If you were to pick some words to describe Joe Pasquale, the word daredevil might not be the first thing that springs to mind.
But in recent years, he has taken on all sorts of challenges which has perhaps indirectly inspired the name of his latest show The Devil in Disguise which comes to The Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering on Thursday August 24.
Q: What will you be getting up to in your new stand-up show The Devil in Disguise, which is touring the UK this summer?
A: I’ve got lots of new silly stuff for this show. For instance, I’ll be singing a new song, “Can You Guess What’s Inside My Sandwich?” I’ll be doing a silly dance at the same time. I’ll be doing a tribute to Sammy Davis Jr, I’ll be doing mind-reading and painting, and I’ll be getting people up on stage. It’s an eclectic and fast-moving show. I hope people will have a really good night.
Q: What else would you be doing in The Devil in Disguise?
A: My twin brother Raynard can’t be with me this year so I have recruited my other ‘twin’ Nick. Nick is part alien, looking a bit like E.T. I’m trying to persuade him to come on stage in his ants, but he is a bit reluctant! I think I’ll have to do it myself. But after my recent exploits on The Nightly Show I’m used to that now!
Q: How have you prepared for the tour?
A: I’ve been playing the Comedy Store in London for the first time, and it’s been great. The other day I was on a bill with Romesh Ranganathan, Jon Richardson, Terry Alderton, Kevin Day and Seann Walsh at the Comedy Store. It was compered by John Moloney. It was a real laugh. Also, in the summer, I’m appearing at the Balham Comedy Festival for the first time. Can’t wait! All live comedy helps to sharpen up your game.
Q: You clearly have a whale of a time performing stand-up. What is it that you love about it so much?
A: I love the fact that you never know what’s going to happen next – because I don’t know what I’m going to do, either! I also love the enthusiasm of the fans.
Q: We are meeting here in the dressing room at the London Palladium, as you are about to film another daredevil stunt for an episode of ITV’s Live at the Palladium. What will you be performing tonight?
A: I’ll have cucumbers sticking out of every part of my body. A samurai warrior will blindfold himself and proceed to slice them all up. Just another day at the office!
Q: You have done a lot of very scary things on the show. Why you enjoy these daredevil stunts so much?
A: It’s a validation of life. It makes you feel alive if you experience things in their most extreme form. There is no adventure involved if someone asks you what you did today, and you say, “I just watched telly.” But if you say, “I had my nipple pierced and my bum waxed,” there’s immediately a story there!
Q: What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
A: I spent a week in prison in Costa Rica for a documentary called Prisoner X. The idea was to show that prisoners here don’t have it so bad. They complain that they don’t get colour TV in their cells. Well, they certainly don’t get that in Costa Rica!
Q: So what were the conditions like?
A: Terrible! The inmates have to pay someone to look after their clothes on the washing line. There were 900 prisoners, and 600 of them had knives. A lot of the guards brought in drugs, which made things worse. I wasn’t allowed to stay in the jail overnight because it was too dangerous. The week before, a prisoner had been killed during the night.
Q: What was that week in jail like?
A: An experience! It was the same when I flew with the Red Arrows. If someone asks you what you did today, you don’t want reply, “I had a chance to fly with the Red Arrows, but I couldn’t be bothered.” You want to get out there and do it.
Q: You had a similarly full-on experience on the survivalist documentary, Alone in the Wild, didn’t you?
A: Yes. I did three days’ training beforehand with Chris Ryan, the ex-SAS soldier. I arrived in the South American jungle and said, “Where is Chris Ryan?” “He’s standing right in front of you!” I laughed. “I look older than you do!” He is so unassuming - he is like the invisible man.
Q: Did you learn a lot from him?
A: Yes. He’s a fantastic teacher. They had the worst rainfall for 80 years in Guyana, but Chris managed to live like a king. He lit a huge fire in his camp – it was like Bonfire Night – and built this amazing flat complete with guttering. I’m surprised he didn’t have a telly! I was starving – I didn’t have anything to eat for a week. I lost two stone. But Chris was like Henry VIII, chomping on a leg of lamb.
Q: What was the most uncomfortable part of Alone in the Wild for you?
A: You dehydrate so much because you’re weeing all the time. You don’t want to get out of your hammock at night because the jungle is full of caimans and jaguars and other things that want to eat you. Every night, you’d hear terrifying things walking underneath the hammock. I had to wee in plastic bottles throughout the night, and every morning I had to empty six of them. But I learned from that experience that I’m not scared of anything. I see it as a laugh. It’s an adventure. How many people can say they’ve done the things I’ve done?
Q: What has inspired you to take on these challenges?
