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Stand-Up For Your Rights
The much-esteemed Phill Jupitus discusses improv, stand-up, and a variety of characters as diverse as Slash and Stephen Fry
Paul Nolan, 28 Jul 2010
Thanks to his TV work on shows such as Nevermind The Buzzcocks and QI, Phill Jupitus is a fairly irregular stand-up performer these days, although he does participate much more frequently in improvisational comedy. It’s in this capacity that he and the stars of Whose Line Is It Anyway? will visit Dublin later this month for a brace of performances at the Carlsberg Comedy Festival at the Iveagh Gardens. Jupitus is manifestly excited by the prospect of performing in front of a Dublin crowd again.
“Irish audiences are genuinely excited by improv because they don’t know what’s going to happen,” he enthuses. “There’s a sense of that. When you do it in the UK, there’s a sense of ‘Oh right, they’re going to do that.’ Whereas I really feel with Irish crowds, there’s a kind of tension with improv that you don’t get with stand-up.”
Whose Line Is It Anyway? in its earliest incarnation on Channel 4 was unmissable viewing (and far superior to the rather bland American spin-off), thanks to the contributions of performers such as Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Mike McShane and Tony Slattery, not to mention the witty jibes from host Clive Anderson. But perhaps the most notable guest was John Sessions (later to star in Stella Street alongside Phil Cornwell – now the voice of Murdoc in Gorillaz), whose performances were invariably brilliant.
“I always thought Sessions was extraordinary,” nods Phill. “People didn’t take to him because they thought he was being clever for its own sake. They had that game where you told a story in the style of an author, and the first person would go ‘The Yellow Pages’, the next person would say, ‘Enid Blyton’ and the third person would go ‘Stephen King’. Then it would come to Sessions and he’d say, ‘Noam Chomsky’. And it’s like, ‘Let it go!’
“But he’s a delight, and if you ever interview him, here’s a skill he’s got – you tell him the name of any classical music composer, and he’ll tell you their date of birth and the date they died. I’ve seen Stephen Fry do it – he’s gone up to him and said, ‘Sibelius’. And John will shout two dates at you!”