By ELLIOT DAWSON.
Joel Dommett is a British comedian quickly on the rise. He has been an MTV host, appeared on Skins and performed in numerous places around the world. Now, at last, he has made the journey to New Zealand to show us why he’s one of the best.
When was the moment you knew that you wanted to do comedy?
I think it was, weirdly, like, after my first gig. I watched people for ages and I never knew it was something you could actually do yourself. I was never really the funny guy, just the best friend of the funny guy. I’ve been observing funny people my entire life … I think at times it makes for a better comedian, because you get a lot more intelligent about things. I did my first gig in America – it was mainly out of boredom, really – and I … was just like: This is what I wanna do for the rest of my life.
What were you doing in America at the time?
I had a friend who lived there. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I just went there for a couple of months. Then my friend had a job in Canada, so I was left alone in his flat in Hollywood for, like, two months… I was really poor and I didn’t have a car and I was walking around streets where there was absolutely nobody else around and everyone looks at you because you’re weird, because you’re walking. The one thing that did help was the comedy club; I used to go there every night (because there was nothing else to do)… until they let me in for free. I saw an open mic night and thought: I can’t wait to be really bad at this myself.
So how did the first gig go?
My first one went okay, and then my second one was terrible. The open mic scene in America is terrible, it’s just like, you do three minutes and then they turn the light off on you. You’re between bands, so it’s not like you’re between other comedians. It’s not like now. I’ve been doing it for eight years and I would struggle to go on now after a band.
Were there any comedians who would perform that have become more popular?
Not really. I mean, there were always famous comedians coming in and doing stuff and they were all brilliant. Like a guy called Chris D’Elia, he’d always be there and he was really new at the time and he was great. It was a quite well-known club called The Laugh Factory, which was really cool.
Do you have a favourite comedian?
My favourite is a guy called Tommy Tiernan, who’s an Irish comic and he’s absolutely, insanely good. He’s just, to me, the best storyteller in the world. He’s got such a beautiful, lyrical anger about him, it’s amazing.
You’ve done quite a bit of acting, a lot of people will know you from your role as DC Sweeney on Skins; is there anything that draws you to acting that comedy can’t quite do?
Not really. I prefer comedy, definitely. Comedy leaves you in control of things and there aren’t really people to tell you what to do, and that’s what’s beautiful about it. You just think of a joke and then go off and do and if it works you continue doing it and if not you just don’t do it. With acting, you’ve got to wait for an agent and then wait for other people… you could do your own show, but it’s really hard to get traction. With comedy, the good people tend to do well and the bad people tend to drop off. There are a few exceptions to that, but it feels a lot more fair… more communal and less competitive. Most people are just really good people and really nice and the ones that aren’t, well, all the good people get together and talk about how annoying they are.
You were in the cast of Impractical Jokers UK – what was the most embarrassing thing you had to do?
I had to go to a dry cleaners and take off all of my clothes and put them on the counter and walk out completely naked. That was the most horrific thing I’ve ever done. And it was a really hot day, so there were a lot of people just sat at cafes on the street opposite. They were just like looking at me like ‘what the hell is this guy doing? There’s literally kids walking around’. It was completely illegal too. In hindsight, you can’t just walk around completely naked. But my production staff were like ‘yeah, but it’s pretty funny’.
Is this your first time in New Zealand?
Yes it is. I’m really enjoying it, it’s such a lovely place you have here, so well done for creating it.
Did you talk to any other people before coming, about what New Zealand audiences enjoy and don’t enjoy?
Yeah, there are some really good comics here, I really like the circuit. The audiences are a bit more polite, which is really nice. Even when they’re rowdy their not, like, ravey rowdy, they’re just sort of B-level amount rowdy. In the UK on a weekend, it’s just mental. You’re like a teacher in a school in Compton and you’ve got to try calm everyone down, whereas here you can just do your stuff and everyone will enjoy it, so it’s definitely more fun doing comedy here. Audiences are really lovely, like the people are. It’s really a reflection of the people – I think the people here are nicer than the people in England.
Definitely, like you can give eye contact in the street to strangers and you won’t get beaten up!
Exactly! People are, like ‘hey how’s it going?’ and I’m, like ‘Oh my gosh, people are speaking to me! This is so weird!’
So the show you did in Auckland, Finding Emo, was about your previous emo band, right?
Yeah… I decided to do a newer show which is kind of a mixture of Finding Emo and my new show, It’s about getting my band back together and then my new show’s about trying to find a girl that I saw on the tube. It turns out it’s actually really difficult to try find someone when you don’t know her name and all you know is what book she’s reading and what accent she has.
The 5pm Project is aimed at teenagers who don’t usually get to see comedy shows because they’re usually R18. Are you going to do the same material for The 5pm Project this Saturday?
Yes, it’ll be just teenagers, which will be a bit weird. Basically I’ll just do my normal stuff, but cut out the more nostalgic stuff. So I can’t go ‘do you remember that band Crazy Town?’ They’ll be, like ‘no, I don’t remember that band Crazy Town. You’re a really old man’. Or, like ‘do you remember when people used to have beads on their car seats?’ They’ll be, like ‘no, I don’t. They aren’t a thing any more, so chill out’, So yeah, I’ll just cut out that stuff.
Do they have anything similar in Britain, where it’s just like a teenager night for comedy?
There is lots of comedy for kids… but with teenage gigs there isn’t much money in them, because of the teenagers that think they’re too cool to go to something where other teenagers are going to be. Whereas New Zealand kids are actually quite cool and confident with themselves to be able to hang out with other teenagers in a room and watch comedy. I don’t really know what to expect, I’m quite excited.
I guess the thing about not knowing what to expect means there are fewer ways it could go wrong.
Yeah, that’s the thing with stand-up comedy; it still scares me. It’s really healthy to be scared at least once a day though. It doesn’t matter what you’re scared of, it could be anything. If you’re scared of roller coasters, then it’s good to do a roller coaster a day. Stand up still scares me, so it’s really nice that I do it every day.
When you were under 18, was there anything you felt limited to?
Not really. I used to sneak into movies. Being under 18 and getting into an 18 movie was like, the best thing of all time. I was never a drinker, I was more obsessed with taekwondo. I used to go do that all the time and go running at six in the morning with my friend and stretch in his garage. I was the weirdest kid ever. We used to run around town… without any shoes or socks on, because we thought it was conditioning for the feet. I wondered why I got bullied.
Was your school like classic high schools, with cliques and the like?
Yeah, I was a bit of an outsider but I had a really good group of friends who were all really nice. I didn’t have the worse time ever in school, I was quite confident in my weirdness. I really enjoyed being weird and my friends were weird as well and we had loads of fun… making up crazy games and we’re all best friends now. I write now with my friend who I went to school with and he was in my last show and we see each other everyday and it’s great. At school I used to make up stories and play games with my friends and now I’m 29 years old and I’m making up stories and playing games with my friends. It’s just the best.
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