around very successful people. They’re the people who challenge themselves and go, I’m going to write a new book and then tell 20 people until they, they feel duty bound to do it. I, and I think you’re one of those people who constantly pushes themselves and I think everybody needs to understand that that’s where success lies, isn’t it?
Speaker 1 (00:43:56):
Well, I think so. And also satisfaction, you know, in terms of, even if you’re at a certain level, you become bored and where you all know people who are successful, who go on about the gig they didn’t get rather than the gig that they did get. And it’s developing a positive mentality. I mean the glass half full mentality, I guess, but just not being stagnant, you can get stagnant and there’s something good about the goalposts moving because it pushes you further and you know, you can take some satisfaction, but maybe it’s the next thing, you know, that that was fine for tonight, but I’ve got a gig tomorrow night as well. So what am I going to be doing with that? And I have come off stage sometimes, um, where I didn’t try one of the three gags and I could of. And then I sort of hate the gig because I didn’t stretch myself.
Speaker 2 (00:45:00):
Well, it’s funny and this may be a commonality, but I think successful people always regret what they didn’t do. And it’s you know, to use a teenage analogy, you regret not asking that girl out because your bottle went or something. And I still remember those situations from teenage years of, you know, that one girl I didn’t ask out and I still, it still plays on my mind. So it’s, it’s do something, allow it to go wrong if it must, but that will teach you something and move you forward on another level.
Speaker 1 (00:45:40):
No, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think the more you do that, the thicker your skin gets to potential failure as well. You know, the more girls you ask, the more able you are to cope with the rejection of most of them and hopefully the acceptance of one or two at least. But you know, you’re a moving target. You’re moving vehicle that is, is going on and enjoying the success that you have, but mentally just shedding the failure.
Speaker 2 (00:46:14):
Yeah. And you’re on the way to somewhere. You’ve got, you’ve got a destination, isn’t it, it, you’ve got an outcome. And this is just part of the process to get to that. Whereas if you stagnate, you go, I really want to be over there, but you’re not actually moving towards wherever over there. We’ve got deeply philosophical on the Humouroloy podcast today, haven’t we? No, it’s fantastic. It’s wonderful. If I asked you to make a business case for humour, what would you include in it?
Speaker 1 (00:46:47):
The companies I come across are actually me doing corporates, but it’s also interesting in that I think it probably is a good thing because I go in and smell the atmosphere straight away. And sometimes it’s a bad atmosphere. And by that, I mean an atmosphere of fear where people are for want of better expression, trying to use each other to further their own agenda. There are others where they’re far more team led and people like each other and people have been there a long time. I mean, that’s often one of the things that people… loyalty can be bought by atmosphere. You want to like the place and the people you’re with. And the best way of doing that is by having the leadership, being the sorts of people you want to be around and help. I think the whole thing comes down to being human.
Speaker 1 (00:47:53):
Actually, as I think about it, treating each other as human beings and having a laugh with each other rather than at each other means that people will stay with you longer. There are some people who are principally money driven, but once you get to a certain level, I’d much rather have a nice time. Once I’ve covered the bills, I’d much rather have a nice time. And if you can create that atmosphere with joy and relaxing together, quite often, people say to me, when I go into a company, we work hard and we play hard. I’m not quite sure if that’s true, I mean, I did, I did one not so long ago for, was it Goodyear or something? And the MC started off with the phrase. It’s an exciting time to be involved with tyres.
Speaker 1 (00:48:49):
I just thought, surely not. There’s never an exciting time. And I used to think, actually there were people there who’d worked there 40 years and loved it. There’s clearly a community there. And it didn’t matter that it was tyres, tyres. Wasn’t the point? I mean, yes, it was in the, it gave them an income, but it was more about the community. And the, I suppose, love is a strong word, but it was the affinity that they had for each other. And, you know, they, they actually cared about yes, how well they did their job, but that was far more likely because of the loyalty that the company had given them.
