Milton Jones thinks peas are a waste of time

The king of the one-liner on his upcoming tour, and being heckled by Paul Weller...

It’s easy to be in awe of the work a stand-up comedian does on a tour. The pressurised environments, the stamina, the removal of tedium despite the repeatability. To be able to take a meticulously and precisely devised bit, and make it seem spontaneous. But for comic Milton Jones it’s even more striking, as his one-liner act contains such a huge number of gags. In fact, it’s such a big undertaking, we almost felt bad taking up his time as he prepares his new tour, Ha!Milton. Almost. 

“I need quite a long time to write a tour, because I need 250 jokes in a show, which is a lot of writing. I need to start almost a year beforehand,” he says.

The tour, which kickstarts this autumn, will see the offbeat performer delve back into the familiar territory that has illuminated his career. Though as he points out, it’s no mean feat putting so many gags together, and to have them all work as an overall piece.

“They need to be carefully worked out. The worst thing is when an audience member can see a joke coming, so you mustn’t use the same formula, or the same delivery on successive jokes, to get the balance right so that people can enjoy it all the way through instead of a big shot in the face with a bazooka.”

But before he gets back to reloading for Ha!Milton, we wanted to get to know Milton Jones. And where better, than a stuck lift. 

HARD TO FIND - Milton Jones Live at the Apollo!

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?

It would be nice to have Nostradamus so you could say, “well you didn’t see this coming”. Or Gloria Gaynor, and I wonder what song we’d sing… Charlie Chaplin would be quite nice, because I don’t even know what he sounds like. Quite often when you meet celebrities, it’s always with other people and they’re always chipping in questions, but if you’re in a lift with Chaplin you can get his secrets out of him. You can threaten him! I just can’t even imagine how he would sound. He was a very physical performer, but we all are, we just do it in different ways. Even just to watch him would be quite interesting.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

Obviously there are lots of horrible people in the world, but I actually think Bear Grylls would be a nightmare. A very nice person, I’m sure, I’ve never met him, but he’s not going to want to just sit there is he? He’s gonna go “oh hang on a minute, I can take this off, let’s go up and climb”. No, just sit down Bear, and someone will rescue us. He’d try and have us escape, but we’d all plunge to our deaths.

It would probably only take him half an hour before he tells you to drink your own urine to survive.

Exactly – that’s the other alternative. And neither is good.

What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with a famous person?

Once, this is when I was starting out years ago, I was in a club in London and I got heckled by someone. I turned around, and it was Paul Weller from The Jam. It wasn’t a nasty heckle, so I moved away from it. I just turned around and carried on. Then someone else heckled me, and I turned around and it was Robbie Williams. After the event you think, “Hey Robbie, just let me entertain you…” but in the moment it was like, ‘what is this weird dream I’m in, that all these people are here?’ I kick myself afterwards because obviously you want to look good in front of those people, but I just wasn’t ready for that, experience-wise. Plus, the audience are going to be on their side. Usually when people heckle, the audience are on your side, but those guys, you have a whole audience realising who they are, and it takes the energy to them, so it’s very difficult to deal with.

Do you remember what Paul Weller said?

No, it was something like “go on mate, tell ’em!”, or something really encouraging. But I wouldn’t be horrible to him, because the audience wouldn’t have it, but also it wasn’t anything that you can do anything with. It was sort of nice of him. As I say, I was starting out, so it wasn’t as though I had a whole back catalogue of stuff I could use.

Heckling sounds stressful, but I suppose That’s Entertainment… What’s the most memorable heckle you’ve had, good or bad?

There are a couple that don’t sound very bad, but the more you think about them, they’re bad. The first one was “what is this?” It’s a very existential, meta question. The other one, which is similar, but different, is “these are just words”. 

That’s true of everything.

Exactly. There’s no comeback to that. It’s not as if you can go “no you’re wrong about that”. I’ve had a lot of filth thrown at me, and you can sort of deal with that, but those two just made my head-spin. I was out-weirded. 

