20 Questions WithÖ Joe Pasquale
Date: 18 June 2007
Squeaky-voiced comedian-cum-actor Joe Pasquale, who makes his musical theatre debut playing Leo Bloom in The Producers, discusses the genius of Mel Brooks, role ambitions & his relationship with a psychiatric sock puppet.
After leaving school at the age of 15, comedian Joe Pasquale dabbled with numerous jobs Ė from clericís assistant to meat carrier at Smithfieldís and a stint in a margarine factory Ė before becoming a green coat, calling the bingo and refereeing wrestling matches at holiday camps. He first found public recognition as an entertainer when he was runner-up in ITVĎs talent contest New Faces in 1987.
Since then, his shows have included Live & Squeaky, Twin Squeaks, The Crazy World of Joe Pasquale, Bubble & Squeak, The Everything I Have Ever Done and the First of Many Goodbye Tours, Does He Really Talk Like That? and The Return of the Love Monkey. He has also made numerous TV appearances, including presenting The Price Is Right, performed in five Royal Variety shows between 1993 and 2005, was crowned King of the Jungle on ITVís Iím a Celebrity Ö Get Me Out of Here in 2004, and drew an audience of nine million for An Audience with Joe Pasquale in 2005.
Since 1999, Pasquale has increasingly focused on his acting career, appearing in stage productions of The Nerd, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Peter Pan, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and the Ray Cooney farce Tom, Dick and Harry at the Theatre Royal Windsor.
Pasquale has just made his musical theatre debut playing timid account Leo Bloom in the UK tour of Mel Brooksí multi award-winning screen-to-stage comedy The Producers. He co-stars with Cory English as his partner-in-crime Max Bialystock and Russ Abbot as the ďworldís worst directorĒ, cross-dresser Roger DeBris.
Date & place of birth
Born 20 August 1961 in Grays, Essex.
Lives now in
I live in Kent.
First big break
Blimey, there are a few really. There was New Faces in 1987 and the Royal Variety Show in 1993. I started calling bingo and refereeing wrestling at holiday camp, and then I went for a laugh to New Faces, and I won the heat and came second in the grand final. It wasnít a big huge conscious decision, it was just somewhere that I found myself. I always wanted to be an actor, but I couldnít afford to go to drama school. I thought the next best thing is calling bingo and refereeing wrestling.
Career highlights to date
At the moment, this is it, because I never saw myself singing and dancing ever, ever. So Iíd say this is definitely - on a personal level - something I never ever saw myself doing. I always wanted to, but whether someone would have the faith to cast me in a role like this was another matter.
If you hadnít become a performer, what might you have done professionally?
I would like to have been a pilot. Iíve got my pilotís license now. I donít get to go out very often because of the nature of the job, but I try to whenever Iíve got any time off and the weatherís good really. Iíve got a Yak-52, which is a Russian plane.
Do you prefer acting, stand-up or presenting?
To be honest, what I like is the diversity of it all. I like being able to go and do stand-up, I like being able to go and do a bit of presenting, I like doing this at the moment. I love doing this, this is the ideal thing, itís just fantastic. My preference would always be with a live audience whether itís telly or theatre or whatever.
What other stage roles would you like to tackle?
I wouldnít mind having a bash at a bit of Shakespeare. The closest I got to it was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I wouldnít mind having a go at Bottom. Russ Abbot is in this show and he said he did Bottom in Regentís Park a few years ago. I wouldnít mind doing a bit in the Park there. And Iíd absolutely do another musical. Iíd love to be in Little Shop of Horrors, either as Seymour or the dentist.
You flexed your muscles as a writer with the musical Rent-a-Ghost which toured last year. Is writing for theatre another interest?
Yeah it is. Weíve got Captain Pugwash out this year as well, which I put out in Butlins with an original script that Iíve done for that as well. Iím writing an autobiography at the same time. As long as you can keep your hands in something, thatís all that matters.
Whatís the last thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you? And the first?
Iíll go and see anything from We Will Rock You to The Woman in Black. I went to see The Woman in Black a few weeks ago. I decided I wanted to catch up with everything thatís been running a long time that I hadnít seen yet. The Woman in Black just blew me away. I thought it was fantastic, very scary and so simplistic in the staging. The two blokes doing it were brilliant. I saw Wicked about a week later as well. I loved it too. The first thing I saw was panto, it was Wendy Craig in Peter Pan.
What would you advise the government to secure the future of British theatre?
Itís all about education. Educating the public and educating the kids that come through it and supporting them as much as possible. And educating the government - I donít know how you educate the government, but this is just as important as anything else.
If you could swap places with one person (living or dead), who would it be?
It would be Stephen Hawking. I want to understand A Brief History of Time. Iíve read the book and Iím still just as confused at the end of it.
