‘My guests know that I don’t try to stitch them up’

John Bishop might be fa­mous for telling jokes, but in re­cent years he’s taken on a more se­ri­ous role. Ge­or­gia Humphreys gets the in­side track

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - WEEKEND TV -

John Bishop is de­duc­ing why peo­ple like be­ing in­ter­viewed by him. Af­ter all, with a stel­lar line-up for the fourth se­ries of John Bishop: In Con­ver­sa­tion With ..., the Liver­pudlian co­me­dian (51) must be do­ing some­thing right. He even man­aged to se­cure an in­ter­view with David Wal­liams af­ter he’d turned down ap­pear­ing on Piers Mor­gan’s “more es­tab­lished” (as Bishop puts it) show.

“There might be an ar­gu­ment to say, ‘Well, that’s be­cause you’re softer on them, or you’re nicer on them’,” re­marks Bishop, who worked in sales un­til he found fame in mid­dle age with stand-up. “But I don’t think — if you watch the show — that that’s the case. I just think that peo­ple don’t think they’re go­ing to get stitched up.”

The ami­able TV per­son­al­ity adds: “Piers is good at loads of things and his show’s been a great suc­cess and, you know, fair play to him. But I wouldn’t want our show to be in com­pe­ti­tion, be­cause I just think we’re a very dif­fer­ent beast.”

The UK TV orig­i­nal se­ries, which airs on W, sees Bishop fo­cus on just one guest each episode, re­sult­ing in re­veal­ing and in­ti­mate chats with a range of peo­ple in the pub­lic eye (mem­o­rable past guests in­clude Jeremy Cor­byn, Lind­say Lo­han and Katie Price).

This time around, the likes of Paddy McGuin­ness, Pro­fes­sor Green, Will Young, Ruth Jones and Gabby Lo­gan will be open­ing up to the comic about ev­ery­thing, from their ca­reers to their child­hoods to their men­tal health.

It was the in­ter­view with his “good mate” McGuin­ness that Bishop found par­tic­u­larly emo­tional watch­ing back in the edit re­cently.

The Take Me Out pre­sen­ter has dis­cussed his twins’ autism in the past. But, as he told his in­ter­viewer, he’d never talked about his feel­ings in as much de­tail.

“I watched this show and cried and said to him, ‘Mate, it’s re­ally strong’,” re­calls Bishop. “And it’s not be­cause some­body’s cried, it’s be­cause you’ve got some­body re­veal­ing a part of them­selves that I don’t think they would ever do any­where else.”

Pro­fes­sor Green, mean­while, is known for be­ing a very open celebrity, but still sur­prised Bishop with how much de­tail he went into about the past.

“Ev­ery­one knows he got stabbed in the neck with a bot­tle. But how that af­fected his view of mor­tal­ity, of what he should do with his life, about his own men­tal health and then how that fed into his un­der­stand­ing of his fa­ther’s men­tal health — all of those things you don’t see when you read the news­pa­per head­line, ‘He was stabbed in the neck’.”

When it comes to his in­ter­view ap­proach, down-to-earth Bishop, who got his big break af­ter ap­pear­ing on the Jonathan Ross show in 2010, thinks it’s im­por­tant he doesn’t have, say, an ear­piece in with some­one telling him what to say next.

“This show is pred­i­cated on the fact that my sec­ond ques­tion is based on your an­swer to the first ques­tion,” he ex­plains, mat­ter-of-factly. “I un­der­stand there’s a story be­hind them, but I don’t go in with an agenda about, ‘Right, let’s get to that point’, be­cause when you want some­one to talk about them­selves for an hour, you will get to that point any­way, you don’t have to go div­ing into it.

“If there’s been a sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment in their life, they’ll tell you about it.”

If the ta­bles were turned, is there a sub­ject he would re­ally like to open up about, like McGuin­ness did?

“Ev­ery­body has lay­ers,” sug­gests the star, who has three grown-up sons with child­hood sweet­heart Me­lanie. “The big­gest thing that’s ever hap­pened in any­one’s life is your fam­ily, isn’t it? They’re the most im­por­tant thing in your life.”

And, as a foot­ball fan (he sup­ports Liver­pool FC and even used to play semi-pro­fes­sion­ally for South­port FC), there are still guests he is des­per­ate to meet on screen in the fu­ture.

“I’ll be hon­est, the list that we put for­ward, ev­ery year Steven Ger­rard is at the top.”

But there is the odd chal­lenge he faces as a chat show host.

“Com­ing up with guests, when you’re try­ing to match an au­di­ence ex­pec­ta­tion, is dif­fi­cult, be­cause Steven Ger­rard might be great for me, but may not be suit­able for the chan­nel,” he says. “So, that’s the only lim­ited thing. But for me, if I was do­ing this as the only thing I did on telly for the rest of my ca­reer, I’d be happy with it.”

What about fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of fel­low funny Bri­ton James Cor­den and try­ing to make it in the States?

“We could go and do an Amer­i­can ver­sion of it, def­i­nitely. So, would I?”

He pauses. “Yeah. That should be the head­line.”

John Bishop: In Con­ver­sa­tion With ..., W chan­nel, Thurs­day, 10pm

STIR­RING HEARTS: Bishop’s show pro­vides a space for celebri­ties to talk about their feel­ings in de­tail

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