Jason Cook: interview
Geordie comic Jason Cook lays himself emotionally bare in his show ’Confessions‘. Can Time Out uncover any other skeletons in his comedy closet?
What’s the basic premise behind your show?‘It’s really simple. Everything I say in it is true. It came about because I was getting frustrated with the material I had to do during my endless club gigs. You see, I love telling true stories from my life, but in order for them to work out on the circuit I would have to include a knob gag or put something rude at the end to get a laugh. I wanted to do something really honest, where I could just tell the real endings, so I started writing “Confessions”. I didn’t plan it to have any meaning or anything, but somehow it has.’
Were there any confessions that didn’t make it into the show that you’d like to share with Time Out readers?‘I once drowned a kitten. I’m not proud of it, mind you. I was six when I did it. Basically our cat had kittens. They’d eaten their dinner and got themselves all mucky. My mam had gone to the shops and left us all alone. Those were the days when you could leave kids on their own for five minutes. I thought the cat needed a wash, so I took it into the bathroom, placed it in the bath, put the plug in and turned the tap on.
Unfortunately I got bored waiting for it to fill up and went off to play… When my mother came back the bath was overflowing and there was a dead kitten floating on the water. I know it sounds really terrible, but what did she think was going to happen when you leave a kitten and a six-year-old alone together?’
It’s an emotional show to watch. What’s it like to perform?‘It’s quite difficult, actually. Towards the end there’s quite a lot of raw stuff to go through. I thought it would get easier each time I performed it, but actually it seems to be getting harder. I was worried that I might have to start to perform the emotion after a while but that hasn’t been the case. Because it’s just me talking about real things that have happened to the people I love, I’ve never been in the position where I’ve had to act it. All I have to do is stand there and be honest and whatever happens happens.’
Tell us one thing you’ve never confessed to anybody before?‘When I was 13 I sent a girl at school a rose for Valentine’s Day. I then ignored her for years because I was scared.’
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done in a comedy club?‘I’ve upset loads of people through innocent stupidity. For instance, if you ever take the Mick out of someone who’s bald make sure they’ve got eyebrows, that’s all I’m saying. Why go to a comedy gig if you’ve just had chemotherapy and then heckle the comic to draw attention to yourself? Why?’ ‘There was also a time when I noticed a woman in the audience was facing the wrong way. I said, “What are you? Blind?” To which she replied, “Yes!”. She was great fun, though. It was at a “King Gong” show I was MCing at The Comedy Store in Manchester. At the end, to help me decide who the winner should be, she came on stage and felt all the comics’ faces.’
What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?‘Some guy, who just didn’t get the show, said it was “a bloke telling you he’s a dick for half an hour and then telling you that his dad nearly died for another half an hour”. The worst thing that was ever said to my face, though, was when I had just started. I’d compered this gig and died, really died. After it was over I was sitting having a drink with the other two comics when this guy came up and shook both their hands. When he got to me he just shook his head and said “Mate, you were shitter than shite.” ’
Ever heckled another act?‘Yes! Me and another comic Steve Hughes used to go to the gong show specifically to heckle. We figured if you’d performed it gave you permission to take the piss out every other act. We’d always go on first, be as offensive as possible to get gonged off, then spend the rest of the evening heckling. A comedian might say something like “there’s this mong” and we’d shout out “you’re a disabilist”, or someone else might say something about a black person and we’d interrupt him with “you’re a racist”. One time a guy came on and said he’d arrived by bike so we both shouted out “you’re a cyclist”. It stopped him dead.’
What was the first record you bought?‘“Captain Beaky & His Band.” Though the most embarrassing one is probably Rick Astley.’
What’s the best review you’ve ever had?‘The comedy website, Chortle, described “Confessions” as “visceral humour”. That might be a bit much, but I liked it.’
Have you ever stolen a gag from another comic?‘No, I’ve never nicked another comic’s gags. But I tell stories about other comedians. Like my mate Barry. I’m not the only one. In Manchester alone there are six other comics who tell Barry stories because he’s that hilarious friend who fucks up all the time.’
Have you ever told another act they were great when really you thought they were rubbish?‘Constantly. All the time. At least once a week.’
‘Confessions’ is at the Soho Theatre from Mar 20-22.
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