Reporter Joe Bill talks to the BBC Three Him & Her star Joe Wilkinson about his life and his new tour.
It is always nice when a comedian sneaks up on the world and overnight turns from a “who’s that?” into an “I’ve heard of him!”.
Kent’s Joe Wilkinson is one such funny man who is making big waves in the comedy ocean with a talked-about TV programme, stints at the Edinburgh Festival, and a new tour under his belt.
The 36-year-old former graphic designer takes to the road with his highly rated show ‘My Mum Is Called Stella And My Dad Is Called Brian’, with a stop at the Canterbury Gulbenkian Theatre along the way.
He said: “It is essentially the show from Edinburgh, but I am still working it out. The title came because I talk about my life up to this point. Its all true, everything I say in the show is true and one of the facts being that my mum is called Stella and my dad is called Brian.
“Many people do this in their first shows where they talk about their lives, but I realised very quickly that I hadn’t really done a lot.
“So I talk about how my mum and dad are nice people and brought me up well so I don’t have any traumatic stories.
“The great comedians all had these horrible upbringings about a dad who was nasty and a mum who drank too much.
“But my parents are lovely and it’s their fault I haven’t got anything to talk about, that is the crux of it. Obviously they will be looking forward to seeing the show.”
Wilkinson has also just finished his second stint on the much talked about new TV show Him and Hers. The latest series has just finished on BBC Three, a channel that has brought through shows like Gavin and Stacey, and Ideal.
He said: “The writer, Stefan Golasweki, saw me doing my show at Edinburgh and what I didn’t know at the time was that he had written and made the pilot for Him and Her, but my Dan character didn’t exist.
“So he wrote in this character with me in mind to play it, but I didn’t know.
“He asked me to audition so I was quite glad he hadn’t told me before because it would have been pretty embarrassing to not get your own part. I feel privileged and lucky to be a part of it.”
The tour highlights Wilkinson’s skills at self-deprecation and his acceptance that he is just ordinary means he has created a unique show.
He said: “It’s all about analysing why I haven’t done things in my life. I talk about not getting married.
“I realised that weddings were not a joyous occasion, and more that being invited to one was definitely going to ruin my weekend.”
The Kemsing-based comedian is also fairly open about his progression into stand-up comedy, regarding it more of an accident than a planned achievement.
“I didn’t do any of the drama school stuff or anything. Like most people I just got a job, I always loved comedy but it was like acting, it wasn’t something I could ever see myself doing.
“If you want to be an architect you can see a logical path to it, but not with comedy.
“After years of working I saw this open mic night at a pub.
“It was like doing a bungee jump, there was no reasoning that it was my first step on the way to comedy, I just thought I would do it once and not tell anyone when it goes badly.”
After the gig Wilkinson was approached to come back again for another and his act snowballed from there.
He added: “It was a total accident, I didn’t carve out a career for myself, I am not bright enough to do that, it just happened around me. It’s still sort of happening around me now, I don’t really know what’s going on but I am going with it.”
The Gillingham Football Club fan has also appeared as one half of comedy double act Two Episodes of Mash, alongside Phoenix Nights comedienne Dianne Morgan.
The pair’s show has run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a few years and is now set to be made into a BBC Radio 2 series much to Wilkinson’s astonishment.
He said: “Dianne is brilliant. We have done a weird radio series coming out late October on a Saturday night slot. We have finished recording that and we are pleased with it. We have got Radio 2 legend Ken Bruce to be in it as well as other comedians and hopefully people will like it. We will find out soon enough.”
Being asked to support both Jimmy Carr and Stephen Merchant on tour, as well as appearances on Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Have I Got News For You, have led Wilkinson to start his own tour this winter.
“This is the first proper tour. I have been gigging for quite a while but this is the first time it is my name on the poster and all that. I’m winging it.”
n Joe Wilkinson will appear at the Canterbury Gulbenkian Theatre on Wednesday, November 2 at 7.45pm. Tickets cost £12.50 and are available from the box office on 01227 769075 or visit www.kent.ac.uk/gulbenkian.