Dom Joly: interview

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Posted: Thu Apr 14 2011

The star of 'Trigger Happy TV' and 'I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!' talks to Time Out ahead of his first live tour

Dom Joly's a difficult man to describe. Is he a comedian, a reality TV star, a writer, a journalist, a presenter? Or is he simply a 'TV personality'? Since rocketing into the public eye on Channel 4's hugely popular hidden-camera series 'Trigger Happy TV', the 43 year old has peaked and troughed in respectability and popularity. At the time, 'Trigger Happy' was fresh, funny and unlike anything else on TV. But Joly confesses he's since found it difficult to maintain the same level of quality in his projects.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, the mischief maker has never settled on one creative output; regularly moving on to the next telly idea, travel adventure or celebrity game show. His body of work is incredibly varied: he's papped the stars on ITV2's 'Deadline', explored the world's least popular holiday destinations for his book 'The Dark Tourist', and was placed fourth on the last series of 'I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!'.

Time Out caught up with him to discuss the next item in his diary: his first ever national live tour. As I discovered, he's terrified at the thought…

Your onscreen work has been hugely varied. What has been the plan with your TV projects?
'I've never had a plan, that's the problem. After series two of “Trigger Happy”, I wanted to finish it there. Channel 4 just wanted more and more. In hindsight, I don't think we realised how lucky we were to have a good show like that. Later, when I left the BBC after projects there, I realised that I was never going to beat “Trigger Happy”. So I stopped and did travel writing for four years. Meanwhile, I kept being offered things on telly, which either I'd have to do to pay a bill, or that I hoped would lead to somewhere. TV-wise, I've been very annoyed for about four years that I haven't done something that I thought: Oh, I can do this.'

You've been a part of all different sectors of the celebrity world. Do you feel accepted in one particular part of the media circle more than others?
'I don't feel like I'm accepted into any of it. I've always felt like an outsider. But that's me. I grew up in Lebanon, where I was English, but when I came to school in the UK everyone thought I was Lebanese. When I did “Trigger Happy”, the show appeared from nowhere. All the stand-ups were like, “Who's this cunt? He's never been to Edinburgh.” '

You've previously spoofed chat shows, travel programmes, documentaries, autobiographies… Why the obsession with parodies?
'That's my problem: I try and spoof everything too much. I try and subvert too much and it becomes too dry. I'm very aware that I can't just make a travel show, I have to try and spoof it and add fake characters and stuff. I don't know why. It's like a disease.'

Considering the diversity in your work, are you worried audiences won't quite know what to expect from the live show?
'I think there will be a slight confusion. The audience are like me: I don't really know what I do. The show's therapy, in a way: trying to work out if I actually have a proper job. I've collated a lot of weird stuff from the last ten years into a kind of “show and tell”. Some of my favourite clips from “Trigger Happy”, extra footage that's never been seen, photos from trips to weird places, stuff about the jungle, photos from when I was a paparazzo and got punched by Lily Allen… That kind of stuff. It is: “This is what I've done in the last ten years and I don't know why.” '

How are the preparations going?
'When you say “preparations”, that's what's terrifying me. I thought it was going to take ages to write, but actually it wrote itself in two days. I have no idea what it's like. It doesn't feel as frightening as I thought it would at this stage. That might be because it's going to be terrible. I don't know. I genuinely have no point of reference. It's really odd actually.'

You've travelled all over the world. Does the idea of roving around the UK on this tour excite you?
'I never normally travel around England, so I'm interested to see the country. I'm going to treat it like an Olympic event. I'm not going to drink, or smoke, or go out afterwards. It's going to be tough. It's 70 fucking nights! I know if I come off stage at 11pm in Nottingham, whether I've died or done well, there's going to be an adrenaline rush. What do you do? Do you just go to bed? You can't. And you're on your own. That's when you end up sex-texting at 3am…'

Do you feel that you can be yourself on stage? No need to be a character or parody of yourself?
'Yes, I'm going to be properly me. I will, for good or bad, be Dom Joly.'

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