Comedian John Bishop tells us about his Australian tour
As a former travelling salesman, John Bishop is used to peddling things. The comedian tells Jeananne Craig why he’s back on his bike to cycle around Australia for a new TV series.
In 1992, a young pharmaceuticals salesman called John Bishop packed his rucksack for a mammoth bike journey along the east coast of Australia. More than two decades, 2.5 million Twitter followers and countless TV appearances later, the stand-up comic returned Down Under to retrace his steps for a three-part TV series.
John Bishop's Australia sees the Liverpool-born star cycle from Sydney to Northern Queensland with a camera crew in tow, encountering natural wonders, local characters and the occasional koala along the way.
“It's quite rare really, to get the chance of almost being 25 again,” the 47-year-old says after returning to his Cheshire home, his voice slightly weary after a gig the night before.
“The only other time a middle-aged man pretends he's 25 is when he's drunk, dancing at a wedding. This is my version of that, but in Lycra.”
This time around, Bishop was undertaking the trip as a married man (he wed university sweetheart Melanie shortly after returning from the original adventure) and father of three teenage boys.
How did he cope being away from his loved ones?
“It was surprisingly easy,” he confesses, before breaking into laughter.
“I could Skype and FaceTime them, all those things that weren't available (in 1992) — I did my original trip before the internet, before anyone had mobile phones, so then it was very isolating.
“On this trip, I could phone home every day. Not that when I phoned home anyone wanted to talk to me, but at least I could try.”
Part of the route saw him cycling on the exact road he'd peddled along 22 years ago. “That doesn't half bring a lot of stuff back,” says the star, who completed an epic 290-mile triathlon for Sport Relief in 2012.
Going back to “stand in the shoes of my old self” prompted the tousle-haired comedian to reflect on how much his life has changed.
Bishop's ascent to primetime comedy star happened rather unexpectedly.
In 2000, he was lured onto the stage at an open mic night at Manchester's Frog And Bucket Comedy Club (by the promise of a free drink) and discovered the crowd enjoyed his dry wit.
He gave up work as a sales rep in 2006, when he embarked on his Stick Your Job Up Your A*** tour, and in 2009 landed crucial TV appearances on Live At The Apollo and Friday Night With Jonathan Ross.
Bishop is now a household name, a sure-fire seat-filler, and is currently touring new material ahead of his Supersonic arena tour in October.
Asked what his 25-year-old self would make of his success, he pauses to consider. “I think he would struggle to believe it, as I do,” he eventually says. “But the main thing he'd struggle to get his head around is why, because it was never something that was on the radar, if I'm being honest.
“It's a weird thing to try and think about why on earth I would at all end up in this situation, coming from where I started.”
He believes finding fame later in life worked to his advantage. “I recognise it for what it is. As far as the options of all the jobs you can do in life, this is the best.”
In the first episode of the series, Melanie states that her husband will “always be constantly on the go”, and that “he'll tread water for a bit, and then it's time to go and do something else”.
Bishop agrees that his wanderlust hasn't waned.
“I did that original trip and I came home, got married, and I suppose put my wanderlust to one side; this is a way of rekindling it.
“I do the job I do, in part, because of that wanderlust option. It's that little bit about you that keeps wanting to have a new adventure.”
Life as a touring comedian does take its toll, however.
“You've got bank statements you've got to file, letters you haven't opened, bags with stuff in you haven't sorted out,” he says, sighing. “In reality, I've always lived this way — in my other life, when I was a sales rep, I did it. I guess there's a bit of a nomadic streak within me.”
Bishop's sons have also inherited his love of travel — his eldest is in America while the younger two have just returned from a weekend hanging out with their dad
at Glastonbury. Not that they find his jokes particularly amusing.
“I am never, ever funny to them,” jokes Bishop. “Some of them have brought their mates to gigs, and their mates are laughing and I can see my own kids are going, ‘What are you laughing at? That's not funny'.”
Fondly, he adds: “I'm glad I took the chance to (be a stand-up), because even if it hadn't got as big as it's got, I showed the kids you can try and do something that you want to do, rather than do something you felt you have to do.”
- John Bishop's Australia, BBC One, Monday, 9pm
The cycling celebs
- Davina McCall — McCall’s 500-mile Sport Relief charity triathlon earlier this year began with a 130-mile cycle from Edinburgh Castle to Keswick in the Lake District. After swimming across Lake Windermere, she cycled and ran to Windsor before running to the London finish-line.
- Nick Grimshaw — Radio 1 DJ Grimmy completed a 12-hour bike ride inside a large transparent box, also for Sport Relief. He said later: “I'm never going on a bike, ever again. I’m going to burn my bike.”
- Kelly Brook — Brook has got on her bike alongside London Mayor Boris Johnson on several occasions to promote the London Sky Ride over the years, often in sky high heels.
- Fern Britton — The former This Morning host has completed a series of tough charity cycles as patron of the Genesis Research Trust.
- Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff — The former England cricket star cycled deep into the heart of the Brazilian rainforest earlier this year, for the Sky1 documentary Flintoff’s Road To Nowhere.
Belfast Telegraph Digital