Look Who's Talking: A smile isn't my natural expression: He was born with a permanent frown on his face, now Jack Dee is laughing all the way to the bank
Saturday 05 March 1994
I had a taste for comedy from a fairly early stage. I knew I liked Monty Python and didn't like The Goodies; I liked Steptoe and Son but hated The Last of the Summer Wine. At comprehensive school, the Montgomery of El Alamein in Winchester, I was a slow learner, a no-hoper, and bullied. The teachers were the main offenders. Looking at the material I've written about that time in my life, I suppose it was the schooling which left part of me a bitter and twisted little fuck.
When I started out in comedy I rather misinterpreted the role. I wanted to cheer people up, so I thought I had to be cheerful myself. That was wrong. On the brink of packing it all in, I went on stage not giving a shit how I went down. The same material, delivered with considerably less joie de vivre suddenly worked.
My mistake had been giving off the vibe that I was dependent on the audience liking me: it made them feel uncomfortable. Once I relaxed, they relaxed.
My biggest challenge has been getting people to laugh who don't necessarily share my shorthand of references. If I just appealed to my peer group, I would only have done half the job.
The suits I wear on television are made for me by Eddie, a Soho tailor, but based on snatched Polaroids of ones I tried on earlier in up-market Savile Row. They're generally not the sort of thing I can wear for a stroll down the street - although a couple, with only a hint of George Melly about them, are borderline.
The John Smith beer commercials broke down barriers for me: I can pass a building site now and someone will shout, 'Widget]' I call back, 'Concrete]' Although I've never described myself as teetotal, it's true that I virtually never drink; it's not in my repertoire for relaxation.
My life has two modes, really. The first is touring for six weeks at a time, when I'm focused on the show for 24 hours a day. The other is being at home with Jane, my wife, and our baby daughter, Hattie.
I do try to work at home sometimes, in my study at the top of the stairs. I see myself as a gag-writer more than anything else. But if the door bursts open and it's Hattie looking triumphant at having made the climb, I'm always happy to be interrupted. How do you explain to an 18-month-old you're 'writing'? Anyway, I am very lucky to be able to spend a lot of time at home with my family.
To accommodate a relationship and home life, I've learnt to switch off completely from comedy and, when I'm not working, I'm quite happy to go to bed at 10pm.
Jack Dee stars in a Channel 4 series, 'The Jack Dee Show' (on Fridays at 10.30pm), and in the John Smith's Draught Bitter television advertising campaign, which has made him almost as famous as a widget
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