Interview: Joel Dommett
14 Sep 2017
Comedian and star of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here Joel Dommett, talks about touring, his stint in the jungle, and other extreme physical challenges, ahead of his show at Brighton Dome.
Joel Dommett is mid-way through his huge national tour. Is he knackered? Not really. ‘Essentially, I’m doing two hours work a day,’ he laughs. ‘It’s a very intensive two hours, but it’s not too bad.’
The 31-year-old comic has been delighting audiences for nearly a decade on the comedy circuit. But after causing quite a stir during his time in the jungle on the latest series of ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!’ – in which he was runner-up – he’s been rocketed into the big league.
Much of what won Dommett votes on the ITV reality series shines through in his stand-up; his irresistible charm, perpetual upbeat attitude and nimble quick wit (although those jungle fans also couldn’t get enough of his ripped physique).
But it’s live on stage where the Gloucestershire-born stand-up is at his best. His shows are grand and ambitious, weaving gripping stories amongst smart observations and goofy set-pieces. No wonder he’s had to add more tour dates…
This is the second batch of dates for your live tour. How does it feel to have had to extend it due to popular demand?
‘It’s mad! My agent keeps on cleverly adding dates without asking – which I absolutely don’t mind. It’s now creeping over 100.’
Are you enjoying touring?
‘I’m really enjoying it. Everyone keeps on saying to me, “You must absolutely hate it, you must be really bored of the show…” No, I think it just gets better and better, and I’m enjoying it more. I’ve taken my best friend Steve as my tour manager, we’ve known each other since we were 11, so we’re like two little kids – we’re both very giddy. I’m travelling around the UK with my best friend performing to people who actually want to see me. It’s a dream come true.’
How are you finding playing huge venues compared to intimate comedy clubs?
‘It’s kind of perfect, actually. My shows, weirdly, have always been quite big, but whereas before they were kind of ironically big in small venues, now they just fit the bigger rooms. There’s a real story arch to the show, a huge crescendo, and a really big epic ending – it’s a really fun, big, stupid show. And that’s what I think is important for the position I’m in; people saw me on a reality show being kind of funny, but I feel I’m in a real position where I have to deliver more. I’m fully aware that this reality TV thing might be a small bubble and that bubble might burst, so I’ve got to do my absolute best to deliver a show which is beyond people’s expectations so they come back to see me again.’
Indeed, you’ve gained a whole new fan base since ‘I’m A Celebrity…’ Are they different from the usual comedy-going crowd?
‘Yes, but I was really scared that it would be an absolute nightmare. I thought: it’s going to be lots of screaming young girls and younger people who haven’t seen comedy before. But the demographic at the shows has been so mixed. There are older couples, groups of lads, groups of women, and everyone’s been a delight. It’s such a pleasure to be doing a show where you feel like everyone’s excited to be there. For a lot of people it is their first comedy show, but we’re trying our best to entertain them as well as educate them. It’d be quite easy to do a generic, easy stand-up show and just talk about the jungle. But even though I’m quite commercial in my comedy, I like to think that it’s also slightly weird and not completely straightforward. So hopefully they come away from their first comedy show going, “Oh, that’s what stand-up can be.”’
How much do you have to acknowledge the jungle on stage? Do audiences want to hear about it?
‘Before the tour I wrote loads of jungle stuff because I thought that’s what they’ll want, I thought they were going to demand it. But I quickly realised that they just didn’t want to hear it. Now, I barely mention it, it’s just part of the story. At the first couple of shows I called Carol Vorderman on stage, just because I thought it might be funny. Then I realised that, although it was funny, I can’t call Carol Vorderman every night, it could start to get a bit grating for her.’
Was it a difficult decision to go on ‘I’m a Celeb…’ in the first place?
‘It was a real gamble. I thought a lot about the pros and cons. But I felt like I’m quite an optimistic person and if anyone could do it maybe I could – I don’t really get angry or frustrated with other people very easily. The entire time I was in there I was so scared that the comedy community was going to shun me because I’d gone into a massively commercial reality show. But since I’ve got out it’s been so nice, they’ve been so lovely, as well as this new demographic of people. To have both of those teams on my side is the dream, really.’
The Australian jungle isn’t the only place you’ve visited recently. You’ve been travelling around the world with Nish Kumar meeting some of the strongest and toughest people on the planet for a Comedy Central series. Could your fitness levels keep up with them?
‘They tried to, but no. I did a 32 mile marathon with some Mexican guys, I did a 5km relay race in Brazil with a 100 kilo log, I did stick fighting in Kenya… Basically it was four months of my body being absolutely battered.’
Were the Bushtucker Trials good practice for it?
‘Well, all the ridiculous stuff in the jungle did help me. I spent about four months eating ridiculous things and sleeping in uncomfortable places – I’m actually really good at that now.’
I guess it’s a good skill to have. You never know when you might need it.
‘It’s especially a good skill to have now I’m on tour and I have to sleep in Holidays Inns in Stafford. I think: “You know what? I’ve slept in worse…”’