Iíve got a few. My favourite at the moment is probably The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. Itís a brilliant book. You have to go out and buy it and read it. Seriously, youíll understand.
Obviously The Producers and Young Frankenstein. When Susan Stroman came over to direct us here for the tour, she took a week off from (the Broadway production of) Young Frankenstein to do it.
Favourite holiday destination
Las Vegas. I want to hire a plane over there and fly it over the Grand Canyon. I did the helicopter trip once, but I want to fly a plane over it myself. I tend to see a lot of shows, I like the Cirque du Soleil stuff there.
Only eBay. Iíve got a garage full of crap. I bought something called Doctor Mondo, which is a glove puppet-psychiatrist. You actually talk to this glove puppet as a psychiatrist, so if you have any problems you can just talk to this glove puppet.
Why did you want to accept the part of Leo Bloom in this tour of The Producers?
For the last couple of years, theyíd been trying to get me to take over in the West End, but I was never available - I was always doing telly, The Price Is Right or a live show or whatever. When they closed the show in the West End to put it out on tour, they approached me about doing it and I kept a space open to do it. When it first opened in London, I saw it with Lee Evans and Nathan Lane, and I thought ďI love that, Iíd love to do thatĒ. It just blew me away. Any comic worth his salt is a fan of Mel Brooks anyway. The original 1968 film had a huge impact on me as a comic.
How have you found making the transition from comedy to musical theatre?
Everybodyís always like ďoh itís the first time heís done thisĒ, and itís not. Itís the first time Iíve done a musical, but Iíve done a few plays over the years - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Nerd, a Ray Cooney farce. So it wasnít a huge transition other than the fact it was all-singing all-dancing. The acting wasnít too hard, because Iíve played an American before in The Nerd - the problem for me was always going to be the singing and the dancing. The producers of The Producers have been excellent. They gave me a singing coach and a dancing coach.
Whatís the funniest/oddest thing that has happened in your run to date?
At the moment, itís just a case of making sure my feet are in the right place for the dancing. There was one incident the other week. I have a lot of quick changes in the second half, and when I say quick changes itís not like ďoh youíve got a couple of minutesĒ, itís literally 20 seconds out of that suit, into that suit and back on again with your hat. Everything has to be done with military precision. But the other week I got muddled up in one of the changes. I came off and I took my shoes off when I should have been taking my trousers off. So they said ďwhat are you doing?Ē and I said ďIím changingĒ, and they went ďno, no, you take your trousers off and leave your shoes onĒ. So there I was with no shoes on and no trousers on and I had to make a decision Ė do I go on with no trousers or no shoes? In the end I put my trousers on obviously, and I went out with no shoes on. Thankfully, I was wearing black socks and the only people that noticed were Cory (English, who plays Max Bialystock) and the musical director. Cory spent the next five minutes trying to stand on my toes.
How does touring with a musical differ from touring your stand-up shows?
For a start, the discipline involved. With stand-up, you can go and talk about your tortoise for 20 minutes, and the next night you can talk about what you watched on telly or what was at the pictures. It doesnít matter with stand-up; youíre your own editor, and director and producer at the same time. Whereas with this, you have to be disciplined Ė there are 24 other performers involved and thatís without the 20 people backstage. So you have to do as directed and make it look the same every night, like itís the first time youíve done it.
Are you ever able to adlib in The Producers?
There are certain times you can, so long as itís in character. But Mel Brooks has thought of everything in this show - if you do it by the book, you donít need to do your own stuff. Unless you can come up with something better than Mel Brooks(!).
Howís your rapport with your co-star Cory English?
Weíve had some great reviews saying itís one of the best double acts people have seen. We hit it off straight away. We had met before a couple of times at the Royal Variety Show when he was in Guys and Dolls so we knew each other a little bit.
What are your future plans?
Iím doing a voiceover series for the BBC called Frankenstein's Cat. I play the part of Nine who is Frankensteinís cat because he was made from nine different cats. And Iím doing a cartoon voiceover with Jim Carrey for a Doctor Seuss film called Horton Hears a Who.
Anything else youíd like to add?
The Producers is the funniest thing Iíve ever seen. Regardless of what sort of mood youíre in, you come in and you come out on a high. Itís the best tonic in the world. And another thing Iíd like to add - I went to see Russ Abbot 25 years ago in a show called Little Me at the Duke of Yorkís. That was one of the things that inspired me to want to do musical theatre Ö and here I am 25 years later in a musical with Russ Abbot. Which is a nice thing to be doing.
- Joe Pasquale was speaking to Jake Brunger
The Producers is at the Sunderland Empire until 30 June 2007, and then continues its tour, with Joe Pasquale as Leo Bloom, to Birmingham Hippodrome (3 July Ė 4 August) and Bristol Hippodrome (21 August Ė 15 September).