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Phill Jupitus: Juplicity Tour & Interview

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Comedian Jupitus goes back to his poetry roots
Ahead of his new stand-up tour to the Midlands, comedian Phill Jupitus talks about how 'Never Mind The Buzzcocks' led to starring roles in musicals like 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' and his penchant for poetry and tat shops.

phill jupitus, juplicity, uk tour, old rep
Phill Jupitus is touring to the Midlands


Phill Jupitus may be more known for directing videos for Billy Bragg and the late Kirsty McColl and being a team captain on 'Never Mind The Buzzcocks', but of late he's more likely to have been seen on stage belting out a tune in 'Hairspray' and 'Spamalot'. He was even particularly good as the baddie in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' when he stopped off at Birmingham Hippodrome last year.

But now he is now returning to stand-up for the 'Juplicity' tour that takes in Birmingham's Old Rep Theatre on October 7, Warwick Arts Centre on November 5, Bromsgrove Artrix on November 26 and Evesham Arts Centre on December 1.

'Juplicity' has been billed as a "pun-loving stand-up, poetry and music show", so you know it's going to be eclectic.

"I have a lot of material to choose from for this tour," says Phill. "The thing that really works for me is that I support myself as Porky The Poet, so he goes out and does 40 minutes to start the evening."

It's no surprise as Phill and poetry go way back. He quit his job working in a job centre to become a ranting poet, supporting the likes of Billy Bragg, The Housemartins. Madness, The Who and Paul Weller with his poetry and compering skills. Going on to work for indie record label Go! Disc and then carving a DJ career, the rest is history.

Phill adds: "Because of Buzzcocks and other jobs I was given, I let Porky and the poetry slide but after about a decade I came back to it and wrote new poems, often just chucking stuff out on Facebook for mates to read. Combined with the old poems, and factoring in chit-chat between them, I had about an hour of material."

With Porky's poetry supporting the straight stand-up, he's also got a proven track record of live music behind him from his time with the all-star Idiot Bastard Band. "The songs for this tour are now solid; all that comes from the time I was in the band with Neil Innes and Ade Edmondson."

phill jupitus, juplicity, uk tour, old rep
Phill Jupitus has been seen more recently in big scale musicals


He adds: "Because I've spent time away from touring stand-up, you get better at doing it by building the source material. For the autumn tour I'll do two hours a night: 40 minutes poetry, quarter of an hour of songs, and the rest is stand-up."

In terms of the stand-up element, 'Juplicity' will draw on his own life, one that Phill describes merrily as both 'chaotic' and 'flaky'. "Sean Lock has a phrase, which was both inspiring and worrying about comedians mining our own personalities for material and then in your head negotiating how much you keep back."

Phill explains that initially, he was resistant to discussing things on stage about his family, but it seems he has found a way to resolve that.

He explains: "One of my daughters, Molly, married her American girlfriend and emigrated there, so what you get is a starting point: gay marriage is a trope that's very much in vogue at the minute and dovetails with what's happening in the world with Trump and so on."

"As a comedian, you are a person in a society within the world; all you have to do is look at things and shift your camera angle. All comedians can do is put a wider lens on a situation so that it resonates with people."

The move into large-scale musicals came as a surprise to Phill, but something he fell into due to the Intros round on 'Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

Phill says: "My agent phoned up and said, 'there's a casting director in the West End who wants to talk to you about being Count Fosco in The Woman In White'," says Phill. "I was like, 'what! I don't sing!' 'Well, they think you do'.

Phil adds: "Turns out they'd seen me do the intros round on Buzzcocks and felt I could hold a tune. So I took some training and auditioned and they said, 'maybe not this time, but do you want to be Wilbur in Hairspray?' I went to see it and even though I'm watching Mel Smith as Wilbur thinking, 'yeah I could do that', I kept looking at Michael Ball as Edna and thinking, 'that looks like a lot of fun'."

phill jupitus, juplicity, uk tour, old rep
Phill's tour takes in the Old Rep in Birmingham


As fate would have it, Phill was offered the part of Edna instead and spent three months in a dress, wig and lipstick before 'Hairspray' came along and then 'Spamalot'.

Now Phill is going back to his roots but wherever the tour takes him, it's worth keeping your eyes peeled as you may just bump into him at the local museum or charity shop.

"Wherever I am, I look for art galleries and museums," says Phil. "I've got a thing about record shops, bookshops, and second-hand tat shops where I might be able to find old badges. Everywhere I go, I try to find those five things."

For more information on Phill Jupitus tour dates visit the Ents 24 website.
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Why? See comedian Phill Jupitus back on tour
When: touring in Midlands until December 1
Phone: various
Where: Tour includes Birmingham Old Rep Theatre and Bromsgrove Artrix
Cost: From £15
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