Changes: Joe Lycett
The audio version of this episode is available here.
Annie [00:00:03] Hello and welcome to Changes. It's Annie Macmanus. Hiya lads, hope you're doing good. I sit here in the rave shed at the end of the garden. It's the first time I've recorded in here in a very long time, because the rave shed became the dumping ground for anything in our house during lockdown. So, imagine two years of built up random toys, wires, cables, records, furniture, art. Anything you could think of just got kind of dumped in here and I've spent the last few weeks trying to clean it out and make it white and minimal. Those places where I think, how do you live like that? Where's all your stuff? That's what I'm trying to do with the rave shed. And it feels nice to be out here as spring is springing. I can see the lilacs which give me so much joy, if you follow me on Instagram you'll know that. I've got three lilac trees in the garden so the whole garden is like this explosion of purple for like three weeks to a month of every year. And yeah, so now they're kind of really super pale, pastel purple turning kind of brown. I'm just kind of eking out every little bit of pleasure from them as I can, so it's lovely to be looking at them as I'm talking to you and telling you about this episode of Changes, which is excellent and I'm really happy to bring it to you. So, this week's guest is one of my favourite stand up comedians. His name is Joe Lycett. You will have seen Joe on all the TV panel shows. Too many to list. Maybe you've seen him host Live at the Apollo. Maybe you've seen him on tour - he's done two huge sell-out UK tours. Maybe you've seen him present, Joe Lycett's Got Your Back, on Channel four, which is a show that's a bit like Watchdog but fun, where Joe helps small businesses and challenges large companies who aren't really behaving very well. It won a Royal Television Society Award and was nominated for a BAFTA. Maybe you've seen Joe presenting the Great British Sewing Bee, or maybe you've seen him taking over from Richard Ayoade as host of Travel Man. He's also an artist. I love his art. It's super bright, popping colours. I especially love his series of paintings of flowers where he calls them all slags, and Joe is pansexual and openly addresses LGBTQ plus issues in his work. He's also a comedian who enacts change through his comedy. He likes to invite people to think actively questioning the patriarchy and capitalism. And if you go and see his current tour, More, More, More! How Do You Lycett? How Do You Lycett?, you will find out how he is affecting change in the most beautiful ways, whilst also being brilliantly funny. He never stops at wanting to make you laugh, Joe Lycett. He even takes on the government. Yes, we do talk about the Sue Gray Report, don't you worry: the official enquiry into partygate and the lockdown socialising in government buildings, which Joe made headlines over. He discusses why doing what he did was so important to him after his big adult change, which was the death of one of his closest friends. So this is a conversation that will make you laugh and maybe make you cry as well. And also, before we start, I should preface the conversation by saying if you don't know who Nadine Dorries is, she's a Tory MP, the Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media and Sport for the UK. Joe had a meeting with her at the BAFTAs, as you will hear. So happy to bring this to you. Welcome to Changes Joe Lycett.
Joe [00:03:36] Hello there. How are you?
Annie [00:03:38] I'm really well. I'm really happy to have some time with you. I've been really enjoying watching clips of you on YouTube, doing all your comedy, in preparation for this. And watching Travel Man! Which I have to say seems like the best job that you could have on television.
Joe [00:03:54] Like absolutely spoilt with that one, really spoilt. Yeah, I know every comedian now has like a travel show, but it's become a bit of a trope. But I think because they've done so many series with Richard Ayoade, who hosted it before, they just know so well how to like make the experience great for everyone. So, I'm there and every time I'm there I'm like, how have you got away with this? How is this so nice?
Annie [00:04:17] Yeah.
Joe [00:04:18] It's extraordinary experience. And yeah, love it.
Annie [00:04:23] Well, it's such a fun watch. If you're listening and you haven't watched it, do go, it's really fun. And also watching, yeah, as I said, like comedy clips, you are known maybe, I don't know if you are, but it feels like you're becoming known now for being someone who is really doing kind of activism in your comedy. Do you know what I mean? Like, there's a slant in everything I watch where you're pushing for openness, for acceptance, and kind of slagging off people who exploit or capitalise off the less powerful or marginalised people. And it seems very anti-establishment and it done in such a clever way in that you're kind of, you're making people laugh, but you're also making people curious. And it's revelatory comedy as opposed to reductive comedy. And I wondered when you kind of realised that that was something you could do and was there a moment in your career when there was a kind of light bulb situation where you were like, I can do this? I can actually try and enact change through being a comedian.
Joe [00:05:23] Yeah, that's very nice of you to say. I would dispute that it's all activism.
Annie [00:05:29] Yes.
Joe [00:05:30] When I'm sort of talking about my cock and balls *laughs*.
Annie [00:05:32] Yes true.
Joe [00:05:33] *Laughs*. Slightly less activist that. Erm, but there is definitely, increasingly a slant in it. I did an interview with Eva Wiseman in The Observer a few weeks ago, and I was saying, I'm not a political comedian and she was like, 'you are!'. And I just don't think of myself as a political comedian because I think of you know, your Andy Zaltzman's and your Nish Kumar's and people who actually are, you know, doing political Stand-Up and really brilliant political work. I don't feel like that but the more I do recently, particularly, the more I realise I'm sort of accidentally a political comedian but in the way that we're all sort of accidentally having to become political because of the state of politics in the country at the minute. Like, I didn't want to be talking about this because I don't want to be cross about these things. I want these things to be done properly. But the government that we in have currently- and even just the fact that I'm talking to you about this publicly on a podcast, I never used to talk about my political leanings, never mentioned who I voted for, I would always try and take the piss out of everyone but the current batch of politicians in power are so- seem to be so immoral and so corrupt and so out for their own gains that we're all forced to kind of- we're watching so many of our institutions sort of break down around us that you don't really have a choice. You have to sort of, you do have to sort of pick a side for want of a- I don't think it's a binary quite like that, but you do have to sort of go like, 'hmm at what point do I go, I'm not happy with this'. The thing that I realised I wanted to talk about was when Dominic Cummings was ermm, fanning about going up to erm-
Annie [00:07:12] When he was going on his drive?
