Jonny Sweet: interview
Jonny Sweet is one of our tips for 2011. Time Out talks to him about winning awards, his new sitcom and not being in 'The Inbetweeners'
Let's go back to the young Jonny Sweet…
'God I miss him. He was good.'
When was your first ever performance?
'Well, I don't know, really.'
Well, what embarrassing video would your parents have that you would not want to find its way onto YouTube?
'My parents are quite old and they can't work anything yet, so it would be more like diary entries. But I won the Nottingham Shakespeare Society sonnet-reading prize. That was quite a big deal.'
Which sonnet did you do?
'Sonnet 12. Bit of a classic.'
How old were you then?
'The thing is, I think what I've actually done there is I've pretended I was younger to try to mitigate how embarrassing it was. I think I may have been about 16 or 17 when I did that. But my first comedy thing was in my second week of university with Joe Thomas. We had met after seeing the Footlights show. I had gone absolutely mental because I was really drunk. It was quite a raucous night - someone vomited on my shoulder from behind. I just thought: Well, that's the best thing I've ever seen, it can't be topped. And Joe was like: “I think we could do that.” So Joe wrote a sketch about a sea-life centre and I was in it.'
Was it at that point you realised you might be able to do this for a living?
'No. In fact I still haven't fully come to that conclusion.'
So if this doesn't work out what's your fallback option?
'It's very much failed novelist or literary agent or something like that.'
So after university…
'Well, university ended, and Joe and I took a show called “The Future” to the Edinburgh Fringe. It was “a satirical take on offices of the future” or something fucking ridiculous. We didn't have any jobs, know anyone in an office and we didn't live in the future, so I don't know how we felt we could satirise it, but we ended up getting nominated for the Writers' Guild Newcomer award. Then we moved in with Simon “Birdman of Alcatraz” Bird in London - who we'd also been at uni with - and wrote “The House of Windsor” and “The Meeting” together.'
Joe and Simon then auditioned and got parts in 'The Inbetweeners' did you audition as well?
'Oh, I auditioned all right. It was funny because although I was a bit disappointed and jealous I felt more pleased for them. I think it actually felt like one for the good guys. It's helped us get our writing considered more seriously by people. We've got this pilot we're filming for Channel 4 and I'm sure them being in “The Inbetweeners” helped. It also made me go off and do my solo projects in Edinburgh, even if I was in paroxysms of terror about it.'
You did very well up there, winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Newcomer for your debut solo show, 'Mostly About Arthur'…
'It was quite a big deal for me I think. It was really good because it made me feel like it hadn't been a massive mistake to pursue comedy. It made me more confident and more likely to do it again. I think if it'd gone really badly that year I would have had a big rethink about my career choice. I mean it was a show about a blurbist, someone who writes the blurbs on the back of books, so I haven't really found myself in the O2 Arena playing to sold-out crowds because of it. But it's definitely helped me work out what I want to do and how I want to do the “live” thing.'
What's the pilot you're doing with Joe and Simon about?
'It's a sitcom which we're writing and in. It's set on the home front during the First World War. Basically, they're all conscientious objectors - and one of them is a genuine conscientious objector, he's a good guy. One of them is a massive patriot but he's got flat feet so he can't go. And one of them is just a piece-of-shit coward, and that's who I'm playing. Typecast as the utter prick. So it's kind of about three people in a village full of women who all hate them.'
Before filming that you're performing your latest show 'Let's All Just Have Some Fun, (and Learn Something, For Once)'. What's it about?
'The thing is, with every project I ever do, when I pitch it to people they look at me blankly and tell me with their eyes that I've made an enormous mistake. The pitch is literally just: it's about a guy who is massively obsessed with the HMS Nottingham, and he think it's just absolutely incredible. And if that's the sort of show you want to see… then swing on by. But the only thing I can say is that I do think it's the best show I've done so far and if you come to a good one it should be absolutely fine.'
Jonny Sweet's 'Let's All Just Have Some Fun, (And Learn Something, For Once)' is at the Soho Theatre, Jan 11-22.