+3 Interview: Joz Norris Is Dead. Long Live Mr Fruit Salad.

“I went to Morocco with my friend and trekked into the Atlas Mountains and climbed the third-tallest mountain in Africa and it made me burst into tears. Gotta remember to actually live your life, y’know?”

WHO: Joz Norris, Writer/Performer

WHAT: “Joz Norris has retired or possibly died, who cares? All that matters is Mr Fruit Salad, a fictional chimaera he created as a form of self-care, has developed autonomy and is putting on a solo show. Absurdist meditation on anxiety and grief performed by an idiot from Pontefract who doesn’t exist. Sell-out show at VAULT Festival and Leicester Comedy Festival 2019. As seen/heard on BBC3, Channel 4, ITV2, Dave and BBC Radio 4. ‘An absolute idiot… Simple, silly and screamingly funny’ (Fest). ‘A comedy legend’ (ToDoList.org.uk).”

WHERE: Heroes @ The Hive – The Bunka (Venue 313) 

WHEN: 16:40 (60 min)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

This will be my 8th consecutive Fringe, and my 6th full solo show. I went up in 2012 with a short character show just to try and find my feet within the context of the Fringe and get my bearings with what it is, and I immediately found it infinitely more rewarding than the comedy experience I’d had up until that point. I loved having a space where you were in total control of the context and the tone of what you were doing and so on, it felt far more creatively exciting than trying to express yourself in 10-minute chunks on circuit gigs.

I did a couple of shows where I was very much in the process of figuring out what I wanted to do in 2013 and 2014, then in 2015 I started working with Heroes of Fringe and that, along with a few other changes in my life, shifted my perspective massively. Since then I’ve felt much more satisfied with the shows I’ve made, most of which have tended to be built around a single absurd image (me “growing” out of a box, me tangled up inside a giant web) and then explored whatever big, amorphous ideas I’ve been thinking about that year via some jumbled-up nonsense. Last year I took a year off from making a solo show and played the title role in a play at Assembly instead, but am returning to making my own show this year because I’ve got two years’ worth of unexplored thoughts to sift through and make something of.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’18?

Career-wise, it’s probably a sort of sitcom-pilot/comedy taster thing that I shot with my good friend and frequent collaborator Ed Aczel at the end of last year. For me, the ultimate goal from getting involved in comedy was that I one day wanted to make my own TV series, because I grew up in absolute awe of shows like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Peep Show, The Mighty Boosh, Marion & Geoff, and so on. So alongside all the live comedy stuff and the festival shows and the gigs, I spend a lot of time developing ideas and scripts for potential TV projects, all of which involves a lot of meetings and a lot of waiting and, ultimately, a lot of luck as to whether you just happen to have the right idea at the right time.

In November Tiger Aspect sponsored a shoot for me and Ed to film a sort-of pilot script we’d written together, about two idiot criminals trying to steal a vending machine, and now we’re trying to pitch it to telly people and see if anyone will bite. Outside of work, I think the most uniquely exciting thing I’ve done this year is go on a proper holiday. I went to Morocco with my friend and trekked into the Atlas Mountains and climbed the third-tallest mountain in Africa and it made me burst into tears. Gotta remember to actually live your life, y’know?

Tell us about your show.

I started writing this show last year, because even though I wasn’t making a full solo show in 2018, writing a live show is still my main creative outlet every year and I wanted a place to put all the ideas I was coming up with so I could revisit them this year and see if I could turn them into something more complete. I’d created an imaginary alter-ego for myself called Mr Fruit Salad, which was just me in a fake beard and sunglasses and a hat pretending I didn’t exist, and would occasionally do gigs as him instead of me because I went through a period of not enjoying performing, and I felt I needed to hide my face in order to remind myself of how to enjoy it.

Eventually, I found something really interesting in that – the idea of having to hide yourself and in some way distance yourself in order to actually be present with people, the idea of having to sort of split your personality somehow in order to feel confident enough to get out of your head and build connections, it all seemed to be exploring some quite basic human ideas, but all via this very visually stupid, cartoon-like gimmick, and I felt like there was a show in that. I did a couple of work-in-progress performances at the Fringe last year, then in 2019 teamed up with my amazing director, Alex Hardy, and with my incredible co-star Ben Target, both of whom have brought such insight and heart and depth to the show. So far this year it’s played sell-out performances at VAULT Festival, Leicester Comedy Festival and Bath Comedy Festival, and seems on track to be the show I’ll look back on and be proudest of. Can’t wait to show it to Edinburgh.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

Oh, far too many. If you go on my Twitter I’ve been recommending a show a day for the last 70 days or something, so there’s loads of amazing things there. But I suppose some of the shows I’m most excited about are shows from John Kearns, Lucy Pearman, Paul Currie and Roisin & Chiara. John is my favourite comedian in the world and makes shows that remind me how deeply comedy can make you feel, and how much it can open up things inside you that you didn’t know were there. Lucy’s ideas are so big and bold and stupid, and she makes me laugh more than anybody else I know, I think. Paul’s show last year was my absolute favourite – he’s incredible at big, dumb, anarchic nonsense and then had an ending that was so earnest and kind and beautiful that it made me sob. And Roisin & Chiara are my favourite act I’ve discovered in the last year, they’re unbelievably inventive and talented and silly and channel something really magical, I think.