Joe [00:07:13] When he was going on his drive. And obviously it was- I was cross about that like everyone else was because it was a, you know, double standards of the government. But also I had this other thing with my friend who died in lockdown and, you know, didn't get to see him when he died and I'd been with him for a long time up until that point but was playing everything by the rules. Had a small funeral, all of those things. And this pricks like fanning off with his family to Barnard Castle. But I was so cross that I didn't actually, I couldn't use it well. I couldn't use it properly. And so it was like, actually I can't- I'd just come across like, you know when sometimes you're just so angry, you just sort of end up just going like, 'oh and you're a knob?!', you know, and you don't articulate yourself well because you're so cross.
Annie [00:07:58] Yeah.
Joe [00:07:58] And actually, I just knew that I needed to sit with it. And then obviously when partygate came out and all of that, that was the sort of catalyst for me kind of talking about it a bit more openly and a bit more- with a bit more bite and spice to it I suppose. Before that I suppose I was doing a lot of activisty sort of stuff. It's more like just being a bit irritating for companies and that kind of thing when I do, Got Your Back, and the documentary I made about Shell and all that. But I think for that side of things, it's very addictive Annie, being like righteous. And sort of going like, 'I know what's right and wrong and I'm going to tell these baddies what's right and wrong'. And that's, I suppose, why we love watching kind of erm, action films where the goodie wins and the baddie, you know, gets knocked over or whatever. I've sort of put myself in this sort of goodie role, which I realise is a very dangerous place to be (*annie laughs*) because the minute you step out of line, even a little bit, they're coming for you! And I'm sure I'll be eradicated by some stupid something or other at some point but, yeah, it just became very addictive, really. So it's sort of- mainly just I love the thrill of it. I love whatever chemical goes- I don't take drugs, I enjoy a glass of wine, but whatever chemical is released when I say to an audience something about something I've done, which, you know, has pissed off an insurance company or something like that, I love that chemical. That's what I'm going for, really. It's not any altruistic desire to do right or whatever. It's just literally, I want my fix. And that's how I get it.
Annie [00:09:36] I mean, there is that, I suppose the kind of very straightforward like, me against the enemy, you know, good, bad, there is a kind of binary aspect to Joe Lycett's Got Your Back and all that. But then in your Stand-Up it is way more personal and way more nuanced, and you explain stuff in a way that is very patient and kind of, so relatable. So, you know, you're talking to an entire audience about pansexuality or whatever, and there's a kind of way that you do things where it's wrapped up in kind of personal self-deprecation and also just curiosity. You just invite everyone in, I suppose, and I think that's a really powerful way of opening people's minds. And I don't mean to say that everyone that comes to your gig is some sort of neanderthal *laughs*, but do you know what I mean?
Joe [00:10:18] Yeah *laughs*.
Annie [00:10:20] It's just-.
Joe [00:10:20] They can be, they can be.
Joe [00:10:20] Yeah, well that word curiosity is interesting because I always think that when I sort of see, people sort of, particularly around LGBTQ stuff saying like, 'Oh God, there's another letter is there?' (*Annie laughs*), 'Oh we have to add another letter, do we now?'. That is a lack of curiosity. It's a real void of curiosity to sort of say, 'can we just have the four letters now?'. It's like, the world is so full of amazing things. I mean, there's hundreds of countries and we're not saying like, 'oh, can we not just have two?' (*Annie laughs*). You know, it's like there's so much wonder and diversity and nuance to life, and that's what makes life exciting and brilliant. Why not allow ourselves as humans to have that? Why sort of restrict ourselves to being, you know, binaries and all these things? And I know it sounds all nonsense and left- and this is the other thing it's like, I don't, I try not to take any of it too seriously because essentially I'll be dead before I know it and so will the rest of us, so it's like, I try not to get too bogged down in any of it really. But I do find it extraordinary when I sort of hear from people, when they sort of say like, 'oh, I can't be bothered with this they and them stuff, it's he or she'. And I just think, why, why can't you be bothered? What part of your life- why are you so bored of life? Why not be excited by this? It just seems so erm, it seems strange to me. I sort of pity them really, if anything, that they're not excited by the possibility that things could be different.
Annie [00:11:47] Were you always this curious person? Were you a curious kid as well?
Joe [00:11:52] Hmm. I don't know actually. I just realised I'd just done a diatribe about they and them whilst pouring *Annie laughs* light oat milk into my coff- *laughs*. What have I become?! What have I become? *laughs*
Annie [00:12:06] Listen that's my favourite oat milk too.
Joe [00:12:08] Again, another reason for diversity.
Annie [00:12:11] Exactly.
Joe [00:12:12] We all thought, oh, they've done it with almond. Then we thought oh soy, God, it's got to be soy. And then they brought out oat, what next?
Annie [00:12:19] There's rice
Joe [00:12:21] And I'll have it! Whatever next I'll try it and I'll probably fall in love with it. I'm into it. Erm, what was I into? What was the question? What was I doing as a kid?
Annie [00:12:27] So like I'm imagining you as a little kid, writing letters to people and, what were you like in school and as a kid?
Joe [00:12:34] I really wanted to be friends with the teachers. I was that prick. All of my friends were like older, I always like hung out with the older kids. I wasn't anti-authority in the way that I am now, I suppose. But I think it started to sow the seeds. I was trying to play the game and I was trying to be liked by the teachers and I was trying to be whatever. More I went through that process the more I realised that they were sort of trying to mould me into someone that was going to wear a suit and get a job as a lawyer and and that probably wasn't going to work for me.
Annie [00:13:01] It's quite astute to know as a kid that you're not going to be that person who's able to wear a suit and be a lawyer. You sensed it did you?
