How a complete lack of direction set Josh on the path to comedy stardom
Don't expect Josh Widdicombe to tell stories about his sheltered country childhood when he headlines at next week's Dartmouth Comedy Festival – he'll be a bit too close to home.
Tales of being terrified of a bull in a field, Wellington boots with eyes on the front and bobbing for apples... when you hate apples, caused great belly laughs in the audience at Edinburgh Comedy Festival, setting his career on an upward spiral. But in his home county the downbeat 29-year-old will be treading more carefully.
"There will be no jokes about Devon," declares Josh, whose routines centre around his personal observations, his memories and his own failings.
"I think when you are on stage you are playing a character really – a sort of heightened reality of yourself in a two-dimensional form. I'm not revealing massive truths about my life, but I hope my sense of who I am comes across."
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Josh, who grew up in the village of Haytor Vale near Bovey Tracey, has vivid memories of supporting Stephen Merchant at Plymouth Pavilions and his local references royally backfiring.
On the first night he declared his Devon identity and injected some fitting local references.
"That was a big mistake; I think the audience thought I was a local comedian dragged in to open the show," says Josh, who admits he couldn't wait to escape from the rural environment.
"My family are still there, and I love coming down to Devon, but country life just isn't for me. Nothing really happens and I need stuff going on constantly," he confesses.
Josh had no inkling of an ambition to entertain when he left home to study linguistics at university in Manchester, the city he inhabited from the age of 18 to 22.
"I went to uni more for the experience that the educational thing," he admits. "I did well in English A level and I wanted to move."
Comedy just crept up on him after he moved to London.
"When I came out of uni I realised I had no idea what I was going to do with my life; I had a series of jobs I didn't enjoy; I was absolutely no good at working in offices. And now I've ended up doing this.
"I don't think I was a funny kid; a lot of comedians aren't. Stand-up was never something I thought was my destiny; I just tried it and it snowballed. It's all been a wonderful stroke of luck, really."
That's a bit of an understatement; Josh is riding the burgeoning wave of the new comedy revolution, buoyed up by TV exposure. After writing a few jokes he took the plunge and booked himself a comedy club slot in 2008, just to give it a go. After all, what did he have to lose?
"My first gig went well, otherwise I wouldn't have done it again. I really didn't plan any of this out and I don't look further than a week ahead in my diary. If you don't have any goals, then you are not going to fail," he observes. "I just hope I'm not turning up at the point when the bubble bursts."
Support tours with Stephen Merchant, Kevin Bridges, Michael McIntyre and Alan Carr, a sell-out run at Edinburgh Festival in 2012 and a sell-out autumn tour, plus regular appearances on Stand Up For The Week (Channel 4), Mock The Week (BBC2), The Rob Brydon Show (BBC2) and 8 Out Of 10 Cats (Channel 4), plus numerous guest slots, doesn't sound one little bit like failure.
Josh is also regular face in the forthcoming series of live topical comedy The Last Leg alongside Adam Hills and Alex Brooker, and is hosting his own radio show on XFM.
Josh Widdicombe is at The Flavel, Dartmouth on Tuesday, March 5.