The Posh Comedian and Actor Answers our Daft (and not-so-daft) Questions.
An ever-so-slightly hungover Miles Jupp patiently lets me interrogate him… the morning after a night at Gibraltar’s casino with comedy pal, Marcus Brigstocke and author, Felix Francis. The trio starred on the guest panel in a very special Gibraltar Literary Festival edition of Just A Minute, hosted by Nicholas Parsons (where they were also accompanied by Dame Esther Rantzen) on board the luxurious Sunborn yacht.
Despite the fact that his career started on the colourful children’s show Balamory, in a pink castle, Miles isn’t one to dwell too much on the past. In fact, he often completely forgets about that show which first catapulted him into people’s living rooms.
My first question to the ‘humble’ Mr Jupp was about his feelings towards those who (like me) still refer to his role as Archie the Inventor from the hit children’s TV show, Balamory. I was particularly intrigued to know how this random opportunity presented itself to a man who was studying for a degree in Theology at the time?
“I’m always taken by surprise by it slightly, just because I don’t think about it every day. I bumped into Graeme Swann, the cricketer, in a hotel and he goes, ‘Oh, I was just watching you on telly,’ and I said, ‘What was that?’ – ‘Oh, it was, ah, Balamory…’, he said… ‘Oh, right. Yes, I suppose it must be on…’, I replied.”
Miles went on to explain that he had started doing stand-up comedy whilst at university when a lady named Donna – who was a stand-up poet – approached him with an opportunity for an audition with her husband; a husband who just happened to be a producer for a children’s television show… “I just thought, ‘well why not?’.”
Although Miles may not quite be a comedian or actor of the A-list variety as yet, one of the reasons he was invited to the Gibraltar Literary Festival was to showcase his literary skills, courtesy of his book Fibber in the Heat.
It’s an insightful read into the behind the scenes world of cricketing and the press corp that follows. The secret behind this hilarious book? Miles was NEVER a journalist, and was NEVER invited in as part of the press corp! Naturally, I was keen to find out just how he bluffed his way in?
“Well, I was relatively discreet about it… About a week in, one of the guys said ‘are you in… um… Balamory?’ And I went, ‘well kind of’. He was one of the first people I met when I went out there and I got on really well with him. I tried to get on with pretending to be a journalist – and every now and again he was like, ‘so um… who did you say you worked for again? Is this something you’d normally do?’ So I became slightly panicky. I didn’t know who knew and who didn’t that I wasn’t real, or how much people minded or cared necessarily. So it became an intoxicating uncertainty that plagued my every waking hour.”
Now those who know me know that I am not a massive lover of said sport, but with a husband and father-in-law who are bordering on obsessed, sometimes, enduring an entire game is unavoidable. And still, I remain intrigued as to exactly why so many people love this game so much? How do they remember the rules? Because year after year, for me at least, they go in one ear and straight back out of the other. So with such a pro standing before me, I couldn’t resist asking that all important question: “Please enlighten me; what IS the appeal of cricket and what rules do I really need to understand?”.
“You only need to understand it enough as a spectator really. I mean the great thing about cricket is: football lasts 90 minutes, but if you get into proper cricket it’s 5 days. That’s 6 or 7 hours you get to spend in a cricket ground. One of my favourite things is eating food I’ve bought from a van… and drinking slightly warm beer out of plastic cups.”
Personally I can’t quite see the appeal of drinking warm beer and eating cardboard tasting food. But each to their own. Perhaps I could give it another go with a jug of Pimms…
“As for rules – when the crowd cheers, you cheer as well. I wouldn’t worry about the details. Just park yourself down and enjoy a bit of sun. If you think you’re not going to be drawn in at first, bring a magazine or a book. And every now and again you’ll think ‘what’s going on?’ – when something is so interesting that you can’t ignore it, you might end up taking more notice.”
Yep. The magazine and book are a definite then. On that much we’ll agree.
So with his words now adorning many a bookshelf and Balamory but a distant memory, I was keen to talk to Miles about his more immediate work; his latest role has seen him take over the hot seat from the super talented Sandi Toksvig on The News Quiz. And I wanted to know how he felt the new position was going?
