An Interview with Joe Lycett
The phrase ‘bigger and better’ might have been coined specifically for Joe Lycett’s new touring show. Hitting the road with ‘I’m About To Lose Control And I Think Joe Lycett’ (more on that punning title in a minute), the Birmingham-born, bred and based-comic is taking a brand new set of observations, set-pieces and gags to larger venues than he’s appeared in previously on his solo tours. Not that he’s especially fazed by any of it.
“I certainly have some big nights planned on this tour. I said to Sarah Millican that I felt I had to write a show that was big enough for those venues and, in her infinite wisdom, she said: ‘No, the show should be good enough for 100 people’. So, it’s intimidating in terms of the scale of it and the sense that there’ll be a lot of eyes on me, but I always try and do the best possible show I can. There’s no point otherwise.”
Joe Lycett’s comedy career started off at Manchester University (he won the ‘Chortle Student Award’ in 2009) before taking several acclaimed shows to the Edinburgh Fringe and supporting the likes of the aforementioned Millican and Jack Whitehall in some of the nation’s enormo-domes. Given that he’s played in rooms of all shapes and sizes, he’s in a strong position to know exactly what works for him.
“The beauty of stand-up is that generally it does scale up and it’s about your ability to connect with an audience. I think arenas might be too big for the type of shows I want to do, but the theatres are great. I’ll be using PowerPoint again which gives the crowd something to focus on and that can scale up as big as you like.”
And so to those Joe Lycett pun-based show titles. Having brought us ‘Some Lycett Hot’ in 2012 (the show with which he was nominated as Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe), he’s since come up with ‘If Joe Lycett Then You Should Have Put A Ring On It’ and ‘That’s The Way, A-Ha A-Ha, Joe Lycett’. Somewhat trapped in a pun-based maze of his own creation, ‘I’m About To Lose Control And I Think Joe Lycett’ is the latest in that vein.
“You can’t go too far wrong with the Pointer Sisters,” Joe insists. “James Acaster suggested that I went the whole hog and went for I’m So Joe Lycett, And I Just Joe Lycett, I’m About To Lose Control And I Think Joe Lycett. There was another long one that was a strong contender but then I listened to the Pointer Sisters song and thought ‘can I walk on feeling confident to this music?’ And yes I probably can, so let’s name the whole tour after that.”
The reality is, of course, that he may well be running out of ready-made titles to maintain life in the ‘Like It/Lycett’ theme. “Any time I meet a musician I request that they write a song with ‘I Like It’ in the title. The thing I love about all this is that there are now proper discussions about the title. I’ll be sitting down with my agent who also represents Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr, and the main question is: ‘which Lycett-based pun shall we go for this time?’”
In terms of the actual content of his show, Joe once more rejects the notion of a fixed theme and instead is riffing on bizarre and funny stuff that’s happened to him in the last couple of years. “I’m not that sort of writer where I can restrict myself to a theme just in case nothing good comes of it. I prefer to get annoyed about stuff and then maybe you can spot loose themes that you can tie together. This one won’t necessarily be about losing control. Or if it is, it’ll be by pure chance.”
Famed for online spats which often become huge viral hits before making their way into his stage act (a local council and an email spammer have previously been put through the Lycett wringer), he has a new set of targets to air his ire towards when he hits the road, including a curious pickle he got himself into involving the head office of a financial establishment which took exception to a slice of on-the-spot Joe japes featuring a friend who worked in a bank’s building, a security pass and a ridiculous made-up name.
“It’s fascinating, because this bank went back through all my tweets and Instagram posts to check if I had done something similar in the past. Who knew that a massive bank would have a sense of humour failure? So, I want to make a point about banks and power and the way they mould us into what they want us to be.”
Taking a broader view on the world, Joe may even be having his say on the divisive man in the White House. “I have been writing about him and trolling him a little bit, but haven’t we all: it’s like shouting into the void. I haven’t really done much political stuff in my stand-up but I feel that at this point, as many of us as possible have to say ‘we’re not cool with this’. Even if he’s impeached and leaves, he’s opened so many doors that we’ll never be able to close on how we expect politicians to behave; people saying appalling things might not seem that appalling because it’s already normalised.”
Still, in moments of crisis (and the US going head to head with North Korea over nuclear weapons certainly has a 1960s Cuban Missile-style vibe to it), the world of comedy is always able to thrive. “It’s a good time to be an artist because there’s lots to talk about, so weirdly all that stuff helps. Unless things go to a complete state of emergency there’s always scope for people to hear someone talk about the state of things in an intelligent way. Actually, I don’t know whether I’m the person to do that. I can sit here and talk about it at length, but to actually construct a thing that can change people’s minds is quite another thing.”
“Pick your battles”
Instead, Joe will be yomping up and down the highways and byways of the UK taking his brand of storytelling comedy to a loyal fanbase that he knows will be well up for his stand-up. He may also be appearing in front of newer crowds who will have been attracted to him from more recent TV work such as hosting duties for Live at the Apollo and Sunday Brunch, and appearances on Taskmaster and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, while he’s also published an acclaimed humour book, Parsnips, Buttered. When it comes to putting together a show, he will always have a half a mind on those people rolling up in their thousands.
“You should trust that if you find something funny then other people will. The whole thing about building up an audience is about taking people with you who will be on the same page, but some things that I think are hilarious might die a death so you then try to reconstruct it. There’s one routine in the new show that I really care about and really want to work, but it’s not quite there yet in terms of working for an audience, but I believe in that routine so I will work on it to make it work. And there are others that I like but don’t quite believe in enough to fight for. You have to pick your battles in writing stand-up comedy: do you want to make that point or not? And if you do then you always find a way of doing it.”
For more info visit joelycettcomedy.co.uk