Johnny Vegas
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Couchtripper Forum Index -> Comedy News
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message

Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I lost myself in 'Johnny Vegas'
THOUGHTFUL and a little reserved, Johnny Vegas is no longer 18 Stone of Idiot – in fact, the unofficial Champion Slimmer of St Helens isn’t even 12 Stone of Idiot.
Nov 30 2009
Paddy Shennan,
Liverpool Echo

Few people can have embraced their public personas more enthusiastically than Michael Pennington, aka Johnny Vegas. Some might say Johnny – it’s such a powerful character, it HAS to be “Johnny” – created a monster with his ranting, Guinness-guzzling performer who caused chaos wherever he went. But, despite revelling in the launch of a new monthly comedy night in his beloved home town, there are signs that the pride of St Helens is shrinking the previously larger-than-life Vegas brand – spiritually, as well as physically.

It’s well-documented that this supremely self-deprecating showman has cut down on the pies and pints – but now, the star of hit ITV1 sitcom Benidorm says he’d be happy to cut down on the time he spends in front of the camera. He explains: “I think the big challenge for me now is writing more of my own things. I find I’m getting to enjoy it more and more and I wouldn’t be that fussed about being in front of a camera.” But even when he is in front of the camera, we’ll be seeing less of him. But how much is it he’s lost – six stone? “I’m not sure because I didn’t weigh myself when I started – although it wasn’t me saying ‘I’m going on a diet’. I’ve just cut down on things and have been generally eating better.”

And what about the drinking and burning the candle at both ends? Johnny, now 39 (“Wikipedia is wrong, I wasn’t born on September 11, 1971, but September 5, 1970 – although it’s nice to get two lots of cards!”) explains: “It’s the recovery time. It’s important for me, especially now when I’m so lucky to be busy working on lots of things. If you are that busy you can’t afford to lose days – like I used to.” But the man who once trained to be a priest stresses: “I still have me mates, I’ve not joined a religious order! It’s just now, I have so much to do and it isn’t as easy to be quite as maverick.”

As he was in one of the funniest things he’s done – the “Pub Lock-In” sequences on 18 Stone of Idiot on Channel 4 (Johnny’s successful attempt at making a series that wouldn’t be recommissioned!), when he and a group of fellow drinkers allowed the cameras to roll as they got rolling drunk. “I’m very disappointed that bit didn’t get made into its own series!” he jokes, adding: “I’ve realised I can’t be around drunk people without having a drink. It makes my skin crawl to think of the times I thought I was fascinating company – suddenly your opinion becomes the most important opinion in the world!”

Johnny, whose 2002 marriage to Kitty Donnelly ended in divorce last year, adds: “I obviously wasn’t mentally in the best place I could have been! Because of the idea behind it – shamelessly getting drunk very quickly – it was bound to be messy.” But that, to be clear, was Johnny Vegas, not Michael Pennington – though proof that his persona is all-powerful came recently when one national newspaper journalist described the actor/writer/stand-up as being “more intellectual than you expect.” So, is Johnny just TOO convincing?

Johnny (Michael!) says: “The whole point was to make him convincing, but then you get to a point where you say ‘Are you now allowing yourself to be like that to get away with things in the guise of this character when you are not on stage?’ You’ve got to be careful with that. I took it as a huge compliment whenever people couldn’t separate fact from fiction – then, later on, I lost myself in this character.” Have you got through that now and found yourself again? “I hope so,” says the father of six-year-old Michael junior. “There’s something to be said for going back to do stand up because I know where the line is drawn now.”

Although Johnny can see the delights, as well as drawbacks, of stand-up, he is also looking to forge ahead in a different direction. He reveals: “As a writer, I’d like to push myself to do more. It’s the thing I find the hardest to apply myself to. But when I did a lot of stand up I always felt like . . . not that I got away with it, but I went from one gig to dreading the next. It used to be ‘That went well, so it’s sod’s law that the next one won’t go well.’ ”

It sounds like the late Ian Dury’s hit single, What A Waste, in which he wrote about all the things he could have done if he hadn’t “chose to play the fool in a six-piece band/First night nerves every one night stand.” “Yes, it’s like that,” says Johnny – although, happily, there is a contradiction, because he still appreciates its positive aspects. If he didn’t he wouldn’t have helped to launch the new, monthly, Animal House comedy nights at the Zoo Cafe Bar in Westfield Street, St Helens, last Thursday!. He says: “I’m always happy gigging in my home town and there is something uniquely satisfying about doing live stand up. I do so much work on developing stuff for TV and radio, which takes so long and may never see the light of day – but with stand up you get an immediate reaction from the audience.”

