Award-winning comedian, John Bishop, came back to his hometown yesterday to give Liverpool Screen School students an entertaining lecture at John Moores University, with advice on careers in the media and performing.
Bishop was welcomed by an appreciative audience at Redmonds and the Scouse comic kicked off the show by telling the students about his recent rise to fame in a questions and answers session lasting more than an hour.
He told the story of why he started doing stand-up comedy so late in life, breaking into the business at the age of 35, and not leaving his regular job in a pharmaceutical company until he was 40.
After separating from his wife, Melanie, feeling sad and depressed, Bishop started doing stand-up just as something to occupy his time. He found that it was a place he could go to and talk… and, luckily for his career prospects, people would laugh.
Video report by Astra Newton, Alexandra Duncan, Vaiva Gedvilaite & Bethany Cronin
Fortunately, John ended up getting back together with his wife and he told the audience: “I said to her one thing that’s happened since we split up is that I’ve started doing stand-up and I cannot not do it. It’s something I can never not do. I don’t know whether it was like therapy, but that’s how I’ve always felt about it.”
In July 2014, the 49-year-old was awarded an honorary fellowship at LJMU in recognition of his contribution to the arts and charity work.
The comedian has taken part in many charity events and John related a heart-warming tale about what he feels has been his greatest accomplishment.
He told the students a story about revisiting a 10-year-old girl and her 72-year-old grandmother, both called Margaret, in Nairobi, who he met in their home in one of Africa’s biggest slums back in February with the BBC’s Comic Relief.
He said: “Every day they went to the dump site and every day they tried to collect plastic bottles and get enough to get some money. I asked young Margaret ‘what’s the best thing you’ve ever found on the dump?’ and she said a bag of rice. That’s incomprehensible really.
“I said to them I’m not going to leave until I know this situation is going to change. So I went back on Saturday. The grandma now has a concrete house and running water. Young Margaret was taken to boarding school. She’d never been to school before. The day we first met them on the dumpsite was the last day they ever went there. That’s the best thing I feel I’ve done.”
This emotional anecdote was followed by a well-deserved round of applause from the audience.
As well as being a successful comedian, Liverpool-born Bishop has also tried his luck at acting. He appeared in two series of ‘Skins’, Ken Loach’s ‘Route Irish’ and has also been a guest on a number of TV quiz and panel shows such as ‘Celebrity Mastermind’, ‘8 out of 10 cats’ and ‘A League of Their Own’.
John said: “I wouldn’t profess to be an actor. If there’s a part where the character kind of looks and sounds a lot like me then I’ll do it, but the genesis of everything always comes from stand-up.”
When asked what advice he would give to people wanting to go into the media industry, he said: “My advice is to remain flexible but also know your own value.
“Remember you’ve got a talent, make sure you commercialise it and don’t give it away too liberally, because if you do then it just brings the stock price for everybody down. I’m constantly having arguments with broadcasters like the BBC who are, I feel, undervaluing the output that they’re receiving.”
Before heading off to catch a train to London to appear on ITV’s Jonathan Ross show, Bishop told JMU Journalism how he felt his lecture had been received, saying: “I think it went well. Hopefully they got something out of it. I know I did. I found out a lot more about myself than I knew before I came in!”