Comedian Josh Pugh talks to Cornfield Magazine about his upcoming appearance at Birmingham Comedy Festival in a down-to-earth, honest and insightful interview. After winning the Birmingham Breaking Talent Award back in 2015, as well as the title of English Comedian Of The Year, Josh has continued to entertain audiences with his witty and slightly weird material. Earlier this year, Josh took his humour across the globe to tour Australia, and has since debuted his one-man show at the famous Edinburgh Fringe. 

 

Words by Evie Kissack 

My interview with Josh was memorable for several reasons; the first being he gave the most distinctive answer to an incoming call I’ve heard this year. When Josh picked up the phone, he immediately informed me that he was in the process of doing a certain ‘job’ every dog walker hates. To my relief, he instantly assured me it was in fact his own dog he was cleaning up after, and it wasn’t just a bizarre hobby he likes to do on Friday mornings. 

What’s your dog called?

He’s called Leo; he’s a rescue dog. We’ve had him for about six months now. But he ran into a parked car a couple of weeks ago and he cut his eye.


A parked car? It wasn’t even moving? 

Yes, yes a parked car. I think he was chasing a cat; he isn’t into cats you see. He’s all right now.


Bless him, glad to hear. So you’re performing at the Comedy Festival in Birmingham! What does Birmingham as a city mean to you? 

That’s where I started stand-up really, and it’s where I do all my new bits. In Manchester and Bristol there’s a really good scene and we have that in Birmingham too. Darren Harriott and Rob Kemp got nominated for best newcomers in Edinburgh this year and they are both from the Birmingham area, so it’s doing really well at the moment. The Black Country is pretty good as well, everyone gets on and there’s an open mic that runs every Monday and you have a mix of newcomers and more established acts trying out new material. Sometimes there’s an audience there, and sometimes there’s no audience, but its good just to say things out-loud sometimes. 


Your comedy has been described as ‘charming awkwardness’ – would you agree with this description?

Yeah, I’d say so. It’s a bit weird but not too weird. I try and keep a foot in reality, if that makes sense. You get acts that are quite surreal, talking about unicorns and badgers, and sometimes that’s too far for me. That’s too weird for me. So I talk about everyday things but just make them a bit odd. My comedy is quite deliberate. I’m quite normal as comics go. I have a lot of mates, I didn’t get bullied at school or have a tough childhood, I just do comedy because I like doing comedy. 


How did you get into comedy then?

I’ve always wanted to do it, but I was too scared. I signed up to play the Holly Bush in Cradley but I couldn’t bring myself to go. About a year later I started doing stand-up, and that was three-and-a-bit years ago now. I started just being a comedian I guess. A lot of people do it just to try it, and see what it’s like; it’s on their bucket list or whatever. But I wanted to be a comedian. That’s why I found it harder to start; you have to admit to yourself and other people, “I actually want to do this.” You have to put yourself out there. 


So you played at the Fringe this year! How was the festival?

Yeah it was my first year! I played at Pleasance Courtyard, which was the most prestigious venue I got offered, and it was brilliant! I really enjoyed it. It was tiring, but it was great. There’s so much going on up there. A month is a long time, but apart from that it’s great. 


Did you get to see any other acts whilst you were there?

The first week I didn’t, I wanted to make sure my act was perfect. I think I was actually a bit scared to see anyone good (laughter). I saw at least one show a day, and I did intend to see more but when you’ve got a month ahead of you, you think, “Oh I’ll see that tomorrow, or the day after” and before you know it you’re out of days. You see things in previews when people are working stuff out, if you’re on the same bill as people you tend to see their shows grow throughout the year too so that’s one of the things I enjoy the most about comedy. 


You’ve got a couple of acts at the Comedy Fest - The Nuneaton and Hinckley Technical College Revue and A Boy Named Pugh with amazing reviews, is it difficult to balance both shows at the same time? 

So The Nuneaton show is actually next year’s show, I just have some ideas I want to try out. I’m looking forward to that one more. I’ve done the other one, and I know where all the laughs are. I’m excited to do it at the mac actually. I’ve never juggled two acts yet! So I don’t know how it will be, but I know my first act inside out, so that should be fine. The new one, because it’s a work in progress, is something I can take notes from, it’s more for me to get material out there and see how it goes. 


To see what works and doesn’t?

Yeah, it’s what doesn’t work mostly (laughs). You have to go through that to get to the solid material.


How long does the process last to refine the material?

It will probably take me up until next Edinburgh. You can do gigs and stuff, but you can’t show everything on a Friday and Saturday with stags and hens, some bits you have to work out later. I was even changing stuff in Edinburgh this year. 


What’s the best part of performing stand-up?

The best part for me is when you have an idea, and then you see people reacting well to the idea. I like generating the material, and having ideas that no one has had before. I was saying to my girlfriend the other day, I’m not sure if I actually enjoy stand-up, or if I enjoy sitting in a café with a notebook so that people think that I’m interesting. You do need a bit of an ego, but I think there must be something missing in your life for you to do it as well. It’s kind of a balance between the two really.


This is one of my favourite questions to ask comedians…what is the best heckle you’ve ever had?

So I was doing a gig one Friday night, and a lady stood up on her chair and said, “I saw you last night at a bar, eating cheese.” And it definitely wasn’t me. It 100% was not me. You can’t prepare for that. She said it with such authority that I started doubting myself. It was one of those ones that were so bizarre; you don’t need to do anything with it. Heckles can be funny. It happens a lot less than you’d think, what I tend to get is people joining in. Very rarely we just get abuse shouted at us, when you start that’s what you’re terrified of. At a comedy gig most people are too nervous to sit on the front row, and for me the audience doesn’t get picked on as much as they think either. No comic is going to go out and destroy someone who has paid to see his or her show. Some people do want their mates to be destroyed, but those groups aren’t as fun to play to really. 


I’ve been to comedy gigs before with a friend who always forces me to sit on the front row, and I’m waiting for the day I get picked on. 

From a career point of view, I don’t want to embarrass anyone but try to get the funniest interaction possible.


Have you got any more projects in the pipeline?

I feel really unambitious now (laughs). I’m just going to try to get really good at stand-up, I’ve got an idea for next year’s show that I’m really excited about. But I could change my mind. Sometimes you think, “This will be my McIntyre, I’ll do this at the Apollo.” I just keep writing everyday and some things work, some things don’t – I do work hard, but I downplay it. I can never moan about comedy, and can’t moan about being busy or tired!

 

Josh will be performing A Boy Named Pugh, on Thursday 12th October at Birmingham mac, as well as showcasing his new material The Nuneaton and Hinckley Technical College Revue on Sunday 15th October at Cherry Reds Birmingham. 

Book your tickets for his critically acclaimed show here: www.macbirmingham.co.uk and be sure to catch his work in progress at the free half-dayer event! 

For more information visit: www.bhamcomfest.co.uk

@JoshPughComic

www.joshpughcomedy.com

 

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