Speaker 2 (00:49:32):
No, I, I think that’s, that’s so apt and so beautifully put, and that is kind of the, the return on investment is that, and I loved your, that loyalty can be bought by atmosphere. That’s just a… that’s going to be in the book. Yeah, no, seriously. Well, we’ve reached the part of the show Milton, which we like to call Quickfire
Speaker 1 (00:50:00):
Speaker 2 (00:50:06):
Who is the funniest business person that you’ve met?
Speaker 1 (00:50:11):
Well, I mean, I have to go back to my granddad. I’m afraid. I mean, business is… Greengrocer, isn’t perhaps the biggest but he was just a raconteur and I’m not a raconteur. I could sit for hours listening to the same stories. He was really good. I mean, I can, I’ve met a lot of quite dull business people, unfortunately. And they usually come up to you in… Sorry, this is a very quick fire, but quite often come up to you and say, when you’re on stage, can you do a joke about Dave shoes? And you go, well… Once you research it, you find out that only three people know about Dave shoes and there are the audience of a thousand. And it’s just a lack of thinking through how that would work.
Speaker 2 (00:51:00):
I always found Kim Kinnie very funny in a very sardonic Glaswegian way he would manage to prick everybody’s bubble but it was very well-intentioned I always found.
Speaker 1 (00:51:18):
And he always used to say to me, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know who you are. He was… he was right in what he was saying, cause I was doing lots of different styles of joke saying just hone it down to one angle.
Speaker 2 (00:51:32):
What book makes you
Speaker 1 (00:51:33):
Laugh? Well, if, if I went into gag mode, I’d go Tales of the Unexpected. Once upon BLAH!, (Please stay in gag mode) Okay, what else we got? Um, the other day I read the autobiography of Francesco Sello. The man who invented sellotape. Well, I couldn’t find the beginning. Um, The Forbidden Planet. Can I have a planet please? No. I could go on, but (please do). Um, hopefully I’ve got a book coming out soon and I shouldn’t have eaten it really. I’d like to see a world without plagiarism. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
Speaker 2 (00:52:23):
I love that. I love that God, what a gift for our audience, what film makes you laugh? Milton?
Speaker 1 (00:52:29):
Originally Airplane was, well, you know, that, that sort of blew my mind in terms of a different angle, you know, and also with the Leslie Neilson just doing it so deadpan so well, as you can sort of tell, I’ve, I mean, I haven’t copied him, but that is my deadpan nonsense. That was right up my street. I mean, in gag terms, I didn’t think much of the film coming back from Australia on the plane, um, turned out to be a 24 hour animation of a plane travelling from Sydney to London, whatever you do, don’t go and see Time To Destination. I saw, I saw the French film AND the other day, I mean, I think it was released here as ET. I’m not sure.
Speaker 2 (00:53:28):
Oh gosh, brilliant. Really. Sorry. Uh, for the first time on the Humourology, podcast the host cries with laughter uh, brilliant in a good, in a very, very good way.Alright. Let’s take a shift to the other side and go the other way and say, what’s not funny?
Speaker 1 (00:53:47):
It’s the old adage, isn’t it? Comedy is tragedy plus time. So I guess if you just had the tragedy, I mean, I say that, but I’ve, you know, how many times have we laughed at a funeral or, you know, plenty of stuff, but if you’re, if you’re literally in the middle of an accident or a horrible thing, or I guess if you’re conscious that maybe one person in the room has just gone through something difficult is ah, um, but you see, it’s not a black and white thing. Cause I used to do a joke. Let me think so I can remember it. I’ve started advertising holidays for children with short attention spans, but I’ve made the mistake of advertising them as concentration camps. (It’s a great gag) As a joke it works, but I’ve got too many Jewish friends who just went
Speaker 1 (00:54:49):
And uh, and some of them were fine with it to be fair, but others were quite upset. Do you know, who’d lost relatives, you know? Absolutely. And you know, I just stopped doing it. I just thought for the few people in the room for that is a real thing, you know, and obviously it wasn’t about Jewish people or anything. Um, it was just about the word concentration. I’ve got another gag that I used to use that was, be careful if you’re in a mosque and everyone’s praying and you really enjoy leapfrog. And right. Works. It works. Yeah. And a lot of Muslims like it, but then I did a club, it must’ve been there in Essex somewhere, And I said, it and they all went Yeah!. You tell ’em, I just thought, oh, that’s, that’s not the reaction I was looking for. You haven’t really picked up on where I’m coming from with this. And sometimes you just, you just got to smell the wind a bit and think they might take this the wrong way.
