Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: We chat to comedian and musician Graham Fellows

By Matthew McCreary

The musician and comedian (55) is perhaps better known for his on-stage alter ego, the singer-songwriter John Shuttleworth, who brings his new show to Belfast later this month.

Q: So, tell us what John has been up to since his visit here two years ago?

A: He's been doing some DIY at home in Sheffield, and the odd nostalgic singalong at a local hospice, while I go off and renovate derelict churches in the Orkney Isles. But once we're back together, we perform gigs at festivals and record radio programmes. I'm currently - with a bit of help from John - working hard on a pilot animation of The Shuttleworths in conjunction with Baby Cow Productions.

Q: John's agent, Ken Worthington, will be the main focus of this show. Given the duo's sometimes antagonistic relationship, how did that come about?

A: Traditionally, all John's live shows have titles that are designed to either make you groan or whinny with pleasure. In the past, titles have included One Foot In The Gravy, 2000 and John, and Pillock Of The Community. This one is called A Wee Ken To Remember, after Ken left the "d" in weekend off the poster, so John is forced to celebrate the past achievements of his agent.

Q: Are there any new songs in the show?

A: There are quite a few - Early Tea, John's first rock 'n' roll composition, Visiting Time, all about the joys of visiting a sick person in hospital, and an oldie from a radio show that was never played live until this tour (so it's sort of new) called Mingling With Mourners. It celebrates the pleasure of attending funeral teas ("Mingling with mourners/Some sat down in corners/Others at the table eyeing up the quiche").

Q: Surely there'll be a few classic hits on there too, like Pigeons in Flight, Austin Ambassador Y Reg etc ...?

A: Oh yes, all those will feature, plus Two Margarines and the Toaster Song (about the emotional rollercoaster ride of bidding for a toaster on eBay). And I Can't Go Back To Savoury Now is a great singalong favourite with audiences.

Q: Even after all these years, does John get stage fright when playing live?

A: Everyone gets a tad nervous before a live show, and it's not a bad thing as it can help you focus. I always try to channel nerves into helping me remember my words, both spoken and sung. I have a terrible memory for both, and so unfortunately John does, too! I find my energy and concentration levels are boosted if I chomp on a few walnuts (It's no coincidence they resemble little brains!) before a gig or during the interval.

Q: Does John still harbour hopes for representing the UK in Eurovision? What does he think of the recent woeful showings for the nation?

A: The Eurovision joke - so strong in the 1970s and 1980s - has all but dried up. For me the contest has lost all its "Helsinki, we're losing you!" kitschness, and is actually a night of incredibly well-written and performed pop songs, without a single technical foul-up. Not very "Shuttleworth", so it's only right that John has nothing to do with it.

Q: As a nod to his Belfast visit, will John be playing any Irish airs or tunes for the delight of the audience?

A: Oh no, that sounds suspiciously close to folk music, and John doesn't do folk music as he believes it encourages slovenly dress.

  • John Shuttleworth will be performing at the Out to Lunch Festival, Belfast, on Wednesday, January 21. For details, visit www.cqaf.com

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