Interview: Jon Richardson ‘Grows Up’ in his pursuit for happiness

8 out of 10 Cats team captain and comedian Jon Richardson has a few questions about his future in regards to social expectancies for ‘grown ups’. Before he makes the decisions that will effectively define the rest of his life (his words, not mine), Jon explores these aspects with fellow comedian, friend and optimistic radio man Matt Forde. Together, the pair of them take a road trip around the UK to challenge Jon’s characteristic scepticism and his notions on relationships, money and children, in this 3 part series on Channel 4.

“Channel 4 asked me if there was anything I wanted to do…so I said ‘Ideally drive around with my mate round Britain, talking crap.’ And no one said no.” Jon Richardson

Jon, Matt, you explore 3 concepts; relationships, money and children. How did you approach each one?

JR: We were living together in our late 20’s and then it comes to that point when you have to get your own place and be an adult. I certainly have avoided the conventional things – everyone seems to think you get married, you have children, you get promoted and then you work until you retire. So it’s all about questioning these things and figuring out a way to be happy when you’re older. Maybe it’s not about getting married for everyone, maybe it’s not about having kids and maybe you can live without money?

So you’re contesting the norm and then giving us alternatives?

MF: Yes! And challenging him (Jon) as well, as he’s always had very rigid views on all these things. If anyone had to re-asses it, it was him! Also, because we’re both opposites in that regard it was good to force him out his comfort zone.

JR: My view is that these concepts, they don’t necessarily work. I mean everyone does it, but you can’t escape the divorce rate. Given these are decisions that are going to affect the rest of your life, why wouldn’t you spend a bit of time looking into it properly, and talking to people?

And what makes the dynamic interesting for the show is that, simplistically speaking, you’re the positive one Matt, and Jon, you’re the pessimist.

MF: Absolutely, in every regard!

Was there a concept that you went into thinking ‘I’m right about this’ and then got proven wrong?

JR: I think I learned the most about kids. That was the one that I personally felt I changed my views the most on. The most interesting one, that perhaps I was most surprised by, was the money one.

MF: I found that surprisingly challenging in regards to how emotional it was. Because the kids and marriage ones you’re dealing with love and things that are quite heart-warming but with money, the problems is causes some people…it was fascinating.

JR: Money can be quite a grubby thing- the view of the British is quite uptight and not to discuss it.  These people spoke about it in a way that wasn’t crass and completely honest and really educative.

MF: In this credit society, a lot of people use money as a quick fix to make them feel better and that can cause long-term damage for a lot of people, psychologically and that’s something neither of us was really prepared for – to witness that.

JR: I’ve always mouthed off about, if I get to a certain point I’ll give loads to charity, but it’s different meeting people who actually had it all and have given it away. We met a guy in London who is voluntarily homeless. He works, but he choses to sleep rough because he doesn’t want to pay that much for property in London. He finishes work, find somewhere to kip for the night, wakes up, goes to the gym and has a shower.

In terms of marriage and kids – Jon you particularly have based your comedy on scepticism of these aspects of life – so was this the perfect time for you to challenge these notions?

JR:  Well yes- they were challenged by getting into a relationship. 18 months ago I met someone who made me realise I’d probably theorised too much. I just happen to have spent a lot of time on my own drinking port thinking about stuff. Then all of a sudden you meet someone and all that thought means nothing. So it was the perfect time for this.

My fear of starting a relationship, I realised, was really my fear of ending one. And all the people we spoke to had relationships that had ended and had just dealt with it.

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It’s the only way. The show is called ‘Jon Richardson Grows Up’, how are you different now?

JR: To me it feels like in your 20s everyone understands you’ve got time to figure out what you’re doing, but as soon as you say 30 you need to know where you’re at , especially with kids. So the decisions you make in your 20s, not only influence your 30s but your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s etc. so the weight of that – the pressure of those decisions – is what I’ve always been put off by.

MF: See there is a great irony in this – he’s more sceptical about relationships and I’m not, and yet he’s in one and I’m not! So I’m not living my argument really.

There’s no logic in love Matt

MF: That’s what I keep telling myself! But I think what was so fascinating about this was not just exploring the universal realities of people in their 20s, but specifically, how Jon had lived his – Jon has always put a lot of pressure on himself and its paid dividends.

JR: Because I missed my 20s I don’t really feel like I’m 32 this year, I feel I’m 29 plus 3. I missed a lot of time through emotional injuries.

Now that you have a slightly different outlook on some aspects of life have you worried how this would affect you stand up?

MF: He’s been very worried about that!

JR: Well I did start making rules when I got into a relationship – I said I’d never talk about our relationship as that was private to us…but that went out the window.

And you pride yourself in being honest in your comedy right?

JR: Yeah, and in my material now I talk about how being in a relationship has made me confront some of my issues…But the reason I worry is I feel loyalty towards those people who came to my gigs in the past because we share a world view – being single and not wanting to be in a relationship, and I know lots of people felt the same way and were coming because no one else was doing that. So I felt I was abandoning them but it hasn’t been like that! People have come up to me and said ‘I’m really happy for you’.

Well maybe you can inspire them to find love too!

JR: I have noticed different laughs now…before ,when couples came ,one was laughing and the other one was hating it. Because one person identified with me and the other didn’t. So now that I’ve loosened up and I’m talking about relationships generally, couples are laughing together. I think I’ve increased my laugh rate! Don’t get me wrong, still people out there that hate it, but it feels like a whole new world of comedy has opened up to me because my life is so different now.

Catch ‘Jon Richardson Grows Up’ Monday 10pm on Channel 4 

Words: Irune ‘Rue’ Chamberlain