Interview: Dom Joly
PUBLISHED: 08:36 26 July 2011
From almost getting beaten up while dressed up as a squirrel to eating from Gillian McKeith's pants in the Australian jungle, Dom Joly's career has had more than its fair share of surreal moments. And his latest show looks back at the hilarious highs and lows. EMMA LEE finds out more.
Dom Joly is no stranger to danger. The TV prankster, best known for the hidden camera show Trigger Happy TV, grew up in Lebanon during the civil war, after all.
But hazards lurk everywhere.
So here’s hoping that his visit to Norwich next week, when he’ll performing his first ever live show, Welcome to Wherever I Am, which looks back at the hilarious highs and lows of his surreal career, will be less eventful than one of his previous visits to Norfolk.
“I had quite a rough time in King’s Lynn filming Trigger Happy,” he remembers. “I was dressed as a squirrel and someone took exception to it and chased me down the street.”
Luckily that hasn’t put him off the county. “It was quite spirited though,” he says. “I like Norfolk.”
It was the award-winning mega hit Trigger Happy TV - famous for its bizarre sketches including Joly roaming the streets bellowing in to a giant mobile phone - that turned him into a household name.
It’s set the tone for a career which has had more than its fair share of surreal moments - including being arrested in Switzerland while dressed as a yeti, discovering that he was at school with Osama Bin Laden (although they were several years apart) and eating from Gillian McKeith’s pants while imprisoned in the Australian jungle on I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here.
And Joly attempts to make sense of it all in Welcome to Wherever I Am. Why did he decide to hit the road? “It’s my first life show and I’m going round the UK trying to work out what I’ve been doing. I’ve had such a great 10 years,” he says.
“I’ve been a paparazzo, I’ve been to places like North Korea and Iran. And it’s just something I’d never done. Because of Trigger Happy everyone assumes I was a stand up before that, but I wasn’t. I was a journalist and a diplomat, I was quite serious.” Joly ended up working for the Mark Thomas Comedy Product, where his assignments included driving a tank through a McDonald’s drive thru and it changed his career path - not that he ever really had one.
“It was a total accident - I’ve no career plan at all. I thought ‘I can’t believe you can get paid to have fun’,” he says.
From Trigger Happy he became a BBC chat show host, sketch show performer, travel writer and presenter, sports columnist and war zone author. His first book - The Dark Tourist, published last year, charts his visits to killing fields and post catastrophe landscapes: skiing in Iran and spending a weekend in Chernobyl and a few days in North Korea.
He’s got a film, War of the Flea, currently in development which, thriving on the unscripted and unpredictable, he says will be similar to Trigger Happy in that it will be quite spontaneous and ad libbed.
Never a dull moment, he’s also planning on trying to track down Bigfoot.
And at the end of last year he braved the bugs - and Gillian McKeith - to take part in I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here where he came fourth behind X Factor star Stacey Solomon, Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder and comedian Jenny Eclair.
Why did he decide to take part?
“I just thought ‘why not?’, really. Everyone I knew said don’t do it. I nearly pulled out at the last minute, but it was great.”
Joly seems really self-assured, so it’s surprising to hear that he suffered from stage fright early on in the tour.
“I was very, very nervous, but I’m not that nervous any more. It’s going really well and I’m enjoying it.”
One of the perils of doing stand up is hecklers. Has he encountered any?
“I’ve had some but they’ve been rubbish. The only bad ones were in Aberdeen and I couldn’t understand them,” he says.
Travel plays a big part in the father-of-two’s life. Where does he think that comes from?
“I don’t know. I grew up abroad and I travelled quite a lot as a kid, so I guess I’ve always had that wanderlust. There’s nothing better than getting off a plane in a new place,” he says.
Are there still places on his list to visit? Absolutely. But not the country that brought the world the Moomins and the Eurovision winning rockers Lordi.
“I want to visit every country in the world, apart from Finland - I find the idea of Finland depressing,” he deadpans.
n Dom Joly: Welcome To Wherever I Am is at Norwich Playhouse on July 28-29, £18.50, 01603 598598, www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk