The Big Interview – John Bishop
Published on Mon Nov 08 11:57:21 GMT 2004
When ex-footballer John Bishop arrived at the door of Manchester’s Frog and Bucket Comedy Club one bone-chilling Autumn night four years ago, his life changed forever.
The club manager, who handed Peter Kay his first stand-up break, gave John two options: The first was to pay or he could join the seven other hopefuls for a five-minute slot on the main stage talking about anything they liked.
John was unprepared but there was a petrol crisis on at the time so he just chatted about that and other observations in life in his usual, easy going style.
The audience roared.
“I was as miserable as sin at the time because I was going through a rocky period in my marriage, so it was either a lap dancing bar or a comedy club so I went to the Frog and Bucket,” said John.
“We all put our names forward and my name was called second, so there was no way out of it.
“I clambered up on stage, picked up the microphone and thought ‘what on earth am I doing here?’ I had no jokes, and absolutely no material.
“I just talked about life. I should have done a few minutes and I was up there for nearly an hour.
“The funniest people I know are my mates in the pub, so I just tried to recreate that intimate atmosphere and somehow it worked.
“I really enjoyed myself and was asked to come back the following week.
“Then they started giving me money for it and I thought ‘This is all right’ and within a couple of months I’d got my first headline booking. I honestly did not know anything about comedy. It was all about instinct and life.
“I was booked to support Johnny Vegas in Warrington and I thought the guy was a cabaret singer. I knew absolutely nothing about him.
“It changed my life in a way I didn’t think possible.”
Since then it has proved a meteoric rise through the comedy ranks, and the down-to-earth Scouser is a major player on the national comedy circuit.
He landed a sell-out headliner at the Lowry Theatre and has been entertaining audiences for Jonathan’s Ross’s television show.
This week he won the best stand-up act in the North-West of England.
A comic talent this natural doesn’t come along all that often.
And if anyone epitomises the old comedy clich of just falling into it by accident, it is John, a man who has enjoyed a truly incredible adventure since his days as a semi-professional footballer for Southport.
A decade earlier, Bishop had been plying his trade in the hard-knocks school of the Northern Premier League when a transfer switch to Stalybridge persuaded him the time was ripe for a career switch – peddling back from Australia on a bicycle and raising 35,000 for the NSPCC.
“I had played in the semi-final of the FA Trophy for Hyde United, and Southport was a smashing time in my life,” he added.
“Brian Kettle was the manager and it was hard training and good football at Haig Avenue, but I probably knew then that I wasn’t going to play for England.