The comic who interviews comedy elite like Harry Hill, Matt Lucas, Jim Davidson and Barry Cryer
- Credit: Archant
Interviewing someone who interviews other people for a living is an irony not lost on this journalist, but thankfully Joel Sanders is just as comfortable answering questions as he is putting them to some of the biggest names in comedy.
From Harry Hill and Matt Lucas to controversial comic Jim Davidson, Sanders is working his way through the comedy elite for his interview season Namedroppers, which started at The Proud Archivist in De Beauvoir.
He’s been credited with bringing out more in his guests than professional journalists, something he puts down to his status as a fellow comic.
“It’s also one of the few interviews in front of an audience that is not recorded or made into a podcast – it’s a ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ thing,” says Sanders, also known by his alter ego, The Angry Boater.
“It means they are less guarded. I’m also genuinely interested in the people I’m speaking to.
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“For professional journalists, they’re put in front of someone they have to interview, but I chase the people I interview. I’m generally a fan of who I speak to.”
There’s a danger this approach could descend into a PR exercise, but though Sanders’ genuine admiration for his subjects is clear, the interviews tend to be refreshingly honest confessionals.
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“Harry Hill hadn’t done many interviews, but these stories came out of him that he didn’t even know he had in him,” Sanders says.
“His ID got stolen and he was a victim of identity fraud, something that was in the press at the time. We talked for about 10 or 15 mins about that and then he moved onto the only other time he’d been involved with the police: when he thought he’d had an assassination attempt on his life.
“It turned out to be completely unfounded but it was an amazing story.”
Having interviewed several comedy legends, he’s heard more than a few eyebrow-raisers. But sticking to his ‘Vegas’ policy, he only gives tantalising snippets of his encounters with his stage guests.
“Jim Davidson spoke about his friendship with Margaret Thatcher even as she was dying,” Sanders remembers. “Barry Cryer – that man is 82 but he got through four pints in our interview.”
His newest season is more structured, with each interview based around a central theme.
He’ll speak to Reginald D Hunter about ‘Censorship and the N-Word’ – “Clever name” as Sanders points out – on April 6, Paul Chowdhry on ‘Prejudice’ on April 12, and Jim Davidson on ‘Addiction’ on Wednesday, March 30.
As well as Namedroppers, Sanders performs his Angry Boater solo shows, based on his life as a houseboat resident.
Currently moored in Little Venice, he has also lived on the Regent’s Canal in Camden and Paddington for short stretches of the year.
He started out in comedy 30 years ago, making his name as a performer in the US rather than his native UK, sharing bills with the likes of Robin Williams and Chris Rock.
At the same time, he acted as a promoter at his comedy club, Comedy Bunker, in Ruislip for 16 years. Michael McIntyre, Ross Noble, Russell Brand, Lee Nelson, Sean Lock and Lee Mack were some of the unknowns who trod the boards at his club and went on to become big stars. He’s now back in touch with some of them for Namedroppers, as Sanders’ policy is to have some sort of connection to the comedians he interviews.
“I’m also interested in all comics who were big in the 1970s when I was young, they’re the people I grew up with on TV,” he explains. “Unless I had a connection with them, I wouldn’t know what to talk to them about. If you’re dead behind the eyes, the audience can see you’re bored and then they get bored.”
Sanders has had to move his season from The Proud Archivist to other venues, including The Barge House in De Beauvoir.
For a full list of venues and dates, and to book, visit the website.