Johnny has been promoting his new DVD, Live At The Benidorm Palace, and he’s also keen to promote the personality of his Benidorm “mum”, Elsie Kelly, the veteran Merseyside actress and theatre director who trained at and went on to train others at Liverpool’s renowned Elliott-Clarke School of Dance and Drama. “She’s been a wonderful friend to me while working on Benidorm,” says Johnny. “When we first started working on it, I was, emotionally, more than a little bit fragile, but she was so good to me – she’s got a wonderful soul.”

Among the projects Johnny – whose St Helens-based company is called Woolyback Productions – is currently working on is Dead Puppets Society, which should be seen on BBC children’s TV in 2011. He’s making it with Dublin-based Double Z Enterprises – creators of the brilliant Zig and Zag puppets from The Big Breakfast.

“I’m really excited about it,” says Johnny, who will be seen on the show juggling his career with his secret life as a zombie puppet hunter (!). And, regarding Zig and Zag, he reveals: “I was a big fan when I was on The Big Breakfast – I’m not the type to get starstruck but I was genuinely excited around Zig and Zag . . . and they are PUPPETS! I suppose it’s my childlike mind!”
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2010 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Desert Island Discs

download 38mb mp3
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Johnny Vegas is new president of Fylingdales Football Club
15th October 2010

A VILLAGE football club has landed its biggest signing yet in the form of comedian Johnny Vegas. Fylingdales Football Club, which is based in Fylingthorpe near Robin Hood’s Bay, has signed up the comedian and Benidorm star to be the club’s president. The deal came about after Johnny, a regular visitor to the area, was in the area recording a show about two men on an outing who decide to live on the beach rather than return to their former lives.

For the show, two garden sheds were needed so Fylingdales FC club secretary Neil Purves loaned his and another from the football field at Fylingthorpe. To return the favour, Johnny agreed to be the club’s president which means he now has a seat in the directors’ box – otherwise known as a makeshift bus shelter.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2010 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Playing with fire: Johnny Vegas takes on Anton Chekhov
We've had the knitted monkey, the epic benders and the wedding pictures sold to 'Viz', but life's not always been a laugh for Johnny Vegas. He opens up to Brian Viner about the abuse at his seminary, the assault that changed his life – and his fears at taking on Anton Chekhov
14 November 2010
The Independent

Chekhov playing Vegas – a production of The Cherry Orchard at Caesar's Palace, perhaps – is an improbable image. Scarcely more probable is Vegas playing Chekhov, yet it is about to come to pass. This evening, as part of a Sky Arts season of Anton Chekhov's one-act comedies, Johnny Vegas stars in A Reluctant Tragic Hero as Tolkachov, a world-weary man who visits his good friend Murashkin (Mackenzie Crook) to get various grievances off his chest, but ends up leaving with even more troubles.

It is to publicise this intriguing venture that Vegas has agreed to meet for lunch in a private members' club on London's Shaftesbury Avenue, a world away from downtown St Helens, Lancashire, where he grew up as plain Michael Pennington before going to Middlesex University to study ceramic design and later adopting the ironically glitzy stage name for his comic alter ego, a belligerent drunk.

When he arrives, looking far from svelte but still substantially slimmer than he has for some years, I remind him of our first encounter, a decade or so ago at a comedy club in Nottingham. I was there to write a feature about Peter Kay, who wasn't yet the comedy superstar he would become, and was headlining that night as Vegas had the night before. Vegas stayed on for 24 hours, less to watch his chum Kay than to pursue a relationship with a girl to whom he'd taken a fancy. I tell him now that I didn't rate his chances, partly on account of him being almost paralytic with drink, and partly due to a vast, unruly beard that might have had sparrows nesting in it. His brown eyes crinkle with mirth at the recollection. "That wasn't a good look for me, was it? I remember being in America with that beard and a cast on my leg, doing publicity shots. People must have thought I was publicising a veterans' hospital."

When Vegas says something that amuses him, that high, rasping voice rises a notch and starts to crack slightly, which is unfailingly infectious, and worked a treat on Kirsty Young during a recent Desert Island Discs. From time to time, there are editions of the venerable Radio 4 programme that get everyone talking, and Young's Vegas interview last month was one such, largely because he recalled that during his childhood, his father, a joiner, having just been made redundant, killed, skinned and cooked one of the family's pet rabbits.