Joe [00:13:08] I don't know if I knew that then. I kind of followed the path of least resistance because I started doing musical theatrey things when I was at school in the summer holidays, and that was just so much more fun and interesting to me. I just couldn't see why I'd be- the whole rest of term time was just sort of waste of like, kind of exams and nonsense, and then suddenly there's this amazing thing that you do in the summer where you get to show off and wear costumes and all that. I was like why am I doing anything else? I knew I wanted to be in that world, but I wasn't quite sure how- and actually I did radio first, so I did a lot of student radio and things like that because I wanted to just do something where-
Annie [00:13:47] Well you're a talker.
Joe [00:13:47] I'm a talker! I like to speak.
Annie [00:13:48] You went to where you could talk. What were your family like? Did they encourage this musical theatre thing? Who was the kind of enabler of that?
Joe [00:13:56] Oh yeah. Mum and Dad have always just been like, 'yeah, cool, whatever'. And I remember every Wednesday I would go to do work experience at a radio station in Litchfield.
Annie [00:14:06] Can I ask how old you were, Joe? Sorry.
Joe [00:14:08] Yeah, sixtee- It was erm sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, round that time. So you had Wednesday afternoons off to do some extracurricular stuff. And most people just went and like smoked fags somewhere and said that they were doing- they were helping the nan or something. In some ways I wish I'd done the same, but erm, ended up going to this radio station every Wednesday, ended up co-hosting with a guy called Tango who was an amazing, wonderful man, very inspiring and very funny. And my dad would always come and collect me afterwards and drive me home, which was a good, you know, hour and a half, two hour round trip for him to come and do that. But always very supportive, and the same from mum really, always very excited about whatever I was up to and anything that sort of was bringing me joy was bringing them joy. So there's been no resistance from them, which was, potentially, if it had gone another way, terrible parenting, but it worked out alright.
Annie [00:15:03] Yeah, yeah. And when did you realise that you were queer I suppose? And did they realise first?
Joe [00:15:11] I remember around that time when I was doing those shows in the theatre in the summers that there were, kind of camp people around and openly out people, and there weren't at school. And I remember sort of finding boys attractive and thinking, oh, well, I'm probably gay that aren't I. And it was a dark realisation, I remember at the time thinking like, this is bad. Like I, I, this is not good news. And trying to sort of think my way out of it. And I originally came out as gay and then back-pedalled very quickly when I realised, oh, but women are fit aren't they? So it ended up sort of being bisexual. And then I talk about being pansexual, in my Stand-Up, which is a word that I also use for myself, but it's a more kind of intellectual description of how I feel about myself. Bi is the kind of 'popular' word, I would say, that most people understand but pansexual is the kind of word that makes the most sense to me. But then I've started using Queer a lot more recently because I think it sort of encompasses that diversity that I was talking about of like, it's not only like a sexual attraction thing, it's a sort of, it does filter more into my identity as someone that is unusual, I suppose, and someone that likes to mess around with the norms of society and things like that. But in a kind of. In a kind of fun way, I suppose. I think that's what I like about queer, it's like, 'ooo, how queer, how unusual, how exciting!'. It's not like, 'he's a wrongen!'.
Annie [00:16:36] I want to look up the dictionary definition of queer. Haven't done that, hang on.
Joe [00:16:41] Well it is, to some elder gays, it's still contentious because it was used as a slur.
Annie [00:16:48] Yeah, I suppose. Yeah.
Joe [00:16:50] So, I do occasionally get messages from people saying I wish you'd stop using that word. But I won't *laughs*. So erm, thanks for your message but I won't. I think it's one of those where it feels so accurate for me that I am, I'm happy to be called it.
Annie [00:17:06] It's a nice kind of umbrella term, isn't it, for everything?
Joe [00:17:09] Yeah, but it wasn't in the old days, I appreciate that.
Annie [00:17:12] Yeah.
[00:17:22] *short musical interlude*.
Annie [00:17:23] So Joe, you cited for your childhood change, these summer youth projects. Tell us a little bit more about Birmingham Alexandra Theatre and what that did for you as a kid, please.
Joe [00:17:34] Well, actually, my mum saw it in the paper saying audition for the Summer Youth Project and I think you'd audition in the Easter holidays and then you'd find out if you were in, and then it would be over a period of two and a half weeks. You'd audition very intensely over those two weeks and then put on five, six shows over a weekend at the end of the summer holidays. The first one we did was Guys and Dolls when I must have been, I don't know, thirteen, fourteen, something like that. And then did Fame and West Side Story and Summer Holiday and basically anything they could get the rights to at the time *Annie laughs*. And erm, with varying levels of quality. But it was like, you know, people that work in musical theatre that directed it and, you know, proper orchestra and all of this amazing stuff. So it was an amazing experience, really. And I just became addicted to it, really. And, you know, it was just amazing to be performing in a theatre like that. Often on the last night to, you know, it would be sold out. I think it wouldn't sell quite as well on the on the build up, but like to play a sold out theatre at that kind of age. And actually it was a real comedown going to university because I studied drama and english and I thought it would just be more of the same, but actually, I wasn't getting roles at university and it was all a lot more kind of chin strokey and Shakespeare and all of these things that I didn't actually- I just wanted to show off, really. I didn't want to go into the kind of technicalities of Brecht and all that. I don't care. I'm not interested in that. I just want to show off. And so, yeah, those shows were just sort of like halcyon days of really enjoying performing and tip of the iceberg of what performing could be for me, I suppose.
Annie [00:19:12] This realisation that you wanted to show up, you enjoyed, you thrived being in front of people and performing. How did that turn into comedy then?
Joe [00:19:22] Well, I always liked making people laugh, so I was like, making people laugh, kind of backstage. At the time I was getting roles. I mean, like West Side Story's not a laugh a minute. So it wasn't- I wasn't doing it on stage particularly. I think there were a couple of times when I had lines that got laughs, and maybe that started a bit of that ball rolling. But it was at university really, and I really admired comedy and I couldn't believe how amazing it was as a thing that someone could be a stand up comedian. I sort of thought that was an extraordinary thing to do and such a brave thing to do at that time, I was like, wow. And loved people like Alan Carr and Michael McIntyre and Lee Mack and all these people that I saw on Live at the Apollo. And it was at university in my second year, I went to this thing called King Gong, I was at University in Manchester and King Gong was at the Comedy Store. And it's where people get up and they, the audience have cards and if they don't like you, they put the card up, and if the three cards go up you get gonged on.
