He’s conquered the world of stand-up comedy and mastered how to troll his way out of a parking fine, but Birmingham’s Joe Lycett is only just getting started.
“If you could see me right now, you’d think that I was a mad man,” laughs Joe Lycett as he proceeds to run around his hotel room in Edinburgh trying to find a clear enough signal to talk to me. “I’ve got an extra bar!” he exclaims.
We’ve only been on the phone for a few minutes, but already I’ve found myself in multiple fits of laughter as Joe tells me of how he was peer pressured into drinking “two shots of whisky in incredibly quick succession,” the night before our conversation which has led him to feel a little worse for wear. Nevertheless, he’s still on top form, asking me how my day’s going and becoming quite disappointed when I tell him that he’s missing out on a rare sunny day in his hometown of Birmingham.
Back in August, I caught Joe’s set at Staffordshire’s V Festival, and it came as no surprise that I found myself crying with laughter, tears rolling down my face as he was lifted over the barrier by a lady who picked up washing machines for a living, and worked the crowd with his witty anecdotes that included life living with his parents in Hall Green and trolling Olympic diver Tom Daley, which he admits has “got him into a bit of trouble.”
I quite like telling people that Birmingham’s great, and they should come because there’s loads of really cool stuff happening.
We’re meant to be talking about Joe’s brand new tour, but straight away we’re in deep discussion about Birmingham, talking about our favourite pubs and coffee shops. A born and bred Brummie, Joe admits that he feels a sense of responsibility to protect and promote the city that has always been his home; he recently bought himself a house in the city and has an office space that allows him to get his creative juices following.
Joe admits that he feels a sense of responsibility to protect the city that he calls home. Despite its development over the last few years, Birmingham still gets a lot of stick; the Brummie accent was recently listed as the UK’s least attractive accent in a survey conducted by Lovin Manchester. “I quite like the fact that Birmingham gets a bad reputation,” Joe laughs. “Brummies don’t really care because they’re happy enough.
“I quite like telling people that Birmingham’s great and they should come because there’s loads of really cool stuff happening,” Joe says. “The narcissist comedian in me is very much into promoting the city. I did a show with Anne Robinson the other week and she asked me where I lived, I told her and she replied, ‘well somebody’s got to’ and I said, ‘I live in a house that I didn’t have to pay £3million for to live in a little square, so I’m quite happy.’
And if you’re wondering about his poached egg feud with Yorks on Stephenson Street that occurred when Joe was unable to add a poached egg to his brunch because ‘the kitchen was struggling to cope’, you’ll be happy to know that it’s all blown over. “They’ve got a new menu now but for a while, I think they had an option called ‘Add a Lycett’, which was to add a poached egg. So as far as I’m concerned I consider the case to be closed,” Joe says with a laugh.
Joe’s rise to comedic fame has gone rather smoothly. After debuting at Manchester’s Comedy Store in 2008, he’s gone on to become one of the UK’s biggest up-and-coming comedians. His first show, Some Lycett Hot, saw him nominated as Best Newcomer at the 2012 Edinburgh Comedy Awards and ever since he’s appeared in popular stand-up shows including Live at the Apollo, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown.
And things are showing no signs of slowing down for 28-year-old. Over the past few months Joe’s done a number of gigs in Birmingham which included multiple shows at The Glee Club and a Q&A evening with Labour MP for Yardley, Jess Phillips where they discussed everything from the infamous bin strikes to Brexit as part of Birmingham Comedy and Literature Festival’s.
“I met Jess at the Pride of Birmingham Awards last year, she’s my way into the political world. If I don’t really know what to think about something or if there’s a politician on TV or I’m not sure what opinion to have on them I’ll text Jess and ask her,” he says.
A former drama student at Manchester University, Joe got his feet firmly on the comedy ladder with a further two pun-titled award-winning shows – If Joe Lycett Then You Should’ve Put a Ring On It (2013) and That’s The Way, A-Ha, A-Ha, Joe Lycett (2015) – all under his belt.
