Free Time

Miles Jupp: “In a way, it’s misleading; there are no songs in it and it isn’t free…”

Miles Jupp – ‘stand-up, actor, writer, thinker, father, husband, worrier, fool, star of Rev. and host of The News Quiz’ – returns to the Key Theatre with his standup show Songs of Freedom on 27 January. Toby Venables talked to him about his Peterborough connections, aspirational food writers and decaying petrol pumps

When The Moment chatted with you a couple of years ago, we discovered you have a local connection – tell us more about that…
Yes, my dad used to be minister in Peterborough, at Westgate Church – the one you can see from the bus station, between the Mega Bites and the old JobCentre. We lived not far away, so Peterborough was where we used to go and do our Christmas shopping and so on. I must have spent days as a teenager wandering around Queensgate shopping centre. That was what you did if you had some spare cash or birthday money – you’d be dropped off in the Edith Cavell car park and then wander around Queensgate pretty much all day. I think I could walk around it blindfold even now.

Do you add localised material into your stage act?
I do throw in a bit of local stuff where appropriate, but I don’t come out and do a ten minute Peterborough monologue and then segue into the show… I was playing in Colchester last night, so was able to vent some of the fury that had been caused by the A12, for instance – but also praised Tiptree Preserves and Maldon Sea Salt.

You’re already on tour, and it’s a long haul… How is it going?
I’m in my fourth week of the tour at the moment, at the same time as I’m doing The News Quiz. It is a bit exhausting, but I’ve got a tour manager and stuff so I’m not doing the driving. You do have to look after yourself fairly well, but in a way, when you’re on tour, you can control things a bit better – in hotels you can control what you eat, get rest when you need rest, use the gym or swimming pool if they have them, so you can keep yourself reasonably well looked after.

I did a show on Sunday night having spent the weekend with my family and that was the most exhausted I’ve turned up to a gig on the whole tour. I do quite a lot of telly and radio, but I probably do most of my work live still, whether its plays or presenting or standup. But it’s a way of testing yourself – you and an audience for 90 minutes – so you’ve got to be ready to do that. I’m 37 and started standup when I was about 20, and in those days you could just get drunk every night and not have to do much during the day, but now life is a little busier and there are responsibilities, mouths to feed… I think this tour I’m behaving much better even than I did on the last one two years ago. I’m eating salad and not takeaways.

The title of your show – Songs of Freedom – sounds a more like a Billy Bragg album than a standup show. How did that name come about?
In a way, it’s misleading; there are no songs in it and it isn’t free. But basically me and a mate just wrote down about 40 names for shows to see which ones made us laugh – which seemed silliest, I suppose. I may yet use them, but rejected titles include One Eyed Bang, which I think has a certain resonance to it, and another was More of the Same. That sounds a bit negative, but is essentially what standup is!

The publicity photos for the tour are rather elegiac…
Yeah, they’re taken by David Secombe, son of Sir Harry. That’s an abandoned garage in Wales very near where my children go to school, and I used to drive past it every day. I’m not sure when it was abandoned because I don’t have a detailed knowledge of the history of petrol pricing, but it is just this beautifully bleak place. The petrol pumps have cobwebs on them, and everything’s being slowly cracked by frost. David was staying with us one weekend and I said ‘Do you fancy doing a photo shoot at this place?’ So I borrowed his coat and we took a range of photos of a man just looking slightly lost.

Last time we talked about Rev, but since then we’ve also had the TV incarnation of In and Out of the Kitchen, based on your radio series and featuring the character Damien Trench. Will we see more of him?
I’m writing the Damien Trench book at the moment – kind of a childhood memoir. We did four series on the radio, then I stopped because I was doing The News Quiz. But I now possess all the rights to it, so I can do others things in other territories. I want to do more with that character and that cast, it’s just a matter of working out new ways of doing it.

Are you a foodie?
No, there’s an element of bluster in that. I’m quite a nervous cook, actually. One of my friends watched the TV version and said: ‘You need a hand double for the cooking sequences, because you chop courgettes in a rather apologetic fashion…’ What I do love is the language of cookery. I love reading cookery books – Nigel Slater, Simon Hopkinson, Elizabeth David… On the surface these are about food, but really they’re about a different kind of life – very aspirational and laid back. That was at the heart of doing the Damien Trench character, someone who had a writing style that made everything seem blissful and lovely, but also imagining that if you scratched the surface there was a terrified, intense man underneath it all!

Miles Jupp – Songs of Freedom
Key Theatre, 27 January

For details of these and other performances, visit the new Vivacity website:

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