Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Milton Jones at Balham Comedy Festival, Friday, July 8

IT'S fair to say the last few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster in the political world. So thank goodness then that some light relief can be had down at the Balham Comedy Festival.
The annual, and now well established, event opens tonight for a 10 day run at the Bedford Pub and kicks off with the king of the one liners, Milton Jones.
And in a chat ahead of the gig the South London gag meister tells me that he's looking forward to coming back to bring his own brand of eccentric and surreal comedy to the festival.
"I love the festival because it's such fun to do and so well run," he says warmly. "The Banana Cabaret, which they do here on Friday and Saturday nights, was the first to offer me a 20-minute set back when I first started out in comedy so I've always loved being here.
"It's also nice to catch up with comedy friends and to open proceedings is great so I'm really looking forward to it.
"There is a real intimacy to it which I love because you can interact with the audience as they are so close.
"Sometimes when I'm doing a tour, I go to places like civic centres which is like performing in a corridor. You can't hear the heckles at the back and there isn't that interaction.
"So I love the Bedford and this year I'm in the Round Room which is slightly Shakespearean in that it's like a tiny version of the Globe Theatre. You've got the audience on all levels making it an ideal venue.
"In fact I'd love a chance at performing a gig at the Globe though am not sure they'd be up for comedy...." he muses.
For the gig he promises a mix of his one liners as well as anecdotes and stories which have featured in various guises in previous tours. There will also be music, his trademark vibrant and colourful shirts and a few props including his overhead projector.
"I did a big tour last year and have another one coming up next year so I'm in a somewhat weird state of being in a transition between shows," he says.
"I'm trying to work on a new type of show that's more about lots of little stories rather than one big one that flows through the act.
"So there will be brand new stuff as well as a few old gags which I'm trying to doctor to bring them up to date and relevant to today.
"I try not to call it a mish mash but more like a selection box of highlights!"
As an example he tells me he will be updating his flag routine that was a feature of his last tour and in which he's been able to change in light of the Brexit vote.
However, as he's known for not normally touching on political stuff in his act is this a new departure for him and something we will see more of?
"Comedians do look at the news and try and find something from it for their shows but political stuff has never been my thing," he says.
"But I think with all that's been going on over the past two weeks you can't really ignore it. It's been larger than life and quite hard to exaggerate what's happened which has been seismic and people are confused and shocked by it.
"I always thought the result would be close but I think especially in London there has been a real sense of shock as most of us wanted to remain.
"It has been very strange and a huge deal - people suddenly felt insecure about the future and in need of a hug because it meant something.
"However, I did a show in Bristol last weekend and the audience was glad to get together but didn't want to talk about politics as that's all they've been doing for ages and just the mention of Boris Johnson or Michael Gove and they were 'oh no...!' and shut off.
"Besides, there's always plenty of stuff in my act to allow me to stay away from politics as a rule."
And he hopes that as an antedote to all things Brexit, the Balham audience will be up for some light relief and having a chat about other things - and says he doesn't mind the hecklers.
"I don't mind hecklers as they don't tend to be aggressive," he says. "Mostly they are just trying to be helpful so it's fairly straightforward.
"The hardest thing to deal with is doing a show at a festival and suddenly a baby in the audience starts crying. You can't attack a baby on any level so they are definitely the worst hecklers," he jokes.
"Fortunately it's only happened a handful of times and I'm sure there won't be anything like that at Balham so it will be great."
"Besides I think people now want to get out and escape for a bit and comedy is one great way of doing that so I hope the Festival lifts all our spirits."

Milton Jones will be at the Balham Comedy Festival, Bedford Pub on Friday, July 8. Visit for full listings.

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