Look on the bright side
Jon Richardson – star of Meet the Richardsons alongside his wife, Lucy, and of countless comedy panel shows – on his love for Leeds, comic friends and why he supports Haven House Children’s Hospice
When did you first come across the work of Haven House?
It was back in 2019 when I saw a Tweet that one of the hospice’s retail stores had been broken into. I reached out to Haven House to offer my support and to see if I could help get the store back on its feet. Since then, I’ve gone on to support the hospice with comedy nights and been a hospice ambassador at the annual BGC Charity Trading Day.
Why were you keen to support them?
I am always keen to support any hospice. I think there is a misconception that they are sad places that only deal with end-of-life care, but they are life giving essentials for many children, young people and adults with life limiting conditions. I met a young lady called Annabelle at an event who was being supported by the Haven House team and loved her immediately. She made me want to redouble my efforts to help raise some money so that the staff there can do their incredible work.
What can we expect at your gig on 1 February, which will raise money for Haven House?
Jokes! A night that will make you feel better in a world that sometimes seems difficult to bear. I’ll leave it to the big tele events to mix the funny bits with sad videos and appeals for more money – we’ll just be doing loads and loads of funny stuff. I believe these nights always work best when they are straightforward. Once the audience are in the room then they have done the hard work, the money is in the pot, so they will be rewarded with as many laughs as we can give them in the two hours we’re together.
Who are your ‘friends’ due to appear on the night?
Good use of inverted commas! I’ve been asked by their lawyers to make clear that they are not all my friends, and they are not obliged to socialise with me before or after the event. It’s a phenomenal line-up with Josh Widdecombe, Jo Brand, Fatiha El-Ghorri, Joel Dommett and Lindsay Santoro. I might pull out another surprise on the night – who knows?
Does the gig feel different when you are raising money for charity, or do you approach it as you always do?
It’s different because the atmosphere in the room is always better when, as well as having fun, you are doing it for a good cause. There will be staff and families from the hospice there on the night, which makes it even more special.
I saw you on stage earlier this year and you were brilliant. Can you sum up the feeling you get when you are on stage?
Thank you for coming! I’m aware that I’m supposed to say I only really feel at home on stage and once I’m performing I relax and try to have a good time, but the truth is I get incredibly stressed, hyper focused on stage and spend the whole time worrying that I’ll forget something or let people down. If it has gone well I enjoy it afterwards with a whisky in the hotel, but only once the audience are happy and home safely!
Is every gig different?
Absolutely! It’s what makes the job so addictive. Every gig is a unique result of the make-up of the audience, the room the gig is in, the time of year, the news stories happening at that time, the weather and so many other things not to mention your own mood and energy levels. It could send you mad if you thought about it too much.
We like to think we know you now thanks to Meet the Richardsons – how much of that is scripted and how many elements would you say are true to life?
Even the scripted elements have their base in real events so it’s impossible to say really. I don’t expect audiences to work out what’s real and what isn’t given that sometimes Lucy will swear blind she has discussed something with me when in reality all she’s done is sit in her office and write a scene in which we have a conversation about it. It’s best to let it all wash over you, but just understand the constant stress I live under and be nice to me if you see me in the street!
My wife says I am a lot like you with my general outlook on life – which is a slightly miserable one… Is that really you?
I’m working very hard on being less pessimistic, but yes it’s all me. Part of me thinks you’d have to be insane not to be miserable in a world like the one we live in, but I’ve worked out over the years that optimism is an effort some people make rather than a deluded state they were born into. Since having my daughter, I am really trying to believe the best of the world I have brought her into.
What’s the best thing about making TV shows with Lucy?
The money! Failing that the number of couples who come up to us when we’re out and proudly tell us which of them is me and which is Lucy. We made a decision when we started making the show never to show a saccharine version of our marriage where everything is happy and we always get on. Maybe we’ve gone too far the other way, but the tension is always where the humour lies and I’m glad Lucy and I agree on that if nothing else!
This will be in our January issues – so any new year’s resolutions?
I’m lucky that I don’t need to wait for January to feel like I need to make a change to live a better life. I’m constantly disappointed in myself and can happily sit on a wet Wednesday in September and promise to be someone else before failing miserably three days later.
What do you love best about living in Yorkshire?
Obviously Yorkshire has some stunning coastlines, the Dales and many, many beautiful towns, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that proximity to Elland Road is what I love most about living in Yorkshire. I’m a proud Lancastrian who has lived all over the country, but I’m very happy here.
Are there many great comedy venues in the county?
Anywhere in the UK you are never far from some fantastic comedy nights, we are so incredibly lucky. Leeds Grand, York Barbican, Harrogate Theatre, Halifax Victoria and the Bradford Alhambra are some of my favourite touring venues. I had the pleasure of playing the Leadmill in Sheffield for the first time this year, which was far cooler than I deserve, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been to the Georgian Theatre in Richmond before either. What a stunning place. I could go on and on…
Do you get stopped a lot when you are out and about now?
I get stopped a fair bit, but only ever by polite and kind people who want to say they enjoy my work or to have a chat. I’m very lucky on the whole, but I could always do with a day going by without someone telling me I’m not as funny as my wife. I’ve tried staying home, but then it’s just Lucy telling me in the kitchen.
Are you happy with how Leeds are doing so far this season?
Very happy. The last season in the Premier League was utterly joyless so I’m in no rush to get back. It’s nice to be playing some good football and winning every now and again. I started supporting Leeds in the mid 90s and I’d suffer all the low points for the [Marcelo] Bielsa years, so the ups and downs are all part the fun. [Daniel] Farke has done an incredible job very quickly and I’m absolutely ready to fall in love again.
Book your tickets for the Comedy Night on February 1 2024 in aid of Haven House at havenhouse.org.uk/Event/lol-with-jon-richardson