Vegas was mystified by the response because he has referred to that episode many times in interviews – indeed, his dad cheerfully owned up to it on a celebrity version of the TV show Family Fortunes four years ago. But at least it diverted attention from a genuinely unprecedented ' admission regarding an issue he hadn't expected Young to raise. "I came out a bit shell-shocked," he tells me. "There was one question in particular that nobody had ever asked before." When he was just 11 he spent a year away from home training to be a Catholic priest, and Young asked him whether he was aware of sexual abuse at the seminary. He replied that he was, although he wasn't a victim himself.

"I've never wanted to discuss it," he says. "People who've gone on and made a life for themselves might have been listening, might have said, 'Hey, he was at seminary with me,' and the next thing is, their partner's looking at them wondering if they were abused. There's a domino effect with certain things you say. Early on, I almost got off on how open and honest I was in interviews, but waves go out and then come back, absorbed by those close to you. When the red-tops ran the 'We Ate Our Rabbit' story, my mum said, 'You make us sound like the Clampetts [from the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies].' But I'm glad they focused on that."

The domino effect he refers to hasn't stopped Vegas being candid in interviews, which is good news for me. "I don't know if there's something in my psychological make-up that makes me want to please," he ponders. "Giving someone an answer to something that isn't their business."

This raises the pertinent question: what is our business? He is divorced, with a seven-year-old son, Michael, and his ex-wife Kitty has told the press in some detail what in her opinion made him a lovely bloke but a rubbish husband. As he tells it, she wasn't much of a wife, either. Whatever, he is now engaged to Maia Dunphy, an Irishwoman who works in TV production. "Sometimes famous people talk about sexual abuse during their childhoods," he says, not quite able to let the issue drop, "and it looks as if they're clamouring for attention. You know, those people who only feel they exist if they're in print. I'm loath to use my personal life to promote what I do, but at the same time, I don't like a journalist going away with no more than you could get off Wikipedia, where most of it's invented anyway."

On which subject, Wikipedia informs us that in 2002 Vegas sold his wedding photos to Viz magazine for £1, and I'm hoping that's true, because you've got to love a bloke who sells his wedding pictures to Viz. "Yeah, I did." The voice rises with mirth. "And I still haven't been paid." He orders a second pint of Guinness – the accompanying Caesar salad is the concession to his health kick – and becomes serious again. "But it still looks like a clever piece of self-promotion. People go, 'That was a stroke of genius.' It wasn't. It was just a reaction [to the Hello! and OK! merry-go-round]."

He hasn't yet listened to his turn on Desert Island Discs, he says. "I'm not ready to, and in any case I'm really self-conscious about hearing my own voice. I've been on the [BBC] comments page, though. I never normally do that, because there are so many bitter people out there, but someone told me that it was all lovely, which it was, only suddenly there was someone saying, 'How tiresome, the hard upbringing...' You can't win. You sit down and give an earnest interview, and you still get stick. It's a bit like me doing Chekhov. People will make of it whatever they want."

The Chekhov project arose from a conversation with Henry Normal, who, in partnership with Steve Coogan, runs Baby Cow Productions. "You can have 100 conversations about projects, but Baby Cow has this annoying knack of making them happen, so a low-level commitment becomes 'Right, where's the space in your diary?'" As with the £1 sale of the wedding photos, and for that matter the recollections of abuse, Vegas is neurotically but endearingly concerned with how his taking on of Chekhov appears.

"I'm so wary of it looking like a bold move into drama. I don't know whether it's noble or an affront to thespians everywhere." It is by no means the first time he has taken on a classic text – he was terrific as the rag-and-bone dealer Krook in the BBC's 2005 serialisation of Bleak House – but he has aways used Chekhov as a synonym for thespy self-regard. "It's a bit like Morrissey. I didn't get into him at the time because all the people I couldn't stand were into him. But now I can see why Chekhov's so good. We think we've come so far forward since then, then you read it and think, 'No, we haven't.'"