Annie [00:20:17] God, brutal!
Joe [00:20:17] It's so brutal. And my friend was like, I'm going to go along. Do you want to go along? I was like yeah let's go and savage some idiots for trying Stand-Up. And then, just drank a lot of Magnus and thought, well I can do better than this. And the compère, a guy called Mick Farry who I know very well now who's a brilliant Stand-Up, he was like, 'does anyone in the audience want to give it a go?'. And I was like, ah I can do better than these pricks.
Annie [00:20:42] Oh God Joe.
Joe [00:20:44] And err. I absolutely couldn't Annie. Errr-
Annie [00:20:45] I mean, did you have anything stored up in your head that you were going to say, or was it all just spontaneous?
Joe [00:20:52] No, I had one joke which was about Madeleine McCann.
Annie [00:20:57] Oof!
Joe [00:20:58] And yeah, that was the reaction *laughs*. That was the reaction from the whole room. Quite rightly. Erm, because I thought that was what comedy was, like you just say something shocking and everyone goes, 'wow, I can't believe you said that! Woah, woah, let's wank him off'.
Annie [00:21:13] Jimmy Carr style?
Joe [00:21:14] Jimmy Carr style, and that absolutely has not become what I've become. And you definitely need to have some joke structure there if you're going to do that.
Annie [00:21:22] Yeah.
Joe [00:21:23] And then I just floundered. I had nothing to say and I wasn't even gonged off, I just walked off because I didn't have anything and I was so drunk and so mortified, I was just so embarrassed. And a couple of my friends were there and they just didn't want to be with me anymore. And like, this whole thing was just awful. I think actually that started this thing of like, I've got to prove the people in that room wrong. Like, I actually think I could be good at this, and so that was a real catalyst I suppose, but erm, dunno, it's one of those isn't it. Like, if that hadn't of happened I have no idea what I would have done so.
Annie [00:21:56] Was there someone funny in your life that made you laugh in that way?
Joe [00:22:03] Oh tons. Yeah, like my dad's very funny and he would like, you know, at family gatherings or whatever, really kind of hold court and tell amazing stories. So I think there's a bit of that there. And my mum's funny, but in a different way. And I don't think- I don't remember finding her particularly funny when I was a kid, but she's so funny now and she's quite active on social media and she'll sort of comment on things that I've posted with quite dry responses or like kind of eye rolling stuff to nonsense that I've done. People enjoy that, myself included. But then there were lots of people, like one of the directors of the Summer Youth Projects that we did at the Alex was very funny and he was very camp and sort of, kind of, almost sort of Oscar Wildey, and in the way that he talked and I became really obsessed with Quentin Crisp around that time as well, who I just still think is amazing. So yeah, there's lots of sort of, camp characters around that I found very funny and I think I was quite irritating at parties because I really wanted to be funny. I really wanted to be like, the funny one.
Annie [00:23:02] So, you had people around you that were funny in their own ways. Was there a point as you started doing comedy more where you found your own style?
Joe [00:23:13] Yeah.
Annie [00:23:13] You know when you realised, well this is who I am now as a comedian.
Joe [00:23:16] Yeah, I mean, it takes time with Stand-Up. And that's the thing I always say to people who want to try it, I just say you've just got to loads of it, unfortunately. And you've got to do loads of gigs where they hate you. Because Roy Walker, the old host of Catchphrase who was also a brilliant Stand-Up, his advice to me was, 'you don't learn to be funny when they're laughing'. And that really stuck with me because it's like, that is absolutely true. Like there's moments where you're looking at an audience and they're going- and you must have the same with when you're DJing. Like you're kind of looking at the crowd and going, 'oh, I'm losing them here'.
Annie [00:23:47] Yeah.
Joe [00:23:47] And that's when you're scrambling around, like, what's going to get them back and all that.
Annie [00:23:51] It's the worst feeling, yeah.
Joe [00:23:51] But it's, it's the worst feeling, but also the most productive feeling and the most sort of growing that you'll do isn't it, I suppose. And I imagine that's the same with any kind of crowd facing job where you start to lose them.
Annie [00:24:03] So, do you think you can learn to be funny or do you have to have an element of being funny boned? You know like, if you look at someone like Billy Connolly who, like, you'd literally just have to look at his face.
Joe [00:24:14] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Annie [00:24:15] And you're laughing like-
Joe [00:24:17] Billy Connolly's so annoying, because he's one of the few comics, and there's not many ever in the history of comedy, who doesn't write Stand-Up. He goes out on stage and follows his thread.
Annie [00:24:34] God.
Joe [00:24:35] And it's amazing. And that- there's people obviously like Ross Noble's very good at that. James Acaster I think is very good at that. There's a few people who have that skill, and I think Billy's probably the best we've ever had. I can't think of anyone better at it. I feel like he does something different to what the rest of us are doing. I think, he's doing, kind of, improv stand up, and the rest of us are kind of scrambling around doing trial and error at new material gigs, working out what's funny in front of rooms that aren't finding us funny, basically. And that's my process entirely, it's like, this show involves a stunt that I've been working on for years, but once the stunt was complete, it then took me six months of going out three, four nights a week, reading out stuff, seeing if they laugh and if they don't, ticking and crossing as you go. And so, the odds of them laughing at something that I've written are getting higher. But it's still like, if you ask me to go out tomorrow night and do ten minutes of brand new Stand-Up, a lot of it would be shit, like, I'm not, I'm not, I'm not really funny like all the time in that way. I'm not reliably- I'm sure I could find things and it'd be an interesting exercise. There's a gig actually that a lot of comics do, aimed at facilitating this, which is called Setlist, have you ever heard of it?
Annie [00:26:00] No.
