John Bishop: interview

Posted: Thu May 6 2010

Watching the match with Kenny Dalglish, playing Wembley and starring in Ken Loach's latest film - comedy hot property John Bishop tells Time Out about his meteoric rise to fame.

Since we last spoke you've been nominated for an Edinburgh Comedy Award, had a sell-out tour in large venues up and down the country, and became a panellist on Sky1's sports quiz 'A League of Their Own'. As if that wasn't enough, you've also just announced you're playing Wembley Arena in the autumn. With all this sudden success how has life changed?
'Well here's a good way of explaining how it's changed. I went to Anfield to see a match recently with my youngest lad, Daniel. As we were going in I got stopped three times with people asking for photographs and autographs by big groups of lads. When they all walked away Dan said, “Dad, who did they think you were?” I said, “I don't know son.” I now get invited on to shows that I'd never have got a sniff of before, and people answer your phone calls but would have ignored them a year ago. It's a little odd. I've just got to enjoy this for what it is and not take it too seriously, because someone else will be flavour of the month soon enough.'

Were you surprised at how much things have moved on for you in such a relatively short space of time?
'It does feel quick and it does feel strange. The London date on my last tour was in the small room downstairs at the Leicester Square Theatre, when only 18 people turned up. But on this tour I'm playing two nights at the Hammersmith Apollo and the next time I go out I'll be stepping out on stage at Wembley. All of that's happened in 18 months. Sometimes when I'm in the dressing room before a show I'm convinced someone will knock on the door and say, “To be honest, we thought we'd booked someone else. We thought we'd booked Daniel Bedingfield. There's a load of people that want to dance out there.” '

Are you excited or nervous about playing Wembley?
'Are you kidding? I can't wait. I'm a Liverpool supporter; I haven't been to Wembley for a long time. '

You talk a lot about your family in your shows. How do they feel about being part of your act now that the whole nation can see it?
'If I do something on telly and it involves one of them, I ask them if I can, and if they say no, I don't. Even if it's really good material, I won't do it. But it's an evolving thing - we're all learning about the changing situation that we're in. I want the family to see the benefits of the new life, but I know there's a responsibility to not prostitute them for a joke. Having said that, the reality is, comedy is an exaggeration - I can keep on telling my kids this: “I'm a professional liar, it's not all true. I know if someone in the room's got teenage kids they're going through something like this, so it's an observation about that, more than an observation about you.” To which they say, “Yeah, but everyone in school still thinks you caught me wanking in the bath.” '

What would be the single best thing that's happened as a direct result of your newfound fame?
'Two things that have been brilliant were playing football on the actual Anfield pitch and being able to take my dad to sit in the directors' box with Kenny Dalglish and watch Liverpool win. If someone had said to me then, “That's it now. Hand your suit in, frig off, get back to work,” I would have just said, “Fine, I don't need anything more, I've achieved enough already.” '

You've also had the opportunity to try your hand at a bit of acting. You're in Ken Loach's latest film, 'Route Irish', how did that come about?
'Ken Loach was looking for a comedian to play this character and I just went through the casting process. It was fascinating, because it was all ad libbed. The film's based around the relationship of two best friends doing private security out in Iraq. Because I didn't see the script I didn't know what was going to happen to my character until it was all done. You only get to see the finished script at the end of filming. It's only then that you can say, “Ah, now I see why that happened, now I see why he did that.” '

You're in danger of becoming a household name in no time at all…
'That's a funny phrase, “household name”. Because really the only house that matters is the one where nobody uses your name, you're just called “Dad”. I'm lucky, I have a great family who always keep me grounded, they wouldn't ever let it go to my head. Besides, I'm fucking 43 - what am I going to do? I'm not going to be shagging Girls Aloud, am I?'

John Bishop brings his 'Sunshine' tour to Wembley Arena, Dec 14.