Ref NoBSUCA/OD/1/28
CollectionOliver Double Collection
TitleMilton Jones interviewed by Oliver Double
Name of creatorDouble, Oliver, 1965-
Duration38 min. 19 sec.
Extent1 sound disc (MiniDisc) (80min)
1 audio file Broadcast WAVE Format (BWF)
DescriptionMilton Jones interviewed by Oliver Double by telephone, 28th June 2004. This interview was conducted by Double for his book 'Getting the Joke: The Inner Workings of Stand-Up Comedy' (2005)

Summary: [00:02] Phone call recording begins [00:08] Oliver Double begins by asking Milton Jones [MJ] some background questions; when did he start stand-up [00:19] MJ says he did his first open spot in 1989. [00:33] Oliver Double asks how he got into stand-up [00:37] MJ started as an actor and stand-up was a side-line.
[01:09] Oliver Double asks how long MJ had been acting before he started stand-up. [01:13] MJ answers 1985-1989. [01:19] Oliver Double asks MJ where he studied; MJ answers Middlesex Polytechnic. Oliver Double asks if he did the comedy course there, to which MJ responds the course didn’t exist back then, and he did a drama course, Shakespeare etc.
[01:48] Oliver Double asks MJ if he has any superstitions around performing. [02:05] MJ prays before he goes on, general focussing, clearing his head, which he says he probably learnt from drama school.
[02:39] MJ pre-emptively talks about the evolution of the on-stage character, the character didn’t evolve for four or five years. [02:50] the hair wax and silly jumper provided a signpost for the type of material he was doing. [03:01] MJ said this helped him in harder clubs like Romford, a middle-class bloke doing wordplay was somehow threatening, but the character provided context to the material.
[03:35] MJ talks about when he has forgotten the hair wax and jumper [03:45] MJ asks if this is an artistic thing. [03:56] MJ says if he does radio he doesn’t wear the jumper and doesn’t bother too much with the hair wax because people know what they’re coming into and he doesn’t need to start from the beginning.
[04:16] Oliver Double says Beryl Reid used to dress as the characters she was playing when she used to do radio. [04:36] Oliver Double asks about MJ’s method of generating material, and whether he writes long-hand or takes notes. [04:42] MJ uses a laptop, and writes half-ideas down on bits of paper. [05:25] it’s a process of refining an idea, coming back to it fresh. [05:40] MJ describes his stuff as very honed and precise and even an intonation can mess it up.
[05:59] Oliver Double asks if this will eventually be typed out in full on the computer or if it’s a process of thinking it through again. [06:15] MJ says it’s a bit of both, he rehearses his exact wording and doesn’t take it to the show and see what it comes out like. [06:44] Oliver Double describes this process like leaving an answering machine message.
[07:00] Oliver Double asks if MJ rehearses outside of the situation he’s performing in. [07:12] MJ sits at his desk and goes through the words, he doesn’t stand with a microphone.
[07:36] MJ says acts like himself and Tim Vine are about rhythm. [07:57] Oliver Double asks if he reads it out loud, which he does. [08:03] Oliver Double discusses the overlooked importance of rhythm in comedy [08:17] Oliver Double asks if he thinks the rhythm is an instinctive thing [08:23] MJ thinks it is an instinct, and how it connects with the movement of the face.
[09:24] Oliver Double wonders how a honed comedian who is surreal and offbeat like MJ builds a set that has variety of texture so the shape of the whole act makes sense. [10:00] MJ says he mixes it up, while it is non-sequitur, he grounds it in a single subject, such as jobs or travel. [11:05] Oliver Double read that Steven Wright says he has three grades of joke that he alternates between. [11:22] MJ says that while Steven Wright’s three grades of joke refer to the quality of a joke, MJ is more to do with mixing up the formula, pun, reversal, concept.
[12:26] Oliver Double says part of MJ’s act is about the element of surprise. [12:38] Oliver Double asks about running gags. [12:40] MJ says it helps with the non-sequitur. [13:08] MJ is writing a show for Edinburgh, and he needs the appearance of structure.