Earlier in the year, Joe announced his latest tour I’m About to Lose Control and I Think Joe Lycett. A follow-up to his sold-out 2015 run, his latest 93-date tour kicks off in Bristol in February before heading to the New Alexandra Theatre in May and returning to Symphony Hall in November. Joe’s pretty secretive in what his latest show will entail, but he does tell me that it will feature his famous email correspondences that in the past have seen him troll a council up north regarding a parking fine and send multiple Tweets to US president, Donald Trump.
Kicking off at Bristol Old Vic next February, Joe’s 2018 tour will see him travel across the country playing venues of various sizes including two nights at London’s prestigious Apollo Theatre, which Joe admits is “absolutely terrifying.”
“It’s gone up a scale since the last tour in terms of venue size, but I’m excited about that, I really like playing to lots of people,” Joe says. With his shows becoming increasingly popular every time he hits the road, I ask Joe whether he’s got his eyes set on playing arenas in the future. Earlier in the year, he warmed up for Jack Whitehall when he brought his At Large tour to Arena Birmingham. “It was so brilliant to play an arena, it was mad,” he says.
“For a long time I wasn’t really into arenas, they seem a bit big, a bit soulless and I wasn’t sure if the vibe was quite right; they seem a bit too big for the intimacy of stand-up. But after doing those gigs with Jack I realised you can create that intimacy, but you have to be careful how you do it.
“I think with some of the arenas, like the O2 for example, it’s so massive the intimacy is almost impossible to achieve there. Arena Birmingham felt like a good size, it’s that bit smaller. I’m way off selling out an arena at the moment, Jack’s following is massive, so who knows if I’ll ever get to that stage, but it’s definitely something that I’m more interested in than I used to be.”
A lot of people stop me on the street and tell me that they really love my Instagram or Twitter, which is such a modern thing.
As if his life on the stage and writing his new show hasn’t been enough, Joe’s also re-released his book Parsnips, Buttered, on paperback. Filled with Joe’s emails, tweets and telegrams, Parsnips, Buttered takes readers through Joe’s tips on nailing everything from navigating social media to out-weirding trolls on the internet.
“I wrote the book late last year and it has a mixture of my emails and a bit of advice. I’ve added a few bits; when I wrote it I didn’t think Donald Trump would be president so a couple of things had to be rewritten quite hastily.”
That being said, Joe tells me he really enjoyed the creation process of the book, which allowed him to be more free with his writing. “I didn’t have to worry as much about the immediacy of laughter which what you need for stand-up; with stand-up you kind of need laughter every 10 seconds, you’ve always got your eye on the joke.
“I wanted it to be funny, but I also wanted it to not be too over the top. It was lovely to see all the illustrations for it, it was more of an all-round project whereas writing stand-up is very much a one-tone process.”
His success is something that can’t go unnoticed. As well as his new tour and book, Joe recently joined BBC Radio 4’s talk show It’s Not What You Know, taking over from former host Myles Jack, not to mention the following he’s developed across his social media channels. “Weirdly these days a lot of people stop me on the street and tell me that they really love my Instagram or Twitter, which is such a modern thing.”
Does he ever try to take a break from social media? “I definitely try and detox but it’s so hard, isn’t it? It’s really cool the internet, there’s so much on it, it’s constantly changing. I love it but I also feel like I go a bit mad when I spend hours on it. Apparently, there’s a new app, which I’m thinking of downloading, that tells you exactly how much time you’ve spent on each app.
“I think most people would find it quite depressing to see those statistics of how much their day is wasted away on Twitter, but for me, it’s also really fun to interact on social media. Instagram is one of my favourites, I’m having a lot of fun posting nonsense on there. But I think social media is a great way of building a following.
“There’s a whole world of people that might not come out to my shows because they might not be near one or be able to afford it, it’s great that I’m able to connect with them through social media. But there’s a happy medium like there is with all things.”
Don’t miss Joe at the New Alexandra Theatre next year, get your tickets here!