Jon Richardson: "I deserve to be punished"
The comedian on Channel Hopping, karma, and what there's too much of on TV
As a nation we enjoy criticising our telly as much as we enjoy watching it, but after watching Channel Hopping our lamentations over the latest celebrity reality show might seem overly harsh.
The second series of Channel Hopping with Jon Richardson continues its dive into the sometimes jaw dropping TV which populates schedules overseas, and each week Judi Love and a special guest help Jon recreate some of these moments. Those sequences are Richardson’s least favourite moments and here he explains why his onscreen humiliation is deserved karma, what’s been holding him back as a comedian, and what there’s too much of on TV.
As a comedian so much of your job is feeding off the energy of an audience, so how have you adapted to filming with Covid protocols?
It turns out, as a comedian, I broadly don't need an audience. If anything, they're holding me back. After the last 10 to 15 years of their opinion of what's funny or not, it was nicer to be able to say, 'Well, I'll make that decision in the edit, thank you very much.'
We've deliberately picked guests who are brilliant and reactive comics rather than people who will prepare by scripting lots of bits, because of the nature of the show. Judi throughout the series has funny opinions on clips straight away, so you have to book slightly more carefully and make sure you accentuate that chemistry between the three of you, rather than depend on what's in the room.
Now about Judi and those end of show sequences re-enacting clips you’ve shown…
Judi, it turns out, has more sway in terms of how the final part of the show goes. I didn’t like a lot of them. I didn't like dressing as a sperm, or a cockroach, or a urinal, and having to play crazy golf with a golf club filled with fake wee. That wasn’t my best bit.
Is that because it felt outside of your wheelhouse or that it might be demeaning?
I blame my wife [comedian and writer Lucy Beaumont] and I blame the people who made Ultimate Worrier [his comedy show on Dave]. That was supposed to be a topical discussion about some of the problems we face in the world, and then there was an episode which ended with me in my underpants while Lucy put a tarantula on my head.
It created the impression it's really funny to see Jon look really uncomfortable and that’s been brought into Channel Hopping. I'm in my nice little cardigan, making my little snide comments about telly from around the world, and then it all ends with me in a barrel of whipped cream, crying.
How did you feel about TV before you started making Channel Hopping and how do you feel about it now after you’ve been exposed to these sometimes extreme shows?
My viewing is very conservative, so the sort of shows that we feature I wouldn't necessarily watch. I become tense and awkward very easily. I'm a big fan of Gogglebox - I like to watch people watching telly.
What was a treat for me is the section where we have a comedian from the country we're featuring introducing clips themselves, because that takes away your instant fear of judging or making a comment about a country that you don't really understand.
It was great to have a comment there to say, “You're allowed to laugh because this is where we are as people and this is what we’re putting on the telly”. In the past a show like Channel Hopping might have been a bit more inclined to say, “Them lot are mad over there, aren't they?”. We don't do that, partly because we’ve seen enough of our own telly to know we're not really any better. You need that voice of authenticity.
Are you still shocked by some of the clips you and the team discover?
Absolutely. There has to be a balance in the show because you want clips which provoke a conversation about an issue we thought we’d dealt with - sexism, for example - and then we show a clip from last year or the year before which makes us ask, “Do we just have a big debate, but then carry on doing the same things? Are we actually moving forward, or are we just better at talking about some of these issues?”
You definitely want some examples of that to justify why you're going around the world, but then you also want clips that are just really funny. There’s an infomercial for a product called the Clean Butt bidet and they've clearly told the actors in that advert to try and walk as if they’ve got a really clean arse. The balance means you can have a conversation about whether Italy is where it should be in terms of its treatment of women on telly, and then you can say, “That’s how you interpret walking with a clean arse.”
When making the show have you ever seen a format you’ve worked on in the UK which never made it to air, but has overseas?
I’m certain that has happened, but I don’t think I’m the go-to comic for those sorts of ideas. I doubt a producer has ever said, “I'll tell you who's the guy to host this freaky game show - do you know the little guy who wears cardigans and likes to straighten his pens out?” But there are shows I’m obsessed with, like Kings of Pain.
That's two guys getting stung all around the world. They travel to a country to find the jellyfish, ant, or in one case, snake that they want to be bitten by; then they’re bitten by it and they talk about how much it hurts. It's much better telly than it has any right to be.
Do you watch because you’re intrigued by their reaction or because you can’t imagine yourself in that situation?
I'm not clever or qualified enough to know what part of me wants to watch that show. I like to watch people walk into glass doors on YouTube; perhaps the evolution of that is watching a guy being bitten.
What is it about watching people walk into glass doors?
There's something so base about it. With a trip, as soon as they stumble, they know they're going to fall. With walking into a glass door they don’t know it’s going to happen until it’s happened. They’re so confident, until the moment before it hits. I'm a bad person and I deserve everything I get. Judi instigates most of the karma - what happens at the end of the show is karma. Left to my own devices I enjoy the suffering of others and I deserve to be punished.
Finally, given how much TV you’ve been watching, what is there too much of on TV?
Me. There’s times when I’m on tour, late at night after a gig, and I want to have a bag of crisps in my hotel room in just my underpants, and I’m on three channels. They’re all the ones down the listings - all I’m looking for is an old Bullseye - and there’s me on panel shows or Taskmaster. I keep having to dodge myself. I just want to see something I’m not any part of.
Channel Hopping with Jon Richardson airs on Comedy Central at 9pm on Mondays