Comedian Miles Jupp describes his new show, Songs of Freedom, as “a rant about me, you, domestic imprisonment, fatherhood, having to have opinions, hot drinks, the government, bad balance, housing, ill health, the ageing process, navigation and other people’s pants”. That’s a very long list of thing to be fretting about, I say when we meet for a coffee to talk about taking the show on tour. “Oh, I’m not a fretter,” he replies thoughtfully. “More a despairer.”
But his fans shouldn’t despair, nor indeed fret; in conversation Miles is warm and witty, and in no way negative about his situation in life. It’s just that the modern world can – in his word – “discombobulate” him.
Take a recent incident at the house he shares with his wife, Rachel, and their five children in the Welsh borders. “I can get angry very, very quickly about inanimate objects, particularly if they don’t do what I want them to do,” says Miles. “We’ve just had a new boiler put in and I can’t operate it. I’ve read the instructions but it’s got this enormous control panel and I don’t understand it, or for that matter why it makes the radiators come on at 3am. The man who installed it has to come back and talk us through it.
“And now we have bought a smart TV and, after not having had a television for eight years, it’s all slightly baffling. It’s the equivalent of going on a yoga retreat and in the intervening time the industrial revolution has happened. ‘What’s going on? I don’t know how to use a loom…’
“Of course our seven-year-old understands how the TV works perfectly, but I can’t very well go and wake him up at midnight and say, ‘We want to watch Peaky Blinders, come and find it for us…’” In case you’re thinking that Miles is a man born out of his time, he goes on to wax lyrical about the reversing camera in the family car. “It’s just brilliant,” he says. “It’s just that I am slightly out of kilter with the modern world and I do come at things from a different angle sometimes.”
You will by now have guessed that Miles is a man who can have a joke at his own expense, and that his wit is the kind that demands there should be a typeface called “ironic” for conversations such as this. When I ask if the new show contains any material about his young family, he responds: “Why talk about something as wonderful as my children when I could be talking about something completely pointless? The show can be summed up as: ‘I don’t tweet, but I write down things that ought to be a tweet, and here they are’.” In actuality it’s a very funny, wry take on life.
Many of Miles’ fans will be keen listeners to Radio 4’s topical comedy show ‘The News Quiz’, which he took over as host of last year, and which he is enjoying enormously. “I love working as part of a team, and I hope people listening get some sense of me as a person, rather than just some bloke capable of reading stuff out loud.”
Miles’ father was a minister in the United Reform Church and he himself studied Divinity at Edinburgh University. While still a student there he started acting and, for those of a certain age, he will forever be Archie the Inventor in CBeebies’ Balamory. “I often get people come up to me and start talking about it,” he says. “For me it was a long time ago, but for them it’s a defining part of their childhood.”
Apart from ‘The News Quiz’, people know Miles from television as fusspot Nigel in the ecclesiastical comedy ‘Rev’, as Captain Fanshaw in soldiering comedy Gary Tank Commander, asJohn Duggan in ‘The Thick of It’ and from his self-penned ‘In and Out of the Kitchen’, in which he played minor celebrity chef Damian Trench. Miles says ‘In and Out’ of the Kitchen won’t return to the BBC, but he is currently writing Damian’s memoir, due for publication later this year.
He also appeared as the Valet of Greystoke in The Legend of Tarzan, which was released earlier this year in July, and is Blackberry in an upcoming new adaptation of Richard Adams’ Watership Down for the BBC, part of a star-studded cast that includes Sir Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton and John Boyega from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
He usually gets to play posh and/or clever chappie roles, but says he would really love to be cast as a baddie. I suggest that’s because, as an unfailingly polite man, he would love to play against type, and he agrees. “You would get to cut loose and say bad things,” Miles says. “You can be unpleasant without having to apologise for it.”
In the meantime, audiences at his live shows will be able to enjoy the real version of Miles having a rant at modern life’s multiple irritations – politely, of course, without a hint of unpleasantness but with a lot of laughs.
Miles Jupp: Songs of Freedom can be seen at Derby Theatre on September 17. For tickets go to http://www.derbytheatre.co.uk