Joe [00:26:01] You go on stage, you're not allowed to do your routines or anything, and there's a screen behind you and you go out and you say hello to the audience, and then you say, oh, the first thing I want to talk about- and you look back, and they've given you a thing to talk about. And it will be quite niche. It will be, you know, I think I had one which was like, 'why Hitler was right'. You know, like it would just be like something really- and you'll just have to go... 'I've brought you all here because I want to tell you how I think Hitler's right', and you just have to find a routine there, you just have to talk about something. And it's so terrifying, but it's so, every comic that I know that's done it finds it so exhilarating, because you do, you do find something. Your brain gives you some- and it might be shit, but sometimes you go, 'oh, actually I could form that into something'. And it's become like a bit of a drug for some comics that they have to do Setlist, and they do it at festivals around the world. I did it in Melbourne and I really enjoyed it but I wasn't in a hurry to do it again, you know, It's like, it slightly revealed the weaknesses in my erm, in my skill I suppose. But then I love, I was thinking about this the other day, that somebody said they were coming to my show twice and they'd come twice in two nights, and I was like, oh, but it's the same, you'll just see the same show.
Annie [00:27:12] Yeah.
Joe [00:27:12] But then I was thinking, well, playwrights write the same thing. Like, you're not expecting Romeo and Juliet to be a different thing every night, like it is, it's a show. I've written a show. But I think it's this sort of idea that people think, oh, comics are sort of inherently funny and everything they say is hysterical, and actually, I'm not. I'm not that funny, basically.
Annie [00:27:35] *Laughs*.
Joe [00:27:35] That's the review!
Annie [00:27:41] *Laughs* 'I'm not that funny'.
Joe [00:27:42] Yeah, but do come to the show *laughs*.
Annie [00:27:44] Well, let's talk about the nature of the show, though, because it is very unique when it comes to, you know, stand-up comedy. It doesn't feel as much stand-up comedy from what I've read about it. There's more depth to it, I suppose, in terms of, as you say, it's a long term project and there's a reveal. I know you can't obviously tell us what the reveal is. But what can you tell us about this, the More, More, More! How Do You Lycett? How Do You Lycett? show.
Joe [00:28:07] Yeah, it is my favourite thing I've ever done and it sort of happened- the stunt didn't happen by accident because I planned it, but what happened as a result of the stunt was so unexpectedly beautiful and a real kind of example of the good of people, I suppose. The sort of premise of the show is that I'm trying to get my house price up, essentially. So it comes from a selfish desire to basically piss off a friend of mine's boyfriend, who's an estate agent, who said I overpaid on the house. And it sort of starts from there. *Annie laughs*. And then it's my-.
Annie [00:28:43] I love that it's just based on spite.
Joe [00:28:45] Yeah, it's all spite. And it comes from this, like, very spiteful, selfish position. And then I obviously approach it in quite unorthodox ways. The result was this sort of, huge community thing. That's the only way I can describe it, it's like this amazing moment of humanity coming together. But it was totally unexpected. It wasn't what- I hadn't planned for that. It came out of really- I just love people like Derren Brown and I love those films like erm, what's the one with Keyser Söze?
Annie [00:29:21] Oh, I know it, erm...
Joe [00:29:22] Um, um, something! Is it um? AHHHH.
Annie [00:29:24] *Laughs*
Joe [00:29:28] Ah Kevin Spacey.
Annie [00:29:29] This is on clip guys. Erm Suspect! Suspect? Usual suspects?
Joe [00:29:33] Usual suspects!
Annie [00:29:33] Boom!
Joe [00:29:34] Usual sus- I was close with 'um' *laughs*. Starts with a 'U'. Love Derren Brown, love Usual Suspects, love those like things where there's like a twist at the end and you go, whoa, that was, well I didn't see that coming, but it was all sort of there, you know, it was that kind of thing. And I just wanted to create something with a bit of that in it as well.
Annie [00:29:53] Yeah, it sounds intriguing.
Joe [00:29:56] Yes.
Annie [00:29:57] Can't wait to see it.
[00:30:08] *Short musical interlude*.
Annie [00:30:08] You've mentioned your friend, David, and he is the person behind the biggest change of your adult life that you talk about.
Joe [00:30:14] Mmmm.
Annie [00:30:15] Tell us a little bit about David.
Joe [00:30:18] Yeah, so David was the husband in the end of a great friend of mine that I went to university with, and her mum is Jenny Beaven, who is the costume designer.
Annie [00:30:30] Wow.
Joe [00:30:30] Who I live with when I'm in London. I live in Birmingham, but when I'm in London, when I first started doing stand-up and got some gigs in London, she very kindly let me stay at the house. And it became apparent that that house was the sort of place where people stay, like she has all sorts of set designers and actors and all sorts of people. It's a lovely, gorgeous house in Peckham and there's a lot of people that have stayed there over the years. I think I'm probably the one that stayed the longest because it's just a very happy place to live. But, after we'd all left university, Caitlin moved back there and I was staying on and off when I was doing shows. And she got this boyfriend, basically, called David, and I met him and we just really got on well. And so as a sort of trio, we went on holidays and all this sort of stuff but he was just so fascinated with the arts. He didn't work in the arts, he worked in finance and so any opportunity he had to kind of do stuff in the arts he was well up for, and so came to every and all gigs that he could and TV records and everything. And so actually, there was no one in my life that had been to so many things across the spectrum of horrible gigs where I'd died on my arse, and he'd sort of, we'd gone and nursed a pint afterwards to, you know, shows where, you know I'm on Graham Norton and he came to that and things like that, you know. He'd just sort of been to everything. And he had Crohn's disease, which is a bowel autoimmune disease basically that can result in cancer and unfortunately got cancer probably about five years ago now. And just gradually sort of got worse and worse, but kind of had periods where he was better and then, you know, ups and downs as these things are like. And so yeah. So, his partner Caitlin who he married and- it was the most extraordinary day, really. It was like, I'm not a big fan of weddings. Like, I find them all a bit like eugh. I don't really believe them. Like, I'm a bit like, it's a performance. I'm like yeah, okay but I know you. I know you both separately, and I don't think you're fully on board with all of what you're saying here. But then these two, like, you know, they've got no skin in the game. He's going to die within weeks and, you know, it's just an outpouring of love and we did it in their house in Lewisham, and it was the most extraordinary, beautiful thing I've ever been to really. His sort of demise or, or illness, I suppose, was something that kind of, I suppose, we'll all go through in different ways but I'd not been through that before in that sense of like a kind of long illness and watching somebody, watching somebody die I suppose. And that is obviously going to change you. I was making a lot of TV at the time as well, so sort of going from like his bedside to, you know, trying to be an idiot and actually finding that I could do that quite comfortably and and can be funny around these very dark things and losing someone who's very, you know, dear to you. I was capable of that quite easily. And I thought that was interesting. So I was just sort of learning loads about myself, as well as like, what it is to be a human with friends and family and loved ones who are going to pass, I suppose. I found all of that really... it was a lot, you know, it's a lot, that sort of experience is endlessly- and there's the emotional side of it but then there's this like, literally the practical side of it of like hospital appointments and treatment and the kind of, the ghoulish body side of it as well where there's, you know, watching someone go through horrible procedures and things like that and all of those things, which I'd just not really been exposed to before. I'd just been very fortunate, I'd got, you know, 30 years through my life and not had to sort of see that with anyone. And yeah, it will have changed me forever, undoubtedly. And I think for both good and ill, really. I think it will. It's- I was listening to, have you heard the Dead Eyes Podcast?
