After leaving school at the age of 15, comedian Joe Pasquale dabbled with numerous jobs – from cleric’s assistant to meat carrier at Smithfield’s and a stint in a margarine factory – 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 ITV‘s 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 ITV’s I’m a Celebrity … 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 Brooks’ 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 “world’s worst director”, 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 wasn’t a big huge conscious decision, it was just somewhere that I found myself. I always wanted to be an actor, but I couldn’t 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 I’d 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 hadn’t become a performer, what might you have done professionally?
I would like to have been a pilot. I’ve got my pilot’s license now. I don’t get to go out very often because of the nature of the job, but I try to whenever I’ve got any time off and the weather’s good really. I’ve 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, it’s just fantastic. My preference would always be with a live audience whether it’s telly or theatre or whatever.
What other stage roles would you like to tackle?
I wouldn’t mind having a bash at a bit of Shakespeare. The closest I got to it was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I wouldn’t mind having a go at Bottom. Russ Abbot is in this show and he said he did Bottom in Regent’s Park a few years ago. I wouldn’t mind doing a bit in the Park there. And I’d absolutely do another musical. I’d 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. We’ve got Captain Pugwash out this year as well, which I put out in Butlins with an original script that I’ve done for that as well. I’m writing an autobiography at the same time. As long as you can keep your hands in something, that’s all that matters.
What’s the last thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you? And
I’ll 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 that’s been running a long time that I hadn’t 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?
It’s 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 don’t 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. I’ve read the book and I’m still just as confused at the end of it.
I’ve got a few. My favourite at the moment is probably The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. It’s a brilliant book. You have to go out and buy it and read it. Seriously, you’ll 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. I’ve 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, they’d 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 “I love that, I’d love to do that”. 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?
Everybody’s always like “oh it’s the first time he’s done this”, and it’s not. It’s the first time I’ve done a musical, but I’ve done a few plays over the years - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Nerd, a Ray Cooney farce. So it wasn’t a huge transition other than the fact it was all-singing all-dancing. The acting wasn’t too hard, because I’ve 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.
What’s the funniest/oddest thing that has happened in your run to date?
At the moment, it’s 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 it’s not like “oh you’ve got a couple of minutes”, it’s 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 “what are you doing?” and I said “I’m changing”, and they went “no, no, you take your trousers off and leave your shoes on”. So there I was with no shoes on and no trousers on and I had to make a decision – 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 doesn’t matter with stand-up; you’re your own editor, and director and producer at the same time. Whereas with this, you have to be disciplined – there are 24 other performers involved and that’s without the 20 people backstage. So you have to do as directed and make it look the same every night, like it’s the first time you’ve done it.
Are you ever able to adlib in The Producers?
There are certain times you can, so long as it’s in character. But Mel Brooks has thought of everything in this show - if you do it by the book, you don’t need to do your own stuff. Unless you can come up with something better than Mel Brooks(!).
How’s your rapport with your co-star Cory English?
We’ve had some great reviews saying it’s 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?
I’m doing a voiceover series for the BBC called Frankenstein's Cat. I play the part of Nine who is Frankenstein’s cat because he was made from nine different cats. And I’m doing a cartoon voiceover with Jim Carrey for a Doctor Seuss film called Horton Hears a Who.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The Producers is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Regardless of what sort of mood you’re in, you come in and you come out on a high. It’s the best tonic in the world. And another thing I’d like to add - I went to see Russ Abbot 25 years ago in a show called Little Me at the Duke of York’s. That was one of the things that inspired me to want to do musical theatre … 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 – 4 August) and Bristol Hippodrome (21 August – 15 September).