We meet Griff Rhys Jones as he talks travel in Folkestone
Globe trotting comedy great Griff Rhys Jones is talking travel and he’s coming to Folkestone to do it. He tells What’s On why he’s relishing getting up on stage to share his tales
Following his successful tour of Jones and Smith last year – his one-man, stand-up and story show about his partner, his untimely death, their relationship and ageing - Griff Rhys Jones is back on the road, exploring the subject of travel in Where Was I?
He’s sailed a boat to St Petersburg and around the Med; travelled in Morocco, the Galapagos, India and Australia, but mostly he has ventured out making TV programmes, Greatest Cities, A Slow Train to Africa, In Search of the Black Rhino and Three Men In A Boat.
He’ll be taking a look behind those “making of” snippets for the real truth about TV travel. He has ridden “the train of death”, jumped from a burning boat in the Galapagos, sat with tribal elders and been ordered off their island, as well as climbed mountains and abseiled down waterfalls, gone window cleaning on New York skyscrapers without a safety rope and clambered through Manchester’s most demanding sewers. He’ll also be musing on the nature of travel itself and sharing some comedic experiences. The truth about travel television means he has also never lain on a beach with a cocktail in his life. Isn’t it time for a holiday?
Tell us about Where Was I
It’s that there’s quite a distinction between holidays and travelling. I am a traveller, you are a tourist and they fall off balconies in Greece. There is a slight agenda to try and sort out for other people what travel really constitutes, what a journey really means. My family used to undertake massive adventures because my father was so neurotic and so the things that he did required a great deal of planning and fuss. So we didn’t do holidays. There was a tendency for us to dramatise our adventures, and I think that stayed with me.
What revived your love of live performing?
The truth is that over the last 15 years or so, I discovered that, rather alarmingly, the schedule of doing a huge quantity of programmes and running my own production company made life quite complicated. But I was constantly producing books based on television stuff, and I often found myself standing at book shows, talking here and there. So one night I was standing on stage at the Monmouth Theatre promoting my last book, Insufficiently Welsh, and afterwards one of the guys who ran the festival said to me, “You know, you’ve got a show here.” I thought, “Yes, I guess I have. Well, I should do this.” So I just put together some stories about my travels and went out on stage and here I am!
Do you get a buzz from audience interaction?
It’s like putting your toe in the water and gradually working your way up. And that’s what I love.
What have you enjoyed about performing live again?
Live performing is great - it’s raw. I can get up, and if I’m in the middle of it and want to start talking about something completely different, I can. I absolutely love that. It’s a little bit of a shock I think for friends who come to the theatre to see me standing on stage just talking about anything that comes into my head. But it’s really fun to do, and audiences seem to enjoy it a lot.
Do you enjoy touring?
Yes, I do. Not having been a stand up in any way, not having been somebody who has come up through the circuit, I don’t know the rules. I don’t stick to them because I haven’t ever done it before. So at the moment I don’t mind sitting on a railway station at midnight on my way back to London thinking, “This train will be along soon.” Funnily enough, I find that still just a little bit romantic, so I’m happy to do it. And whether that’ll last for ever, I don’t know. But it’s a sort of second childhood.
Why did you sail away?
These days the majority people get on a plane to travel. That’s one of the reasons why I recently decided I’d sail a boat to the Baltic. I went to the Baltic simply to avoid being in any places where the Daily Telegraph arrived with the morning coffee. I wanted to go to somewhere where you can be, if you like, a bit of an event to a stranger and experience a sort of otherness. So I sailed to Tallinn, St Petersburg and Helsinki. All those places were really great because it was a surprise to the population that you were English and you were there - and that’s always a very good sign. The one thing I tend to avoid in my life, if I possibly can, is being in the company of too many other tourists.
What is the scariest thing you’ve done?
Feeding the sacred crocodile in Bali was certainly a very silly idea! They gave me a bag full of this dismembered sheep and sent me down to the side of the lake to see if I could feed the sacred crocodile, who had not yet appeared. The sacred lake was right next to the airport. The crocodile did eventually arrive, but only when a plane landed. When a plane had previously flown in, it had missed the runway and gone straight into the lake, and the crocodile managed to chew up one of the cabin staff. So every time that a plane arrives now, the crocodile thinks it’s feeding time.