Annie [00:34:43] No.
Joe [00:34:44] It's about an actor who got a role in Band of Brothers, only a small role in an episode that was directed by Tom Hanks. And then Tom Hanks decided that he didn't want him in the, in the role anymore because he had dead eyes. And it's about this guy explo- it's an amazing podcast, but I'm listening to it at the minute and he talks about after that experience that he, he basically clipped his emotional range and so he doesn't think he'll ever be as excited as he was when he got the role in Band of Brothers. But he doesn't also think he'll feel as low as he did when he lost it. Like he's sort of, he's buffered himself on both sides. And I can, I can sort of see that a little bit. Like emotionally, I can slightly see that I've slightly created-
Annie [00:35:29] Kind of parameters?
Joe [00:35:30] A cap, yeah, of like I will only be happy to this level and I'll only be sad to this level. And I don't think the happiness thing- I'm not restricting myself, but I can sort of just feel that there's like, I'm in a steady space. I'm not grieving for him particularly. I'm not. I sort of feel like I've done that. And I'm- but I'm also not like, well, the world's going to be always amazing. Like I've seen some horrible shit now and I will not unsee that. And I'm not under the illusion that everything's going to be rosy forever. It's that sort of, it's part growing up isn't it really, you just realise that things are- things can go horribly wrong quite quickly.
Annie [00:36:08] Yeah. Has it changed how you feel about your own life? Obviously you have those initial things of seeing stuff you can't unsee, but in terms of how you're living your life on a daily has it changed?
Joe [00:36:18] Yeah, massively actually. There's loads of stuff I want to do. We were talking before about learning how to use GarageBand. There's loads of things like that on my list where I go, I'd love to do that, I'd love to do that. And for a long time that list just grew in my head of like, well I'd love to make a short film, I'd love to make a coffee table book, and I'd love to do painting, I'd love to do all these things, but I just wasn't doing it. I was like, oh I'll get round to that because at the minute I'm busy making telly or whatever it is or doing stand up. And actually there's been this explosion over the last few years, and lockdown helped in the sense that I didn't have- couldn't do anything else. So, I was sort of just doing other things. But I've got this insatiable, like, desire to get stuff done and to try those experiences and they're pretty much all creative things. I'm not that fussed about kind of seeing the Northern Lights or whatever, it's about like, I'd like to get good at painting and I'd like to learn GarageBand and I'd like to- I was watching these videos of erm, It's quite geeky but I love video games and there's this new engine called the Unreal Engine 5, which is what like loads of games will be built in, and you can- I didn't realise we can just download it for free and learn how to make video games and I was like, I would love to do that. Whether I'll actually get round to it, I don't know, but it's things like that where I'm like, what's stopping me? I'm like, you can download it for free, it didn't cost me anything. I could just have a go at that. And so there's a real sense, particularly in lockdown, of like, I'm going to get on with that. And so I started making short films and I'm doing that around everything else at the minute and really finding that very enjoyable and edifying. And making this coffee table book, which I've always wanted to do, like make a really gorgeous book, which I'm working on as well, and yeah.
Annie [00:38:02] And is that for your art or is that more than that?
Joe [00:38:05] It's about bins, actually.
Annie [00:38:06] Oh, the bin thing, of course. Yes.
Joe [00:38:08] I'm obsessed with bins, Annie.
Annie [00:38:11] I love the idea of really trying to dig deep into that obsession with bins. Like, where the hell does that come from?
Joe [00:38:17] I don't know. But I love them. I've got this wall- I can just see now, like hundreds of bins on my wall, and they bring me such joy.
Annie [00:38:25] *Laughs*.
Joe [00:38:25] Dunno, dunno what it is. Just think they're- I love the word bin. I love- they're everywhere. You're never far from a bin. And someone's had to design it. Someone's had to put it together, love it. And there's a very funny erm-
Annie [00:38:40] That's what I call, that's what I call the Holiday Inns. I call them holiday bins.
Joe [00:38:43] Lovely!
Annie [00:38:44] They're kind of bins for human beings, aren't they?
Joe [00:38:47] Yeah, they are, holiday bins.
Annie [00:38:48] But we do get out of them at the end of the- morning.
Joe [00:38:49] Also, can we, can we discuss Travelodge?
Annie [00:38:53] Mmm hm.
Joe [00:38:54] It's- if it's Travelodge, there should be two L's. It's travel-lodge.
Annie [00:38:59] Is it all one word?
Joe [00:38:59] It's all one word. So they've gone with Travelodge or Trave lodge.
Annie [00:39:05] Yeah and that's not ok. That's not ok.
Joe [00:39:05] Trave lodge. What is that?
Annie [00:39:08] Yeah. It's not ok, you're right.