“I’ve done 8 episodes and it went by quite quickly. I’m sort of enjoying it really. It’s a bit of a nervous thing I suppose. It’s a big old beast, with a lot of history behind it. It’s like being given a conch. And obviously the conch means that it’s momentarily your turn. You’ve got to just not drop the conch. That’s one of the key responsibilities about having the conch that’s often overlooked: just don’t bloody drop the thing. You know, people are very possessive about programmes on Radio 4. It’s not the way Barry presented it. It’s not the way Sandi presented it. I’ve got to slowly make try to make it my own a bit more…”
I was not at all surprised to hear the notes of concern in his voice. This very modest comedian obviously understands the responsibility of walking in the footsteps of some of the most highly respected people in TV and radio. Miles is clearly capable and holds his own on the show, but his reluctance to show any kind of self gratification in his star-studded world is so totally refreshing.
Miles gets about quite a bit now, and has a busy schedule to keep up with, but in a recent interview he admitted that in order to keep up with the topics discussed on shows like Mock the Week, he often has to put aside his disdain for programmes such as Simon Cowell’s X-Factor in order to appear to be ‘in the know’. I asked him how he gets so good at bluffing at that?
“You just watch the bare minimum so you know what people are talking about. And the other thing of course – maybe it’s an unpleasant aspect of panel shows – is: you don’t have to like the things you’re talking about.”
Although life for Miles seems incredibly chaotic with work demands so busy, it is easy to forget that he also lives with five young children. Living with two is more than chaotic enough for me! I asked Miles, now that he has moved his family to the less cramped surroundings of South Wales (and away from the hustle and bustle of London), how exactly does he unwind when not in public demand?
“When… when I’m not in… public demand? Which is about… 85% of my time. Well in the day I like larking about… I live somewhere very beautiful so I go outside and walk along the banks of the River Wye. In the evening I like to listen to records. Reading in the sitting room with some vinyl on… a glass of red wine.”
To which Miles invents the term ‘winyl‘. I like it. Could well catch on…
It seems that despite becoming better known by the media, Miles still enjoys the finer and more relaxed things in life. In many ways he has retained the down to earth ways of the young guy doing his stand up routine at uni. How then did he react when he found himself starring in a scene with Silver Fox, George Clooney? I know I wasn’t surprised to find out that he was just a little starstruck! Even those in the limelight can find themselves tongue tied when they meet a Hollywood hero. So did he turn to the dutch courage of a stein of beer on the streets of Berlin in between filming?
“Well, I was very nervous. But after half an hour you think, ‘oh, everyone’s just at work’. And you’re not in the audition anymore. You’ve been hired to do the job, you’re hopefully doing the job. But also with filming you get a chance to stand around a bit and he and I were waiting to do something and I got chatting to him for about three quarters of an hour. He’s a very nice, relaxed conversationalist – and really interesting. He’s got really good stories about powerful people.”
Yes, yes – I did try to pry more details out of him, but as well as being humble, Miles it seems is also loyal… and so kept his lips tightly sealed!
With all the important questions out of the way, and suddenly getting the distinct impression that his hangover was kicking in for real, I flipped the interview to the fun questions. A quick fire round to see where his true loyalties lie:
Mock The Week or 8 Out Of 10 Cats?
“Mock… and it’s not on the list but, 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown.”
Have I Got News For You or Would I Lie To You?
“Have I Got News… Well, Would I Lie To You is great fun, but very hard. You’re asking me some potentially professionally damaging questions.”
What about funny ladies? Who are your favourite women in comedy?
(At almost lightning speed to fit in as many names as possible) “Lucy Porter, Sarah Kendall, Sarah Millican. I used to listen to a lot of Victoria Wood with my parents. Oh and Joyce Grenfell as well. I watched films with her in. French and Saunders of course. You know, Black Adder as well; the women in Black Adder are really funny. Yeah, Miranda Richardson in Black Adder – she’s got an incredible range but she’s really funny.”
Would you ever consider doing a stint on reality TV?
Well that was an easy one. Nice to see that there are still some celebs who will not compromise their integrity.
What’s coming up for you in 2016?
“I take it as it comes. I’ve got a few series of The News Quiz next year. I’ve got a few panel show things… but writing; I need to get on and do some writing. I’m planning a novel and I’m writing a stand-up show. Oh, and I’m hitting the gym. Just keeping buff really. That’s the BIG one…”
So it seems that despite the craziness of the last few years, Miles does not intend to slow down. With the lights of Balamory dimming far behind him, The Glass House Girls predict the even bigger and brighter lights of Hollywood in the not too distant future. And for such an endearingly unassuming yet talented guy, we would be more than happy to see him reach for each and every star. A true gent, hungover or not!