John Bishop, 52, embarks on a once-in-a-lifetime, 600-mile road trip around the Emerald Isle for his latest series, John Bishop's Ireland. Gemma Dunn finds out more.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE SERIES?
The series was filmed on the hoof because we only decided to do it a couple of days before I went to Ireland, where I was doing warm up gigs for my Winging It tour. We took a camera crew that followed me around Ireland doing shows at different venues, and I met lots of great Irish people along the way. So viewers will see the process of where a comedian gets the material from, they'll see the incidents and the people that I talk about on stage, but also, they'll get to learn how brilliant Ireland is.
CAN YOU TELL US WHERE YOU GO AND WHAT YOU GET UP TO?
I always had this idea about wanting to do a gig in every county in Ireland. I was purposely looking for places I hadn't been to before and that meant I ended up in places I'd never even heard of! Like Carrick-on-Shannon and Ennis, places like that. Then we'd find a venue there and do these gigs, sometimes in a pub or a little town hall, so the route itself was more of a loop around the country. I started in Dublin, went over to Cork, went up the West Coast and then ended right up the top in Coleraine and Portrush, and then down to Belfast and back to Dublin again. It was a great journey.
HOW DID THE GIGS COMPARE TO THOSE CLOSER TO HOME?
Going from a small pub to a big arena, there are little technical differences, but that's about it. The actual essence of the job doesn't change, the material doesn't have to change, and you don't have to change. Ultimately, being funny is the same whether you're in a small room or a big one.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE JOURNEY?
There were so many great places. When I went up to Derry and I met both sides of the community there, I met someone from the Protestant community called Stuart Moore. (He) worked at The Siege Museum and was part of the Apprentice Boys who do the marching bands - and then I met John Kelly whose brother was one of the victims of Bloody Sunday. I met them both in the same day to get the different sides to their experiences of the Troubles. Then [that] night, they both came to the gig and both sat by each other and were both laughing at the same bits - that was a particularly nice moment.
WERE THERE ANY FUNNY MISHAPS BEHIND-THE-SCENES?
Because the filming wasn't planned - as I mentioned, we decided to take a film crew two days before I went - you can only have a mishap if you've got a plan! Something can only go wrong if you know what you're doing. Because we didn't, nothing seemed to be too bad to be honest! Although, when we were up in Portrush, I had the brilliant idea of going swimming in the North Atlantic sea. It was five or six degrees and I went swimming in a swimming costume and obviously the director is saying, 'The longer you can stay in, the better!' so by the time I came out I nearly had hypothermia. It was unbelievably bad, unbelievably cold, but it was a great experience!
FINALLY, WHY IS IRELAND SO SPECIAL TO YOU?
Ireland was the first place that gave me the confidence that I could do comedy as a proper job. It was the first place I got on TV, first in Northern Ireland and then in the south, so I was building up an audience in Ireland before I built one up in England. Just the nature of the Irish audiences, they're prepared to sit and listen to a story, and for me, when your comedy is based around stories, it just gives you a lot of confidence. I feel at home in Ireland, that's always been the case. My wife thinks I want to be an Irishman!
John Bishop's Ireland starts on ITV on Friday, April 26.