[13:51] Oliver Double asks MJ to talk about the persona in more detail. [14:34] MJ says the hair gel and pullover was decided through trial and error. [14:58] MJ says that a lot of jokes are based on misunderstanding, and that the Milton Jones persona thinks he dresses normally.
[15:38] Oliver Double asks where he found the right jumper, MJ says he’s got several, and buys most of them in charity shops. [16:00] Oliver Double talks about the public confusion between what they’re like an onstage and offstage persona [16:19] MJ says some comedians are just the same onstage as they are offstage, some comedians are an act, some people are heightened versions of themselves. [16:45] MJ says that his character accentuates his feeling of being an outsider.
[17:37] Oliver Double says the onstage/offstage persona more of a spectrum than a dichotomy. [17:57] MJ says that some people after the show recommend he gets help and sees someone.
[18:39] Oliver Double asks how the audience perceives the outsider persona and how that effects the dynamic [18:58] MJ says it’s about suspension of disbelief, the audience know he must be intelligent enough to be booked and paid for a gig but are prepared to go with what they’re presented with.
[19:43] Oliver Double asks if he had any influences on how his style evolved. [19:52] MJ was inspired more by sitcom actors than by stand-ups. When he was growing up stand-up was people like Frank Carson [20:12] MJ was far more inspired by Ronnie Barker and Leonard Rossiter
[20:19] In the 1980s, Patrick Marber and John Hegley were doing different stand-up. [20:37] MJ says that when comedians start they’re often like other people than like themselves, until they stumble on a style. [20:54] MJ says people compared his style to Steven Wright, the jokes a similar, but the performance style is very different.
[21:43] Oliver Double asks about MJ doing gigs in church. [22:11] MJ says it depends on the environment, a literal church congregation doesn’t know how to react and they’re a mixed bag of people, broad age range and social misfits, other places are dying to laugh at anything, as if it was like healing. [22:37] MJ sometimes wants to stir things up in the specific environment. [24:29] Oliver Double adds that it isn’t an attack but he’s playing with the environment.
[25:30] Oliver Double talks about seeing James Campbell who does stand-up comedy for children, the dynamic of stand-up was changed.
[26:00] Oliver Double asks how the congregation cope with his harsher gags. [26:12] MJ says he wants to do the same material in both environments, but he might not do the darker material in church because certain people might get upset by it, [26:56] and if he does do darker material, saves it for the later in the set, once he’s gained the audience’s trust.
[27:21] MJ talks about being asked to do a gig at a vicar’s conference in Derbyshire for 400 clergy. [28:34] Oliver Double asks if most of the church gigs are requests.
[28:45] Oliver Double asks if MJ has ever done Greenbelt. [30:18] MJ talks about the taboo swearing in that kind of environment.
[31:13] Oliver Double asks MJ about adapting his act to a radio series. [31:51] MJ messes around with formulas with his producer David Tyler until they came up with some that could do sketches and stand-up.
[33:08] Oliver Doubles asks how MJ balances out the spontaneous into a joke-based act. [34:14] MJ introduces a lot more spontaneity into his act now, but because the style is quite honed it took a long time to do this. [35:26] MJ says he isn’t Ross Noble who takes a concept a runs with it, he’s more likely to ask the heckler to take a concept and run with it.
[36:00] Oliver Double wraps up the interview, general chat. [37:32] Oliver Double says that Alexei Sayle told him that he went through his entire act with his wife and his cat.
[38:05] Phone call ends.
Notes1 MiniDisc, digitised to LPCM wave 16 bit 44.1kHz. Digitised using Sony Minidisc Deck MDS-JE53; Roland Edirol UA-25; and Adobe Audition CC 2014. 2016-03-21.
CategoryAudio recordings
Access conditionsAvailable for consultation at the University of Kent's Special Collections & Archives reading room, Templeman Library, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NU. Access is available via digital listening copies. The University of Kent acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors in this recording and the rights of those not identified.
    Powered by CalmView© 2008-2024