How John Bishop makes the most of his funny streak

Britain's top funny man John Bishop will be performing in Dubai this week in an exclusive warm-up show ahead of his UK Supersonic Tour 2014.
John Bishop in Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow. Courtesy BBC
John Bishop in Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow. Courtesy BBC

From being a pharmaceutical salesman to tackling marital issues and bringing down the house during a do-it-yourself project, John Bishop might not have had much to laugh about. But his comic observations on those mundane and gloomy experiences fired up a stand-up career that has earned the Liverpudlian an audience of more than six million around the world. The television celebrity, who in just a few years has risen to the top of the United Kingdom’s comedy circuit, will be performing in Dubai this week for the first time, with an exclusive warm-up show ahead of his Supersonic Tour 2014 in the UK.

The accidental comedian

The 47-year-old says comedy was never really his thing, until he got behind the mic to entertain at obscure venues in London in 2000. The next year he become a major contender at competitions, including So You Think You’re Funny and Daily Telegraph Open Mic Awards. His ticket to fame came in 2009 when he was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award and he catapulted into the spotlight with appearances at Live at the Apollo and BBC One’s Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow that year. He then bagged his own sketch show John Bishop’s Britain on BBC One and currently hosts the television series John Bishop’s Only Joking on Sky 1. Bishop’s last comedy tour was attended by more than 300,000 fans.

Humour to the rescue

His decision to move from a steady day job came at the same time his marriage was falling apart. Bishop was in his 30s. He says it was his confessional stand-up routine that saved what could have become a regrettable career move as well as his marriage. His wife, Melanie, who had split up with him in 2000, saw him perform and discuss their break-up during a routine and decided to give their marriage another chance, which Bishop writes about in his auto­bio­graphy How Did All This Happen? (HarperCollins), published last year.

But his honest onstage observations about family have, sometimes, got him into hot water with his children and wife.

“When nobody knows who you are, it’s easy to talk about your marriage and your kids,” the father of three boys told The Guardian in 2010. “But now I’ve got to work with the fact that the audience has a perception of who I am already – and who my family is. My lads have sat me down and said: ‘Don’t talk about this, Dad, and don’t mention that.’ ”

Man for all seasons

For Bishop, philanthropy has been as much a priority as writing new material for his shows every year. In 2012, Bishop raised more than £3.4 million (Dh21m) for the BBC’s Sport Relief charity through a triathlon, rowing the English Channel and running from Dover to London. The charity raises money to help vulnerable people in the UK and worldwide. This year, Bishop donated £96,000 to the Hillsborough Family Support Group, which was set up to aid the families of those killed and injured in the crush at a football match at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield in April 1998.

• John Bishop is currently on his Work in Progress Tour, with a stop in Dubai, testing out his new material before his UK arena tour this autumn. He will perform at Dubai World Trade Centre on Thursday; doors open at 7pm, show starts at 9pm. Tickets, priced from Dh300, are available at

Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM


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