Joe [00:39:10] It's just not ok.
Annie [00:39:10] I like how pedantic you are about that. I would- I agree.
[00:39:19] *Short musical interlude*.
Annie [00:39:19] So, we've got to talk about the fake Sue Gray Report.
Joe [00:39:21] Oh, yeah.
Annie [00:39:23] I mean, just for those who don't know, talk us through how that happened and also the reaction you got off the back of that, if that's ok?
Joe [00:39:31] Well, it started- I tweet stupid shit all the time to people that I don't like, basically. And it's, I think the first person I did it with was Donald Trump. I would like tweet him as if I was his boyfriend and just be like really cutesy. But I've started doing it with other people and I do it with Boris. So when he does Prime Minister's questions, particularly when he's lying and I get infuriated watching him do it and it makes me so cross, my response to that is to tweet him and say, like, well done, babe. You know, like, don't let em' get you down kind of thing, they're just jealous. And so, I was doing a lot of that and at one point mentioned Nadine off of Nadine Dorries.
Annie [00:40:09] Yeah.
Joe [00:40:09] But used the word Nadine, and I'd been out on the piss and then I got back and then somebody- I was just looking through Twitter and the political editor of Joe.co.uk, which I didn't realise had a political editor, but they do, had like, found that Nadine Dorries had retweeted my tweet. And then she deleted it very quickly. And I just thought, that's crackers that like, me pretending to be Boris' boyfriend, essentially, saying I'm with Nadine, I'm on your side. She'd seen that and gone, right, well, we must get that out. We must retweet that. I just thought, what, what planet are these people on? And so that got a bit of heat. And then the next day I'd had this idea of writing a sort of joke, Sue Gray Report. And then just sort of put it together. And I'd sort of been chatting about it with friends of mine and they'd come up with funny ideas for it. So we just put this list together of like what could be in that report.
Annie [00:41:07] Yeah.
Joe [00:41:07] And I just thought, oh I'll just put it out as a tweet and just, it'll be- you know, make a few people laugh, get a few retweets, and that's it. That's all I expected of it. And it did quite well. And lots of people were saying like, oh, I found this quite believable until like, towards the end. And then I got this message out of the blue on instagram from someone saying they work for the conservatives in parliament and that actually it was read out as a serious leak and that the MP staff were panic dialling their MPs and there was this real like panic in parliament after this had been read out. I had it verified and it's someone who works for a cabinet minister who did it and they basically were like, these people are monsters and, their from Birmingham as well and they were basically saying like keep representing Birmingham, and like, Boris needs to go and all this stuff. And yeah, so I obviously then posted that and basically said how delighted I was that that was going on. But because there was such like heat on it and lots of people talking about it and getting in the press or whatever, that evening I just, I felt like I sort of wanted to talk about why I'd done it, like why, why I enjoyed that. And so, I sort of drafted this thing of like, talking about David essentially and saying, you know, how cross I was about that. And then the response was extraordinary because actually it related to so many people, because so many people went through the same thing, went through someone dying in lockdown, and the feeling of, that you're being laughed at, but also- and that's something I've been a lot in my life and, you know, quite enjoyed most of the time. But also that, that feeling of erm, it's a real insult to those people and it's a real degradation of sort of standards of what it is to be in public office and to represent people through a crisis that there was no, there didn't seem to be any contrition or anything. And it's infuriating. It's really, really angering. And I think people related to it. You know, the response to it was amazing. I cried quite a lot that day because I knew David would have loved it, he loved like pissing people off in that way and he loved whenever I was doing stuff like that so, it kind of brought a lot of that back really but erm, I knew he would have been very proud of it and I wouldn't have done it without. And I checked with his widow as well about it and she was all on board with it so, yeah, it was err, it was quite an extraordinary thing really. But I bumped into Nadine Dorries at the BAFTAs recently and I was sat having the meal and Scott Bryan came over and he was like, Nadine Dorries is here and I was like, 'where?' And he was like, I don't know, I've just heard she's here. So I then went round like scuttling around the room, it was quite busy, like trying to find her, and clocked her, and I just went up to her and I was, I made myself very small. I sort of crouched down next to her and I said, 'oh, hi Nadine erm, you follow me on Twitter', and she went, 'oh, do I?', and I said 'yeah, yeah and you retweeted me the other day. I tweeted Boris erm- a sort of supportive tweet to Boris', and she went, 'oh, I don't remember that. That's probably Luke from my team, he runs my Twitter account'. And then her daughter had come round and the daughter went, 'no, don't you remember, mum? I rang you because it was going viral'. *Laughs*, just completely threw her under the bus and she went, 'oh yes! Ah, sorry, I think of you as the sewing man. So I didn't put two and two together'. And so then we were like chatting about it going like- and I said, 'and yeah, yeah, I sort of talk about it in my stand-up show, so thanks for giving me some material', and she went, 'oh, well, I'm happy that that's happened' or whatever. And then AJ Odudu came over who's an old friend of mine, and she's such a ball of energy and so it was like, me, AJ Odudu and Nadine Dorries and her daughter, stood at the BAFTAs. And AJ had a friend with her, this guy who basically just whispered in my ear like, 'I cannot be near that woman, I've got to be somewhere else'. Like basically just said, I'm going away. And then I just thought like, it was all going so well. I was being like a bit sarcastic and Scott actually was to the side as well. Scott was there. But I just felt like, I can't leave this situation with her thinking that I'm a fan or that-.
Annie [00:45:01] Yeah, yeah.
Joe [00:45:03] That I approve in any way of who she is and what she does. And so, I just felt like this was sort of my time to sort of erm, to go for it. So I said, I said something along the lines of like, 'I really admire the gall that you had to support Boris Johnson during partygate when the rest of the country didn't'. And AJ Odudu went, 'ooo, it's all got very heavy here!', and I was like, 'don't diffuse this AJ!'. And then Nadine went, 'well, I'm going to disagree with you there actually, because I've seen the opinion polls and actually he's very, very popular with the country', and she sort of clicked immediately into like tory politican mode.