A: I read a book called “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. That changed my whole concept of where my boundaries are. Do I want to be 86 and thinking of all the things I could have done, but didn’t? I’d rather die at 60 and take every opportunity put in front of me. I remember a film called Tuesdays with Morrie starring Jack Lemon. Morrie is an old professor who gives his student lessons in life. He teaches him that you have to learn to die before you can learn to live. I always think like that. So if I snuff it today and the samurai warrior severs my artery, at least I was taking advantage of every opportunity!
Q: You have worked on Tonight At The London Palladium with your old friend Bradley Walsh. Can you tell us about your relationship?
A: We have been best mates for 35 years. We started out together on the talent shows. You have a lot of acquaintances in showbiz, but very few real friends. Brad is a real friend. If I had a problem, the first person I’d go to is Brad, and if he had a problem, the first person he’d go to is me. Our friendship goes beyond showbiz.
Q: Tell us more.
A: We really got to know each other when we did shows for the services in Iraq, Belize and the Falklands. From the very beginning, we just made each other laugh. That’s the bottom line.
Q: How does that relationship work on Tonight At The London Palladium?
A: We never rehearse. Brad says, “Come on in rubber gear, and we’ll see what happens next.” There’s no competition between us. The only criterion is that we have to make each other laugh.
Q: You have many different hobbies, including art. Have you done any pictures recently?
A: Yes. I appeared on the bill at a charity gig the other day at the Comedy Store, and they auctioned off my painting of Heath Ledger as The Joker. It had taken me three minutes to do while I was hanging upside down and singing a song. The chairman of Watford Football Club bought it for £3000. He said, “I love it”.
Q: What happened next?
A: Just last week, I bumped into Vinnie Jones. He told me, “I bought a painting last week of Heath Ledger as The Joker. I didn’t know you had done it. I’m a Watford boy, and I go to their games all the time. The chairman had put it on his wall at home, but his missus had told him, ‘Take it away – it scares the kids’. So I bought it off him for £10,000.” That money went to the charity – result!
Q: Have you met any other famous people recently?
A: Yes. Everybody says you should never meet your heroes. But I love Noel Fielding and six weeks ago, he came over to me at ITV Studios and we had a lovely chat. He said, “I love your gear.” I don’t think he meant my private parts! That was a good example of when it was good to meet your hero.
Q: You succeeded in losing 9.5 kg on ITV’s Sugar Free Farm last year. Have you managed to keep up the good work?
A: Yes. The weight has stayed off. I’ve been off the sugar since last July. I now look at the sugar content of everything I buy. I never get anything that has more than 4% sugar in it. I learned so much on that show. I learned how to bake bread from scratch, and I also learned what’s going on in our bodies. We are not supposed to be eating processed sugar. We’re now consuming 1000% more sugar than we were 200 years ago.
Q: Do you still love flying?
A: Absolutely. I’ve just got back from Spain. You have to do a minimum of 12 hours a year to keep up your pilot’s licence. Because the weather in this country is so inconsistent, I go to Spain to fly. I did 15 hours flying near Valencia. I adore flying because I love being in control of dangerous situations.
Q: Another of your hobbies is creative writing, isn’t it?
A: Yes. I’ve just done an Open University course in creative writing. I love it. I’ve written a collection of horror stories entitled Dead Knobs and Doom Sticks. I really like being scared. I dream about weird stuff such as going to eat salami for lunch with Wolverine. I don’t have to cut the salami, because he’s already done it for me!
Q: What made you want to become a comedian in the first place?
A: The way most comedians start is as a reaction to bullying at school. I was very small when I was young – most people are when they’re little! I suffered from bullying, but I discovered that I could use comedy as a defence mechanism.
Q: What are you up to next?
A: I’ve done panto for 30 years now, and I still love it. It’s like falling off a log. It’s the first experience kids ever have of live theatre. Most kids these days spend their time playing on screens. Technology is taking over their lives. They’ll say, “Look at that screen – it looks like real sky and real grass.” Well, go outside and you’ll see real sky and real grass! At a panto, they are interacting for the first time with live performers. If they enjoy that, you’ve got committed theatre goers for life.
Q: You have been a hugely popular comedian for several decades now. What do you think is the secret of your success?
A: I love silliness. Unfortunately, most adults grow up and forget the kids they once were. Most of us lose touch with the person who made us interesting in the first place. All the pressures of adult life take over, and we start adhering to the things society tells us to do. I’m appealing to that childish person we all once were. I try to stick to silliness!
Tickets for the show can be booked by visiting 01536 414141 or www.lighthousetheatre.co.uk.