As Tolkachov, he rants and rants for ages, and I'd hate to embarrass him by throwing around theatrical clichés, but it is a genuine tour de force, and recalls his early years as a stand-up, around the time that he took his act, which revolved literally and metaphorically around the potter's wheel, to the 1997 Edinburgh Fringe. That's where the influential TV producer Andy Harries first saw him, later describing the act as "truly, truly extraordinary, one of the finest comedy shows I had ever seen", and Vegas concedes not just that he gets to detonate the same explosion of frustration playing Tolkachov, but that the vocabulary feels right.

"There's nothing worse than someone who writes scripts based in the North but lives in the Cotswolds. It's hard to get those kind of scripts into your head, but there's something about Chekhov's language that lends itself to learning." Not a little money changed hands on set, he adds, as people took bets on how many takes he would need. In the event he surprised everyone, including himself, by needing no recourse to the giant Autocue. "I actually think Mackenzie had the harder job, doing 12 pages of reaction. But he's got a great face." The voice rises a quaver. "In the nicest possible way, it's a face that makes you want to shout at it."

An earlier project with Crook, 2004's Sex Lives of the Potato Men, got some of the most damning reviews ever received by a British film. "But to this day I don't have the inherent shame that people feel I should have," he says. "To me it perfectly captured pub bullshitters, always talking up their sexual conquests. It wasn't worthy but it wasn't shameful, either."

I never saw it, so can't comment, but I can see why Vegas and Crook might be cast as pub bullshitters. And why Vegas was cast as a drug dealer in the comedy drama Ideal. And as the petulant Geoff in the ITV drama Benidorm. And, for that matter, why he has played opposite a knitted monkey in a string of commercials for ITV Digital and later PG Tips. But doesn't he yearn, deep down, to play a romantic lead?

"No, because in acting I always feel like I'm an interloper. In stand-up I always knew how it should be done. I used to go on stage as Johnny and think, 'There's nobody better ' suited to be here at this moment in time.' But on a drama set I think, 'God, there are 10 people I could have put you on to who'd be better than me.'"

Maybe that's because on a drama set he's Michael Pennington, a milder, less self-assured character than Johnny Vegas. For all his serious acting ventures he is not the clown who yearns to play Hamlet, even if the Johnny Vegas Hamlet possibly awaits us. More fittingly, his own production company, Woolyback, has just finished making a radio play about one of his comic heroes, the late Les Dawson. "It's a farce, and we take complete artistic licence with Les's career. I don't think enough credit is given to what he did, a host walking out on a game show [Blankety Blank], criticising the channel, the prizes, the guests, everything."

Only once in his career, he says, has he felt genuine pride at being compared with another performer, and that was when someone remarked that his way of messing about with words reminded them of Dawson. Unlike Dawson, however, and by his own admission, he has never been entirely successful in transferring his stand-up act to telly. "I still give myself the right to be highly critical of others, though. I'm not naming the show, because I'm not a bitchy person, but last Christmas the family were watching a Christmas special and they were in fits of laughter while I was at the back of the room despairing. And I hated myself for it. I thought, 'Have you become this elitist snob?'"

He forks in a mouthful of lettuce, takes a gulp of Guinness, and lights up. "This is awful, I'm having a cigarette mid-salad; my version of surf and turf," he wheezes, and it occurs to me that the day that Johnny Vegas, or Michael Pennington, truly represents the snobby elite will be a happy day for Britain.

Nonetheless, he inhabits a world that must seem alien to his mum and dad back in St Helens? "Yeah, but they're savvier to it now. And with the break-up of the marriage [to Kitty], they knew the massive difference between what they knew to be going on personally and what was printed. Nothing good came from that, but it did open their eyes to the fact that a very small percentage of what's written in the papers is true." A chuckle. "I've abused that, though, when the stuff in the papers is true. I say, 'You know they make these things up.'"

One accusation that wasn't true was levelled at him in 2008 by a reviewer for The Guardian, suggesting that he had groped a female member of the audience during a show at London's Bloomsbury Theatre. He vigorously denied it, as, he says, did the woman in question, but the damage was done. "It was awful, a broadsheet acting like a tabloid. I don't mind challenging reviews. Comedy's so subjective, and if someone comes to watch, doesn't get it, doesn't find it funny, then fine. But this was different. This felt like criticism of me as Michael Pennington."

That said, and as he has acknowledged, he's had plenty of bad press that was fully deserved, not least in the wake of an epic, destructive bender while filming Benidorm. He has subsequently curbed his drinking binges, and made a pledge to himself, with his 40th birthday approaching next year, that he will be a proper parent to young Michael. "I've watched the Biography Channel, seen the interviews with children of big stars, and they all felt their parent belonged to the public, not to them. I never want Michael to think he's an afterthought. Any good qualities I might have are the result of my mum being my mum and my dad being my dad, and I want the same for him."

