As a former press officer for former hitmakers The Housemartins, Phill Jupitus (pictured right) is the first to laugh at being described as “a renaissance man with a jester’s mind, a comic crusader with kryptonite wit, a naughty knave in a keyboard tie – he’s one part Jedi, one part Nick Hornby and one part merry prankster with a crackingly good sense of humour.”
“I’ve lived in the world of cliche and hyperbole, says the man who quit the civil service to become a punk poet before his press officer days.
“You may have to write it but you don’t have to believe it,” he laughs.
The man who will be playing King Arthur in Spamalot at the Grand Theatre next week is still raging about the planned library cuts
“It’s something that will bite the Government in the backside,” he says and actively picketed for the preservation of one in Plymouth. “Even though I’m not a regular member I know how important they are. I don’t go to hospitals that much but I know it’s a bonehead move to start cutting back on them.”
The Plymouth one was brand new – a shared space between a church and a library.
“Half church half library – it sounds like one of the bands I used to write about,” says Phill. “It will turn against the government like thinking about selling off the forests one minute then reading about all the bank bonuses the next.”
So bring in a supertax instead, he says.
“The people who’d leave the country wouldn’t make it exactly a brain drain,” he says. “I think we can live quite easily without Phil Collins and Rod Stewart in the country.
His cv is as mixed as it gets – including his own show on BBC Greater London Radio breakfast show from 1995 to 2000, presenting 6 Music show, supporting Madness in 2000 and The Who in 2001, his interpretation of the Star Wars story in Jedi, Steady, Go, a West End debut in Lifecoach, fronting the re-formed Blockheads and being a regular on Buzzcocks and QI.
“I’ve always been open to new experiences,” he says. “I’d like them to be in chronological order so I can see how chaotic they’ve been. I tend to leave things to chance and let things work for me. I don’t like having to make too many heavy decisions.”
So starring in Hairspray?
“I never thought my musical theatre debut would be appearing as woman – but it seemed to work alright,” he says. “What I actually thought was that it sounded like a laugh. My philosophy tends to be “why not” – that’s what motivates me. I’m not a particularly ambitious man. I’m in showbusiness and I’m 48. One day it will stop so on the way why not do as many fun things possible?”
That’s largely how his role as King Arthur in Spamalot at Blackpool Grand Theatre next week turned up.
“When I was eight or nine I’d do Monty Python sketches in class at school,” he said. “Now I do the same thing but I’m getting paid for it. I’m surprised at how solid the writing is. It’s so very, very British and now I’m part of it. When I signed for the part I thought I’d better watch the box set on DVD and now I understand why some people were so hot under collar about it. There’s a silliness that is somewhere between the playground and the hallowed halls of learning.”
As for switching from stand up to theatre he says: “Any stand up worth his salt is basically an actor. Even Ken Dodd has had a pop at it and he’s an absolute legend” (though he admits he sneaked out of Ken’s stand up routine after almost two hours!) “and Lee Evans is a natural.”
As for himself he’d like stab at Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls or Shakespeare’s Sir Tony Belch: “Though I’d probably end up as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which I wouldn’t mind if it were at The Globe.”
Born on the Isle of Wight and now residing in Leigh-on-Sea with his wife and daughters, Phill says he is looking forward to a week by the seaside in Blackpool.
“The last time I was here was to see New Order,” he says. “This time will be a bit different.”
n Spamalot is at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Monday to Saturday next week. performances 7.30pm plus Thursday and Saturday matinees, 2pm. Box office, (01253) 290190, online at www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk.