MJ Hibbett interview: “If gags are all right for Jane Austen then they’re all right for the rest of us!”

MJ Hibbett with his band, the validators

Hi Mark! I think I’ve interviewed you in some form or other for every fanzine I’ve ever done. How does that make you feel inside?

Hi James! It makes me feel cherished and appreciated, especially as it’s been more than one venture – over the years I’ve got involved with lots of first issues, first releases and first events, most of which never got to a second, so I’m glad not to have had that effect on your output!

In the unlikely event the person reading this hasn’t heard of you, how would you sum up your rock career so far?

Right, it basically goes like this: annoying lots of old sods in Leicester, writing a song about home computers, singing about football on 6 Music when the “6” referred to the number of listeners, a brief POMP of about 18 months when we did a proper tour and were on Radio 1, a rock opera about space dinosaurs that de-pomped us, then a string of theatrical shows and adventures. It’s been good fun so far!

Usually I ask you questions about MUSIC but this time I’m (mainly) asking you about COMEDY, because you are Peterborough’s answer to THE RENAISSANCE MAN. As someone who is also trying to balance music with writing and performing funny things, do you have any TIPS? 

KEEP A LIST. That’s it really – if you want to do lots of different things you need a LIST to keep it all straight, both of what you’ve got to do and importantly what you HAVE done so that at the end of the day/week/year/epoch you can look at it and go “Cor, it turns out I did a lot!”

A question I’ve always wanted to ask you is do you ever worry about people not taking your songs seriously? You write serious songs that are sometimes funny, as well as funny songs that are sometimes serious. Is there a difference in intention when writing these things, or do they just HAPPEN?

Weirdly, I’ve always worried about it but have never actually needed to. I’ve got about 30 years worth of really clever arguments and cutting remarks that I’ve never actually been able to employ! I think the idea that something can’t be Proper if it’s also Funny comes from a long-gone generation of dim-witted music critics who didn’t like jokes because they didn’t understand them, whereas most people are absolutely fine with it. If gags are all right for Jane Austen then they’re all right for the rest of us!

You’ve done several shows with Steve Hewitt at the Edinburgh Fringe, including Dinosaur Planet, Moon Horse vs. The Mars Men of Jupiter, Total Hero Team, and the semi-autobiographical Hey Hey 16K. Any highlights, lowlights, and do you have any tips for people putting on a show there for the first time?

Steve and MJ Hibbett.

The highlights and lowlights are sort of mixed together, like the time we did a performance of ‘Dinosaur Planet’ for an audience of children but it turned out to be an audience of babies, or when our venue in Edinburgh got shut down by THE COPS and we had to do the show on a staircase outside. In some ways the actual shows were just an excuse to go to various Fringe festivals and spend all day eating chips and drinking beer, and I would heartily suggest that anyone planning to go to the Fringe go with that as your plan. Take as much money as you can, then spend it all having fun at other people’s shows, and do not for one moment entertain the idea that you will be Discovered. As a wise man (me) once said, enjoy it for what it is, not not for what it isn’t!

Inevitable Covid question: I feel like we’re all emerging from a long hibernation, like little furry animals blinking in a scary dawn. Do you think things will ever get back to normal, and if not what are the implications for us writers and performers?

Yes, I think they will, though it might take a while before we all feel comfortable sitting right next to a stranger. I’ve loved working from home for my Actual Job all this time, but there’s no replacement for a sticky room above a pub and over-priced pints!

I said I wasn’t going to ask you about music, but I can’t resist. Tell us about your current project, Jane and John!

Aha! This is what I’ve been up to during lockdown, it’s a new band formed at home with my other half, where we write and produce songs together. It’s been great fun actually collaborating together and we’ve created music that, we think, is entirely different from anything I’ve done on my own or with other people. I’d ask your readers to have a listen!

What’s in the Hibbett pipeline? Any upcoming Validator or comedy plans?

The next big thing coming down the pipe, all being well, is the completion of my PhD about Dr Doom, which I’m hoping to submit in October. After that I’m planning to Not Think About Comics Or Indeed Anything for a while, then after THAT I need to get back to my Writing Career. I’ve got a NOVEL sitting with my LITERARY AGENT at the moment, but I’m waiting until I’ve done all my homework before prodding him again! I’ve also promised Steve a new show at some point – I’ve got approx. 7 jokes so far for a panto, so I only need a couple more and we’re off!

You can find all your MJ Hibbett related information at mjhibbett.net

Published by jamesofwalsh

My past blogs haunt the internet like ghost ships on a digital sea.

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