James Cook is on the team sheet tonight

James Cook
James Cook

ParkFest preparation is now under way

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Laughing Gear comedy club is back in action this month with a Valentine’s Special and a brand new venue – the recently refurbished home of Havant and Waterlooville Football Club: The Westleigh.

Kicking-off proceedings tonight is Neil Cole, who some may recognise as presenter of World Rally on Dave.

Dominating the middle of the park are newcomers Ric Wharton and Andy Field. Ric is the first comedian at Laughing Gear to actually have a degree in comedy, while Andy is currently studying for one.

Organiser, Jonjo Rowlands, says he expects a masterclass of stand-up.

Finally, up-front is James Cook, who Jonjo says is so good that, when he’s not on stage, he’s busy teaching others how it’s done.

He also presents a Podcast rated by The Guardian as one of the top 10 funniest in the UK.

We found out what makes James tick.

• When did you first realise you were funny?

I remember when I was about 12 listening to some ‘alternative’ comedy on the radio, memorizing the routines and then reciting them in the playground the next day – to stoney silence of my classmates who were confused by my references to Thatcher and Nicaraguan politics. When I was about 17, I realised that I didn’t have to copy stuff that I’d seen on TV, and that things that I thought-up could be funny too. I’m 33 now, and I think I’ve found enough stuff that also makes audiences laugh.

• What would you be if you weren’t a comedian?

For most of the last eight years, I haven’t been – or, at least, it’s not been my main source of income. Through stand-up I got into being a commercial radio presenter. I did breakfast and drivetime shows and had a lot of fun. I got to interview a random selection of ‘celebrities’ from Girls Aloud to Noel Edmonds. I ended-up onstage with a-ha and I got to be a guest judge on the live tour of Dancing On Ice in front of 10,000 people in Nottingham. Unfortunately, commercial radio is dying and is run by a bunch of money-grabbing joyless venture capitalists, so I have no interest in doing it again. I’d probably go and work in a haberdashers.

• Which three things make you laugh?

My three-year-old daughter when she decides to act out all of the musical Hairspray. The TV show 30 Rock. And well-intentioned crap things – the David Walliams show about awfully good TV had me breathless with hysterics.

• What’s your favourite one-liner?

Of my own, it’s one that I don’t do on stage any more because the reference is quite obscure, and it won’t work written down because it’s got a mime in it! ‘I joined a mime club, but the first rule of mime club is... (put finger to your lips)’. You can see why I don’t do it! Of other peoples stuff, check out Gary Delaney or the sadly deceased Mitch Hedberg on CD for quality one-liners.

• Who’s your hero?

If life teaches you anything, it’s that all human beings are flawed and hero-worship will only lead to disappointment. There are comedians I like and will watch most things they do; Sean Lock, Rich Hall, Eddie Izzard, Richard Pryor – but ‘hero’ is a bit strong for them. My hero is my wife, who heroically gave birth to my daughter and heroically agreed to marry me. Hopefully, that should make-up for all the jokes I do about her in my act.

• Tickets to see James at Laughing Gear, The Westleigh, tonight from 8pm cost £5 on the door.