The sun is shining on John Bishop, with a new Saturday night TV show and a Ken Loach film coming out in the next year. It’s a good thing he’s determined to keep his feet firmly on the ground.
When Ken Loach came to cast his latest film, the Iraq War drama Route Irish, the director knew he needed a comedian for the pivotal role of Frankie. John Bishop maintains the character had to have “a big personality, so audiences can appreciate the distress his family goes through.”.
Or maybe Loach just understood that after telling Bishop his character would be killed early on, he needed someone with a robust sense of humour to train with paratroopers at a tough Winchester boot camp. “He might have wanted a few jokes on set,” ventures the 44-year-old Scouse stand-up. “Ken must have thought ‘ah, you wouldn’t want to watch him on screen for any length of time.’”
Ironically, we’ll be seeing plenty of Bishop on our screens soon. The former semi-pro footballer, nightclub doorman and sales director’s profile has been significantly raised by appearances on stand-up showcases such as Live at the Apollo, panel shows and a team captaincy on the sports quiz A League Of Their Own, alongside James Corden.
And this August, he hosts John Bishop’s Britain, a primetime Saturday night show on BBC One, interspersing his stand-up with anecdotes from the public. “The idea is that if I’m joking about love and marriage, we’ll have vox pops dropped in from people from all over the country,” he explains.
Despite all this attention, he was determined to tour the UK this autumn, beginning at the festival where he earned an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination last year. “I’m just trying to enjoy my time in the sunshine” he says. “I wanted to celebrate the fact that I’ve played a Portakabin with 55 seats, and that now I can enjoy the experience, without having to be on the Royal Mile flyering.”
Performing in the 1,000-seater McEwan Hall holds few concerns for a comic who recently sold out Liverpool’s 10,000 plus Echo Arena. And he’s dismissive of those critics who slate him for being too mainstream.
“I couldn’t give a shite to be honest, because that’s one of the few irritating things about Edinburgh,” he retorts. “I’ve been to see ‘interesting comics’ and comics with political points. They don’t make me laugh, you know what I mean? If someone wants to comment on existentialism, I’m happy to do that. Just don’t stand on stage trying to be clever. Be funny.
“I’m not doing anything different to what I did five, ten years ago when I started. It’s not my fault if other people like it.”
John Bishop - Sunshine, Udderbelly's Pasture, 4-30 August (not 16), times vary, From £10, Tel: 08445 458252
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