Speaker 2 (00:55:57):
Yeah. But I think that’s a testament to who you are, you are a nice person and a humanist and you know, I don’t actually, it’s not the right word. You’re a person who cares about people. And so therefore if you’re going to upset anybody, you’re going to take it out, aren’t you?
Speaker 1 (00:56:19):
Yeah. And I can see that there are grounds for comedy upsetting people. Yeah, absolutely. If it’s punching up, you know if it’s having a go at or authority or some, some bad attitude, you know, I can see someone doing, you know, jokes about that, but when it’s punching down, it’s when it’s punching sideways, then it gets complicated because there’s bound to be someone in the world whose dad crashed his car when a chicken crossed the road. Do you know what I mean? And so any joke is going to offend someone, but sometimes, sometimes the room… you’ve got to read the room and think, is this going to get the right kind of reaction? And then are enough people going to understand really what I mean?
Speaker 2 (00:57:16):
Well, and it’s intention, isn’t it? It’s, it’s an intention. And those gags, I know you, I know who you are. You’re a humanitarian. The intention is all right. In those, in those gags, it’s coming from the right place. And I get it when suddenly you’re getting people shouting. Cause yeah, that’s telling them where it’s not the gags, not coming from that place at all. Very, very interesting. What sound makes you laugh?
Speaker 1 (00:57:52):
It’s quite hard to not laugh at breaking wind. Isn’t it? Is it just, I mean, I know it’s basic. I know it’s basic, but yeah, it’s, it’s just, and the more inappropriate, the better in terms of words, I think the word bap just bap. It’s just, it doesn’t matter how you say it. Do you want a bap? It’s just a funny way. It just makes a funny sound. Yeah.
Speaker 2 (00:58:22):
It’s a combination of the word and the sound. Isn’t it. Well, I know as we know in comedy that’s sometimes. Yeah,
Speaker 1 (00:58:27):
Yeah. Yeah. Well they say that hard sounds are funnier.
Speaker 2 (00:58:35):
It’s the Neil Simon school of K’s are funny from The Sunshine Boys. I think it was. K’s are always funny That’s why pickle is funny. There, there you go. Would you rather be considered clever or funny?
Speaker 1 (00:58:54):
Oh, funny every time clever sounds exclusive. And maybe they’re saying that. I think I’m clever as opposed to, I mean, mind you, I think I’m funny is not necessarily good either, but, um, no, I think you’re more accessible to people. If you’re funny and children, actually, some of the best audiences are children and they’re less likely to .. (why) because they have no inhibitions. They’re not thinking, should I be laughing at that?
Speaker 2 (00:59:27):
Ah, no filter. And finally, Milton, Desert Island Gags. Now I suspect this one with you is going to be quite tricky. You can only take one joke with you to a desert island. What would it be?
Speaker 1 (00:59:43):
Yeah, the question is whether it’s mine or whether I drive myself mad, I mean, for Sean Lock’s sake. I love his one, For Christmas, my family bought me psychiatry vouchers, which is a shame cause I wanted to crossbow. Yeah, I love Harry Hill’s. heckle put down, you know, when you think he’s going to lose it at some dreadful heckler and he said, You heckle me now now, but when I get home, I got a lovely chicken in the oven. It’s sort of, I love those jokes that aren’t formulaic. You know, you just go, where’s this going? What?!
Speaker 2 (01:00:36):
Oh, brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. What a perfect way to end. Milton, thank you so much. You ‘ll always have my undying loyalty, because you brought the most brilliant atmosphere. Thank you so much, indeed.
Speaker 1 (01:00:52):
Lovely to be with you, Paul. Thank you.
Speaker 2 (01:00:55):
The Humourology podcast was hosted by Paul Boross and produced by Simon Banks music by Steve Haworth, creative direction by Les Hughes and additional research by Helen Sykes. Please remember to subscribe like and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a Big Sky production.