Phill Jupitus tells FLICKY HARRISON how Billy Bragg got him into showbiz

PHILL Jupitus’s singing in the intro rounds on the TV series Never Mind The Buzzcocks led to a spell of him treading the boards in the West End.

Illustrating a book for Atilla the Stockbroker led to Phill’s first steps on stage as a performance poet, and directing a music video for Billy Bragg for The Brits led to Phil giving up his day job working at the DHSS.

“Billy is the reason I am here - it was my big break, although he told me not to quit and of course I did,’’ said Phill.

“Atilla was the first person to get me on stage, he was looking at my cartoons for his first book. It was a folder with my art work and my poems. He read them and said ‘you are performing them tonight’, so I opened the gig for him.’’

Phill is a regular guest on QI (BBC2), Alan Davies As Yet Untitled (Dave), and Live at the Apollo (BBC1).

“You only see people like Alan Davies when you are working, it is a bubble of panel shows but they are a delight.’’

The comedian was a regular guest panellist on QI when Stephen Fry was the host and became known for mimicking the presenter.

Phill was the only comedian who stayed with the BBC2 pop quiz, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, from its inception in 1996. He was team captain and the show ran for 19 years.

“I loved that show,’’ said Phill.

“The producers of the musical Woman In White called me in for an audition on the strength of the intro rounds. I went in, mentally thinking ‘why am I here?’ I didn’t get that one!

“I hate the audition situation, my mindset is wrong, but it’s great when you get a call back.’’

And call backs came frequently after that, with Phil touring alongside Jason Manford in the UK production of The Producers as Franz Liebkind, playing Caldwell B Cladwell in the West End production of Urinetown at the Apollo and taking on the role of Edna Turnblad in the hit musical Hairspray at The Shaftesbury.

He also took great delight in playing King Arthur in the 2011 tour of Spamalot.

This spring Phill has hit the road again in his own show, Juplicity, which he is bringing to Swindon’s Arts Centre, on Sunday, March 11.

The show brings all the strands of Phill’s career together.

“It’s the first stand up show I have done in quite a while and the first tour in four years, with a mix of singing, stand up, and I am my own support act – performing poetry. It was how I started and then I found the talky bits between led to me becoming a comedian and I like doing it,’’ he said.

He went under the moniker of Porky the Poet and began asking local bands if he could be their support slot. Later, Phill sang in bands himself and became the press officer for The Housemartins. He worked for BBC Radio 6 for five years as presenter and was DJ and compere in the Left Field Tent at Glastonbury Festival.

“It’s the blessing of a disparate life, you can leap from thing to thing, although you become aware of the anxiety of a regular income as you get older,’’ he said.

The comedian wrote a book on his time at BBC Radio 6 called Good Morning Nantwich: Adventures in Breakfast Radio.

“I got a fifth of the way through and had no more to say. I phoned my agent and said give the advance back. The editor, Natalie, called me in, she told me to go away and stop thinking about the book for three weeks and then come back and have a chat - a month later it was written,’’ said Phill.

The comedian is a huge fan of the Boston Red Sox and even has their logo tattooed on his arm, so he was invited during the 2008 Major League Basket Ball season, to read a quote from one of his favourite baseball-related books during Channel Five’s Saturday night game.

The comic’s distinctive voice has also made him a popular choice for voiceovers and animation films. He was Dandelion in the ITV adaptation of Watership Down and he provided a series of characters for the Rex The Runt series by Aardman Animations. He was also the continuity announcer for the UKTV channel Dave.

Tickets to see Phill in the Old Town theatre in Devizes Road, Swindon are £17.50 and they are available by calling 01793 524481 or visit