Milton Jones' BEST One Liners | Stand-Up Compilation | Jokes On Us

What was the last gig or show that you went to?

The last one I paid to go and see was Depeche Mode at Twickenham last Summer. It was a nice summer’s day, and I live in Twickenham, so I walked down the road and it was nice. It was more for my wife, she’s more of a fan than I am, but I’m not against them, so I enjoyed it.

You should go and see Paul Weller just to shout, “go on, sing ’em!”.

I should’ve done that. I’ll get him back in time. In time. 

What’s on your rider?

All I dare put on my rider is sparkling water. I know I could put all sorts of things, but I’d only eat or drink them. If I’m doing a tour, and the first half of this is 71 dates, I’d end up eating and drinking all the way through. So I just have water, concentrate on what I’m doing, and I don’t stuff myself. I did a tour with I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, and they had trays of sandwiches around, and then they’d have a meal after the show. That’s all very nice but try doing three weeks of that. I put on half a stone.

What did the 12-year-old you imagine you’d be doing now?

Certainly not this. I was quite shy. I knew by age 12 I wasn’t good enough to be a footballer. Football was a big passion. The only other thing was cabbage farmer, in the sense that I quite liked gardening and cabbages were the things that were easy to grow, so I thought I could probably do it. I think in retrospect that might’ve been optimistic, or, well, rather dull really. So, I am glad I didn’t do that. But I didn’t really have any ideas apart from that. I was a bit worried about what I would turn out into, so it has sort of worked out. 

There’s nothing like the sad realisation that you probably won’t be a footballer. 

There’s always a tiny bit of hope though. You get to your late 30s and you wonder… I mean, people over 30 play for England, so I’ve still got a slight chance. Then you get to 40 and go, no, not really.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given? 

“Keep going with the football”. No, I think it was probably “get a profession to fall back on” because you won’t succeed in comedy unless you are desperate, and you have nothing else. Someone like John Bishop had a really good job, and it took him longer to get into comedy because he had something else that was easier. I think in a way that applies to any of the arts, that you need to put yourself in a position where you have to be able to do it, and that drives you forward. So while getting a second profession behind you is good advice normally, in this situation, I don’t think it was. 

What film have you rewatched the most times?

Probably The Muppet Christmas Carol. When my kids were growing up, I remember often putting that on, and lying on the sofa face down in that position where they couldn’t jump on you. I mean A Christmas Carol is a good story, so to put some jokes in it, with Muppets, what’s not to like? It’s definitely one we still play at Christmas now, even though the kids are older. 

What’s your most controversial food opinion?

I don’t like peas. Not because I don’t like the taste, I just think they’re a waste of time. They don’t taste of much, and they’re annoying to shovel. Don’t waste my time with them. I don’t get it. I much prefer something more solid, and big. They’re not worth the effort, really. 

How about mushy peas – does that change anything?

They just look like you’ve had normal peas and were sick. I don’t like them either.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

Probably decorating. It doesn’t sound that bad, but I once did several weeks decorating this woman’s house, and she had loads of cats, and there was hair everywhere. The house stank of cats. I’d just split up with my girlfriend and it was just a dreadful, depressing time. And also I’m very clumsy, which doesn’t help 

What’s the skill that no-one else knows you’re great at?

I’m strangely good at blowing up balloons. Maybe something to do with my lungs and performing. It’s no use to anyone, unless you’ve got a party or something. 

Do you have any superstitions?

If I have a particularly good gig in a shirt, that shirt stays for the next gig, until I have a bad gig. Even if it’s a bit mediocre I might change it. I’ve got about 60 or 70 shirts. Generally I’m not superstitious, but I tend to feel good in something I did a good show in, so I leave it on. I’ll wash it in between, I should point that out. I even have a spare shirt in my car in case I forget my shirt. Which doubles up for cleaning the windows as well. 

Milton Jones brings Ha!Milton to UK stages from September. Find tickets here