Annie [00:45:36] Yeah, defensive mode.
Joe [00:45:37] Like very defensive. And then she'd like walked off basically. And her daughter told me that she thought that I'd erm, I'd shut down debate or whatever, but also said that she was a big fan and wanted to come to see my show. So I was like, well, your mum follows me on Twitter, so get her to err, get her to DM me. She's welcome whenever. Erm, but it was such a like extraordinary thing because I came away afterwards thinking like, I'd really felt like I'd looked into a void. And I don't mean that like as a joke, really. I actually do- I feel like there's something really missing there, and I think, I think she's very dangerous. I think she's such a big part of this government and always parrots whatever Boris wants her to, and it was fascinating looking into her eyes, into the whites of her eyes and watching it happen and going, ah, there's no way, there's not a-
Annie [00:46:29] There's no way Tom Hanks would have her in Band of Brothers.
Joe [00:46:33] *Laughs*. Exactly! It's like it's- something's been lost here. Or whether it was ever there in the first place. And her daughter did ta- her daughter was very sweet and said that you know, she doesn't always agree with her mum's opinions and but, you know, there's ways of talking to people. And I said, oh, maybe I shouldn't have used the word gall, maybe that was where I went wrong. *Annie laughs*. But it was frightening actually. It is quite scary to meet these people. And then Thérèse coffey was at the Netflix party. I was like, Jesus Christ, it's like swimming with fucking snakes this thing! *Annie laughs*. And erm, who at Netflix went, 'we should invite Thérèse Coffey, The Department for Work and Pensions'. She was a lot more agreeable and I sat- well basically she was sat with someone that I know and they didn't know who she was and she was just talking their ear off, and they said, 'who is this woman? Like she just keeps talking to me'. And I was like, 'oh, that's erm, Thérèse Coffey, she's the Department for Work and Pensions, don't worry, I've got a good history of getting rid of tory politicians tonight, so I'll sit with her'.
Annie [00:47:28] Leave her to me!
Joe [00:47:28] Leave it to me. So I sat with her for twenty minutes and again watched her sort of click into- she was a lot more like jolly and she'd had a few drinks, whatever. Watched her click into sort of erm, tory mode when I asked about partygate, and at what point did she feel that Boris should go and she just sort of went, 'well, you know, we'll wait for the report', and I just was like oh God, this shit again. And then the most insightful thing I got out of her is I just said, 'Thérèse, do you think power corrupts?', and she went, 'hmmm. I think it makes people erm, complacent. I don't think it makes them corrupt'. And I was like, well, that tells you everything you fucking need to know doesn't it? *Annie laughs*. A woman who's instigating universal credit and all that. Great, seeya.
[00:48:14] *Short musical interlude*.
Annie [00:48:14] Joe Lycett. What is the change you would still like to make or see for yourself moving forwards?
Joe [00:48:33] I've been right on my old soap box today haven't I?
Annie [00:48:35] I love it.
Joe [00:48:37] I've given myself anxiety about the bloody government. I think right now it would be to get this government out, basically. I think they've got to go. We have to restore some moral dignity to our government. That's the change I would love to see, immediately. And it's extraordinary to me to be saying this on a public podcast. I've not been the sort of person to do that, but they've got to go. We have to, we have to find a way of removing them from power. For me, I'd love a swimming pool.
Annie [00:49:09] Yeah. Understand.
Joe [00:49:12] Relatable comedian, man of the people, Joe Lycett, would like a swimming pool, please. If you could make that happen Annie Mac please?
Annie [00:49:20] Don't you go swimming with your mum? I read that, that you go swimming with your mum once a week or something.
Joe [00:49:24] Yeah, we go swimming to her gym.
Annie [00:49:27] That's too cute.
Joe [00:49:28] Yeah, it's lovely, isn't it? I love swimming and I'm very good at it, if I say so myself.
Annie [00:49:34] Wow, I'm jealous.
Joe [00:49:34] I'm very good at front crawl and I get so much out of swimming and I've started doing more cold water swimming and went in the sea in Bournemouth when I was there on tour and just love it. I'd like to be closer to bodies of water. Maybe I just need to move to the coast. But I love Birmingham and annoyingly Birmingham is the furthest from the coast you can possibly be in this country, so I need to bring the coast to me. So, I'd like a swimming pool. Problem is my garden is not big enough for swimming pool.
Annie [00:50:00] You could maybe get a plunge pool if you're into the cold water swimming.
Joe [00:50:03] Ooo there's a thought.
Annie [00:50:03] You know, just like a very deep, very small pool that's freezing. That you just jump in and out.
Joe [00:50:09] I do love a plunge pool.
Annie [00:50:10] Mhm.
Joe [00:50:11] I mean people have said hot tubs and all of that, but I like to get a swim on so I'd like to do a length, so I'd like it to be like fifteen metres? It doesn't need to be that wide, just like a lap pool, but I don't have space for it in the garden so it is a change that will not happen. But if I can get rid of the tories, that'd be great! *Laughs*
Annie [00:50:28] It's good to have change to aspire to. It's good to have change to move towards, you know?
Joe [00:50:31] Yes, yes.
Annie [00:50:33] Joe Lycett, thank you so much for bringing us and talking us through your changes today. It's been an absolute pleasure.
Joe [00:50:40] Oh yes, a pleasure as well.
Annie [00:50:45] What a man. The obsession with bins I cannot get over. I should say that after we spoke, Joe sent me some gorgeous prints of his art and also a little note written on a postcard with a photo of a bin on it. Joe is on tour now with More, More, More! How do you Lycett? How do you Lycett? You must go. And you can watch Travel Man on Channel Four. Next week, I'm delighted to say we have renowned Irish author Roddy Doyle, a Booker Prize winner for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and author of eleven acclaimed novels, including, The Commitments, The Snapper, The Van and Smile. Thank you so much for listening. Please subscribe or follow the podcast and rate and review if you can. This episode of Changes was produced by Louise Mason through DIN Productions. Thank you and goodbye.