It's a fine, wholesome, rather moving ambition, but Michael junior is the son of a famous father, and the child of a well-publicised divorce. Inevitably, he's having a different upbringing to his old man's. "He can still have the same morals, though. But I do worry about him. He's not a tantrum-thrower. I look at him and think, 'God, he internalises.' Because if you internalise, it will find a way out. As an internaliser myself I think, 'Go on, have a rant.'"

His own way of ranting was to invent Johnny, whose anger stemmed in part from the wrongs done to Pennington, and one wrong in particular. "When I was 19 I was beaten up by two lads outside a pub in St Helens, and spent three days in hospital. If they hadn't been stopped they could have killed me. I didn't go out for a while after that. I was petrified. And the thing was that they probably went out and did it to someone else the next week. They'd fundamentally changed my life and they couldn't give two shits. That's where the anger came from, and that's what went into Johnny, and why he laid into boorish hecklers."

After 10 minutes or more of haranguing from an incensed Johnny Vegas bent on kicking back, even the most resolute heckler has been reduced to ashen embarrassment. "If there was anything I had a gift for, acquired from years working behind a bar, it was reading people. I'd say, 'You're probably a self-made bloke with a scaffolding firm, and everyone tips their cap to you, but I don't have to. Your mates find you a bore, your wife doesn't particularly like you, and I know I should stop, but I can't because you started it, you opened your mouth as you always do, you've ruined weddings...'" He drains his pint of Guinness, and smiles. "As wanky as it sounds, I was striving for righteousness. Johnny has the bollocks I lack. These people are never taken to task."

All those years ago, he adds, his cousins were all for hunting down his attackers, but he knew there would be repercussions. Instead, he applied for criminal injuries. "I took a loan out on a suit, but the only suit I could get from Burton that fit me was this double-breasted thing that made me look like Al Capone. So I was stood there, the victim, and the judge was looking at me thinking, 'He looks like he runs a speakeasy.' I didn't get a penny. I had a £120 suit I couldn't pay for, and I'd had my eye on a little Fiesta; I was going to get driving lessons. This near-death experience was meant to turn my life around. Fucking legal system."

By now, his eyes are squeezing out tears, and I am hugging myself with laughter. "I was at college doing a pottery course. When was I ever going to wear that suit? I should have got single-breasted." He wipes a big fat tear from his cheek. "That was the start of my body issues," he cries.

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
King of the PowderRoom

Joined: 23 Nov 2006
Location: OZ

PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2010 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Never really found this guy funny....But fair dooo's to him he's lost some weight...And sorted out the drinking!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Johnny Vegas reportedly marries girlfriend Maia Dunphy in Spain
31st March 2011

Johnny Vegas has reportedly married his girlfriend of two years, Maia Dunphy, in a small ceremony in Spain. The 39-year-old - who starred in ITV1's hit sitcom Benidorm - is said to have tied the knot with 34-year-old Maia, a PR consultant, in front of 120 guests at a country estate outside Seville. And according to the Mirror, Maia invited her own priest from her native Dublin to preside over the ceremony.

The couple, who have been seeing each other for two years, have rarely been seen in public together but Johnny has previously said she is his 'soulmate' and he 'loves her to bits' A source close to the couple told the paper that the wedding was 'beautiful and very romantic', and added that the bride looked 'stunning'. 'Johnny is clearly besotted with her and they never stop smiling when they're together. It was very touching,' the insider said. The paper also reported that guests were treated to a traditional Mediterranean menu including gazpacho, cured meats and salad, before dancing to the comedian's favourite songs, which were played on his iPod.

A spokesman for the funnyman said that they had no further comment to make over reports of the wedding. Johnny, who was born Michael Pennington in St Helens', Merseyside, was previously married to Kitty Donnelly, although the union lasted just 13 months. The couple, who divorced in 2008, have a seven-year-old son, Michael, together.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Room 101 - Johnny Vegas

TV Heaven, Telly Hell - Johnny Vegas
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

Joined: 25 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Johnny Vegas - 2012-12-17 - Richard Bacon
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Couchtripper Forum Index -> Comedy News All times are GMT
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3
Page 3 of 3

Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You can attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum

Couchtripper - 2005-2015