‘What do people think I am? Some kind of Henry VIII character?!’ MM chat to comedian Justin Moorhouse ahead of Northern Joker tour

“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t eat red meat…I’m quite boring really!”

So comedian Justin Moorhouse tells MM, but anyone who has seen the Mancunian’s stand-up will know that boring is the last thing you would describe him as.

Shooting to fame as Young Kenny in Phoenix Nights, Moorhouse has had to deal with questions about this role ever since, not least being viewed as the stereotypical Northern funnyman. His vegan diet regularly surprises people on the comedy circuit and defying expectations gives the “tee-total non-smoking vegan comedian” another string to his bow.

He said: “It’s quite funny really that people presume because you’re a big, fat, northern, working-class comedian that you couldn’t be a vegan.

“There’s two ways of looking at it and one is that it’s fun and I can have a laugh about it on stage. The other side of it is ‘What do people think I am? Some kind of Henry VIII character?!’”

Originally performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, the 48-year-old’s new show has already earned rave reviews from critics, fans and Justin himself who admits to being “pretty chuffed” with it.

He said: “It’s the best show I’ve ever written and I know that I’m a good stand-up. I’m not being big headed but I know I’m a pretty good stand-up.

“Not often do you have the good show and the skills at the same time – I’m feeling like the planets have aligned a little bit.”


This confidence has come from intense preparation. Justin describes how he’ll perform and record a show, listen to it on the way home and then again on the way to his next show. This means that he’s performed the current show over 50 times already and fine-tuned it to perfection.

Taking it on the road allows him to “let it breathe a bit” and ‘Northern Joker’ will incorporate many aspects of what it means to be both a northerner and a Mancunian.

Beginning in The Lowry on January 18, the 39-date tour will take in many of the biggest cities in the north but there are three specific southern dates that Justin is keen to point out – Northampton, North Finchley (in North London) and Norden Farm (which he’s calling Northern Farm).

Most famously in Phoenix Nights, his character Young Kenny had his face painted as a tiger in permanent paint and was unable to remove it. Featured in the iconic Joker make-up for this tour, he admits there may be a connection.

“I do have a fascination with getting my face painted it seems, subliminally,” he says.

The Joker get-up will play a part in the show’s theme as he speaks about comics in general. The show will also incorporate superheroes, superpowers and escapism, something the Joker encapsulates perfectly.

Though he wouldn’t typecast himself as a political comedian, the show will include Justin’s musings on the current state of the world and the state of flux that he feels as both a citizen and a parent.

He said: “We don’t know where we are with Brexit, geopolitically, Trump and Putin and everything’s very different than it was three or four years ago.

“And also my kids are growing up and they don’t need me as much as they used to so I’m finding myself a bit useless and redundant.”

A glimpse of Justin’s politics are evident from the concessions he has made available for the tour. Tickets for the unwaged are available for £5 and though not the first comic to do it, it was an idea he got from bands when he was younger.

He said: “If you’re on the dole and all your pals are going out but you can’t afford to it’s a bit miserable isn’t it?

“If it puts another person in the audience and helps someone have a good night then it’s dead easy for me to do that and you know what, it’s nice.”

Having appeared in the Ken Loach film Looking for Eric about Manchester United legend Eric Cantona and as a guest on the BBC’s Premier League Show, it’s obvious that Moorhouse is not a Manchester City fan like Young Kenny was.

He took a season off football a few years ago but will not be doing it again now, despite the difficulties faced by his beloved United.

He said: “I gave up to cleanse my own palate and I was getting a little jaded as a football fan.

“You know you take the rough with the smooth. I’m 48, my team have been a lot worse than they are now and they’ve been a lot better. At the moment it’s a bit dreary but it could be a lot worse.”

Tickets for Northern Joker are on sale now and it’s safe to say his shows at The Lowry will be much more entertaining than this season’s displays at nearby Old Trafford under the sacked Jose Mourinho. 

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