You know when puberty’s about to hit and your school and parents think it’s acceptable to totally embarrass you by discussing sexual bodily functions and actual, real life, having sex? And you know how you shrug it off like the worst icicle shiver ever that you hope will melt and drip into an abyss never to return?
Imagine 10 years post-puberty. Your parents decide to talk to you again about sex but this time it’s the sex THEY’RE having!
I know. It’s a sick, twisted, depraved world gone mad scenario…or just another episode of The Inbetweeners.
Well a real, live person went through this very scenario and then, being a comedian, he decided to write a show and tour it as a comedy routine retelling again and again the time he became his parents’ sex therapist to save their marriage.
Susie Daniels talks to comedian Jack Barry about embarrassing sex, embarrassing parents’ sex and embarrassing dating profiles…
You claim on your Twitter feed you’re a sexy guy. What’s so sexy about you?
I’m just trying to be funny. Obviously it’s a joke. I’m a bit overweight, I’m going bald, I’m very sweaty.
Sounds like you’re preparing your dating profile to me…
You’ve done McCoys crisps adverts on tv which you describe as the ‘pinnacle of any comedian’s career’. Your face is on the crisp packet. Now that you’ve climbed the crisps advertising Everest what’s the ultimate product you’d like to conquer (by making loads of money from advertising?)
I’ve been on quite a few TV adverts. 118 and the Co-op too. I’d love to get free stuff. I have such bad clothes and dress sense so the face of a clothing company would be great so someone can dress me. I loved the simple dressing life when you just wore a uniform every day when you were at school or what if you are an astronaut and didn’t have to worry about what to wear!
You mentioned people you hadn’t seen since your schooldays called you up out of the blue when they saw you on the McCoys crisps packets. Have you ever gone to a reunion at college/uni or school and what was it like?
Like you say, I’m mostly famous for the crisps. People don’t even know I’m a comedian. I’ve been to a couple of reunions and I think they think I’m the guy who works in adverts.
You’ve delved into crisps advertising so should Gary Lineker – the face of Walkers Crisps TV adverts – have a go at comedy?
Gary, he’s a funny guy. I would like to meet him and have a crisps fight to the death. McCoys versus Walkers. Gary Lineker’s my arch crisps nemesis like The Joker and Batman.
What’s your comedy show Tango about?
I did Tango in Edinburgh at The Fringe and am touring with it. It’s all about sex which is something that people can get on board with. Embarrassing stories about my own sex life and tips is what it’s mostly about. I talk about when I was a student and I lost my virginity. I found, at that point in my life, it felt like everyone was having sex for a very long time so I was embarrassing myself talking about sex and didn’t know what I was talking about.
It’s probably something most young people can relate to. I didn’t get told any sex education by anyone when I was younger than that, just what I was taught at school so now I can offer a bit of help! Actually my mum did try to talk to me about sex once when I was a teenager but I was like, ‘p*ss off mum’. The person I talk about in my routine who I lost it to for the first time didn’t know they were the first – that’s how embarrassed I was I couldn’t even tell them.
So what made you decide on sex as a tour theme this time round?
My parents were married a long time and when my dad retired it put a strain on their relationship. I would speak to them one on one about sex and then pass on messages to the other like a sex therapist mediator. I had details of actual sex they’d been having!
I heard things no grown boy (I was 28 or 29 years old) should ever hear about their mum and dad.
It was in discussing that with my parents that I realised it would be good to talk about. People can be a bit prudish.
You started doing comedy at the University of Leeds with comedy club Tealights. Of course the most famous university comedy club is the Cambridge Footlights. Are they the ultimate student comedy rivals?
Pretty much. The Footlights are the most famous comedy university group and were the ones I heard of when I was a kid. I applied to Cambridge but as it turned out I was too stupid! Lots of comedians I know become famous from being in the Footlights. Ellie White, Charlotte Ritchie (Dead Pixels), we were all doing comedy at out own unis at the same time and then saw each other on the circuit. YOU have an interesting theory in one of your comedy routines on how to boost the economy. Perhaps a tip for The Chancellor of the Exchequer? Yeah. Having drug that are illegal makes them more dangerous. We’re so skint in this country why not tax the drug dealers?
As a student in Leeds you studied Chinese. Do you speak fluent Mandarin and what might you have done with it?
I can speak fluent Mandarin and lived in China for three years. I feel guilty I’m wasting my useful degree in Chinese.
I was always interested in China. When I graduated most of the jobs linked to my degree seemed to be working for banks.
What sort of Chinese-linked jobs did you apply for?
I had a job interview to be a spy. I applied to MI5 to be a Chinese analyst. The application form asked, ‘Have you ever taken any drugs?’ I listed every drug I’d ever taken because I thought it was a test to see how honest I was. I got a phone call not long after from a woman linked to MI5 who interviewed me about every drug experience I’d ever had. I’m a chronic over sharer so it’s probably just as well I didn’t get the job.
Any countries you’d love to do stand-up in but haven’t yet and why?
I’ve done stand-up about China before. It’s such a fascinating and interesting country. If I can talk someone into paying me to tour there and do a show it would be great but the difficulty in China is the government. They don’t like being seen as stupid. I’ve done a few gigs in Europe. They loved me in Amsterdam. (laughs) Maybe they were all stoned. Mostly UK gigs I’ve done. Weirdly in Hereford they didn’t get me…
Tango: Jack Barry is on at The Old Hairdressers in Glasgow on March 24.