Phill Jupitus: Juplicity
Stockton ARC, 3 May 2018
As we file in, the stage is bathed in blue light, and at its centre is a leather armchair. As time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that someone is sitting in the chair. Guess who. The house lights go down, and the CD accompanying us is switched off before Phill Jupitus hauls himself out of the chair and says hello. I say, “haul” because, as he explains, he’s been there for half an hour now, and it’s comfy. He goes on to tell us that the evening will be in two (possibly three) parts.
The first part is a shorter set from Porky The Poet (for the uniinitated, this is also Phill, doing poems, as he mostly started off doing back in those dim and distant 80s), who has supported some odd acts in his time, including an ill-fated stint on tour with Madness. He also talks about a recent stint with the (rather ace) Lovely Eggs, who can only really tour during school holidays because their son is at school age.
The second is the inerval, where he’ll be hanging the room around for a chat, and photos. And, while he’s at it, he’ll distribute Tunnocks Caramel Wafers to anyone who wants one. We find out where this interest in Tunnocks Caramel Wafers springs from later (but I’m not dropping spoilers).
And then, last but not least, comes the “proper” set, though, in fairness, it turns out to be so relaxed and fluid, there aren’t really any joins.
From the outset things go a bit wonky. A riff where he engages with the youngest member of the audience comes a bit unstuck when it turns out he (the unfortunate lad’s name is Tom) is sitting in the balcony. This is, however, sidestepped and no one seems much concerned because he brushes it off, and gets Tom to come see him in the interval, so he can give him he badge he was no doubt going to ceremonially pin on him in person. He is however, pretty clear in expressing his intense dislike of hecklers, so he’s set up a couple of nice failsafes to discourage the more disruptive ones, which he enumerates for our benefit. I won’t spoil the surprise. But again, none of this matters, because he’s clearly enjoying the evening, and so are we. It’s a decent audience.
By the time we get to the set proper, we’ve already had discursions around his family, and the fact that life has changed for him over the last year or so. In fact, this is the crux of the two main threads of the final part of the show: moving to Scotland, and the nightmare of getting an honorary doctorate.
We get a minor detour into why he’s not bitter about not getting the Great British Bake Off gig on Channel 4, and what the hell is going on with Nigella Lawson in her shows, specifically,
“If she sounds like that when she’s making a cheese sandwich, what the fuck does she sound like with a cock in her?”
He talks about moving to Scotland, and the experience of touring there. He clearly loves the place. Unfortunately, it also means there’s a brief foray into the sex life of the Krankies, and how the beginning of the end for the Beatles came because of a ceilidh in a Scottish village hall. And there’s also a swift aside on the nature of puffin aerodynamics. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Jupitus’ honorary doctorate came from from the University of Kent at Cantebury, and he talks frankly about his own social discomfort and loss of articulacy in front of academics, and an eye-wateringly funny impersonation of Stephen Fry, which is only partly because of how he sounds. It’s priceless.
And while it’s funny, it’s also touching, and revealing about him. It seems that if you’re over 6 feet tall and built like a tank there are basically two ways you can be: you keep your head down and stay quiet, or you confront the world and make some noise. Jupitus has decided that the latter is the best approach, but it’s not indiscriminate: if he’s a foghorn, he’s a wonderfully warm, amiable, and affectionate one. The story he tells early on about about his newly married daughter (and what he sent her and her new wife as a present) reveals much about how proud he is of his family, and how much he truly loves them.
It’s a beautifully funny evening, but it s not just funny: it’s a man in his mid-50s just sharing what it’s like to be that way. And I really enjoyed it, even if in the wrong light early on, he had the slightly distressing hint of Rolf Harris after one too many protein shakes.