John Luke Roberts, Comedy, TotalNtertainment, Manchester

10 Questions With… John-Luke Roberts

His show “All I Wanna Do” has been described a manifesto for absurdity so, fresh from a stressful Uber journey, we got the master of the absurd himself, John-Luke Roberts, on the phone for a quick chat.

1. Thanks for your time. The show has been running since October, how is it going?
“It’s going well. I’ve done a week in London and shows in Aberystwyth. It’s been a little while since I’ve done it but it’s been a lot of fun and the reaction has been good so far. There are people who come who are into it from the beginning, there is also always a quota of people who are just baffled from the start but, normally, by about twenty minutes in I’ve won them around. That’s what you want because it’s much more rewarding to win people over. I like comedy which is interesting, which is something people haven’t seen before but that is open and inviting to them but doesn’t shut people out and says “this is here for you if you want to come onboard.””

2. For anbody who hasn’t seen the show yet, how would you describe it?
“(laughs) It’s an hour of absurdist comedy and a manifesto for absurd comedy told through twenty-four fictional Spice Girls.”

3. What goes into writing an hour of absurdist comedy?
“It’s quite a long process of scribbling things down, writing them into more formed ideas and then trying that out in front of an audience then going back, having got the reaction, fiddling around with it, going back to try it out on an audience then going back again and changing it. That’s how it goes but I also tend to find out what the show is about as I’m writing it and performing it. It’s kind of organic but then you find your unconcious has done the work for you without you realising it.”

“It changes a little bit as I think the audience can tell when a performer is bored of something and you have to keep it entertaining for yourself as well as your audience so little bits change here and there. No huge changes but new jokes turn up and new bits get added, things like that.”

4. In terms of your own inspiration, who inspired you to get into this kind of comedy?
“I don’t know really. I’ve always been a fan of a lot of different types of comedy really but I suppose, as a kid, it was Monty Python, Douglas Adams, Eddie Izzard, really gave me a taste of the absurd. I’d say that if you like that then there is a chance that you would like me too!”

5. You’ve mentioned the Spice Girls already. Where did the obsession come from and how do you feel about them reforming?
“Sometimes an idea pops into your head and, no matter how bad it is, you have to follow it. With the Spice Girls that was more or less it. I hit up on a joke about how they’d discovered twenty-four missing Spice Girls – Mel A, Mel D through Z. One day the penny clicked and I thought “What would it be like if I actually performed the girls, what would they be like?” and it kind of spiralled from there really (laughs). Doing all these different voices and characters and things. It’s that thing of letting the audience in on the joke because it just tethers everything, no matter how ridiculous, to something everyone knows.”

“I’m delighted they’ve decided to tour now because, hopefully, it will help my tour pop up when people google the Spice Girls! Yes, purely selfish reasons.”

6. They’ve announced they’re looking for dancers to join them onstage, is that something you would do?
“Ooh, really? I would absolutely do it and I’d probably dress up as “Crone” Spice, one of the characters I dress us as in the show.””

7. Like you said, you have to win some people around and this kind of comedy isn’t for everybody. What is the most extreme reaction you’ve had or do most people just sit there baffled?
“In the past (laughs) I’ve had what I guess you would call alpha or beta males get quite angry and there was once I felt very scared leaving the gig so I took my glasses off as I didn’t think they’d be able to recognise me. Generally, it’s taken a while but I win most people over and, those people who aren’t on board, are usually polite enough not to say.”

“A few years ago I was dressed as a monster shouting insults in this guys face and it was obviously a joke but he didn’t like it and he left furiously. The funny thing was that he said “don’t give up your day job” but that was my day job so it was a compliment in a roundabout way.”

8. What about the press, have they been kind to you?
“Yes, the reviews for this show have been really good. The best reviews I’ve done pretty much across the board. Audiences too! It sold out in Edinburgh so we added a load more shows and I’m really grateful for that and the reaction it has been getting.”

9. Other than the show what are your plans for the rest of 2019?
“I’m building the new show to come after this one. I use the word building instead of writing because I see it as a structure rather than just words. Other than that some acting work and some writing work so a busy year.”

10. Thanks for your time and good luck with everything. Last chance to sell the show to those people sitting on the fence about whether to come to the show or not…
“I would say go with your intutition because if your gut says you won’t like it then you probably won’t!”

You can find a full list of the tour dates here.