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Funnyman Milton stops off at the Lowther

Milton Jones brings his new show Temple of Daft to Lowther Pavilion for a sell-out performance on Sunday, February 15.  The king of the one-liner and Mock the Week regular is embarking on uncharted territory because his new tour strings the quips together in to a broader story, one that sees Jones take on the mantle of Indiana Jones, don the hat and set off on a madcap journey in to surrealist comedy. We caught up with Milton to talk about his new direction.

Your new tour is called The Temple of Daft. Why?

Basically, previous tours have been lots of jokes in different forms, but basically lots of jokes. This is more of a story, more like one of my radio shows. It loosely, and I say loosely, follows a kind of adventure-archaeology type story. It started off with me noticing that I had the same surname as Indiana Jones, and it has all transpired from there. I do wear a hat at one point, not for the whole thing, ‘cause then people would never see my hair.

You talk about using a narrative style, and you say this is a bit of a departure. What brought that on?

Two things. When people see you on telly, they want to come and see the same sort of thing when they see a live show, but obviously not the same jokes. Moving to a narrative was a way of keeping the same style. It begins to mine other areas of jokes as well, in terms of, if you can do a scene where you’re talking between two people – even though I’m the only person there – that’s a different sort of writing than just one-liner after one-liner.

How do you prepare for a tour?

I’m amassing jokes from the moment my last tour begins, and then once it finishes, I begin to go to little out of the way places to test them. Eventually I’ll accrue enough material to do try-outs nearer home. So, it’s a trial and error process from the beginning of that. Years ago I started as an actor, and I’d quite like to incorporate more of it. For instance, previously the footprint of the tour has been I’ve gone on and done 15 minutes as a character, and then there’s a support act, and then I do the whole second half. There’s a different character this tour. Previously, I’ve done my granddad, but this will be my great-uncle, Sir Randolph Digby Jones. He’s an explorer, I quite like warming the audience up with an obscure character to begin with, then making it more of a show.

A lot of your comedy is quite word based – can you just come up with it?

No. It’s all about writing as much as you can, and then taking the top 10%. There’s lots of stuff I’ve discarded. The new show will have between 200 and 250 jokes, probably, but that doesn’t mean that’s all I’ve written; I’ve written another 100 that I’ve put in the bin, at least another 100, probably, maybe three times as much, and that’s the hard work. Even after all this time, I’m thinking I have just written the best joke ever, and I go and do it and it just doesn’t work – however, the thing I improvise off the back of it does work. But, I wouldn’t have got to that place had I not tried the first one.

Has being known as the king of the one-liner ever been an encumbrance at all? 

Yeah I mean, in a way, I’ve got to be grateful… people want to put you in a box, so that originally it’s people who are booking gigs; they want to know what type of comedian you are to fit on a bill. And I think that’s true of television as well, to some extent. On Mock the Week, I sit in the one-liner chair, and if it’s not me, it’s Stewart Francis or Gary Delaney – you know, it’s the ‘odd’ bloke, so that has gone in my favour. I’m sort of grateful for where it’s got me, but if I go for an audition for another show, albeit a sitcom or something, it’s quite often as the crazy neighbour. You think well, I’m glad I’ve got this audition, but it’d be nice not to have to do that role forever. So, I suppose this show is me trying to move things on.

A lot of your stuff is family friendly, and you’re sometimes called a Christian comedian – do you think that by going against the flow it’s served you rather well?

Yes, although it’s not a conscious effort: I’m not thinking how can I be different to this. I’m just doing what I would find funny myself, hopefully. And I think it is true that I get a very wide demographic, as a result, coming to my tours, because…it’s partly having done Mock The Week and Radio 4, those two ends of the human life scale. And it’s kind of accessible in a way that people feel happy to come as entire families, which is great to look at. It gives a slightly pantomime feel to a tour show because I know that there are grandparents who come with their grandchildren. I like that idea, it feels less niche and I quite often have to explain things, or a child will put their hand up and ask a question during a show, or it’s clear that some grandparents have brought some other grandparents with them.

What does 2015 hold for you, other than a mammoth tour?

Yes, well it’s not often I can see a whole year ahead, but the tour goes to the end of June, then I do two weeks in Edinburgh, then I do another two months in the autumn, by the looks of it, so that will be seven months. I’ve got another radio show, it’ll be the 11th series we’ve done for Radio 4, to fit in, we haven’t worked out when we’re going to do that yet. I’ve got other writing projects, so let’s put it that way, that I need to get on and do in my spare time, and there are odd things, you know. What am I doing? Celebrity Squares, in March, and there’ll be more Mock the Week. Then there’s always the next tour to think about.

 

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