Comedian & TV star Miles Jupp, 44, talks about how surviving a brain tumour led to his On I Bang UK tour which includes Norden Farm in Maidenhead on 12th January, Oxford Playhouse on 16th, Newbury Corn Exchange on 24th and Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud on 4th March
Since Miles’ last tour finished at The London Palladium in 2017, he’s been in The Full Monty on Disney Plus, The Durrells and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? on ITV, as well as a heap of episodes of Frankie Boyle’s New World Order and Have I Got News For You. He’s made an award-winning radio series and he’s published a novel.
Yet one sunny day in the middle of all this, he suddenly suffered a brain seizure. This led to the discovery of a tumour the size of a cherry tomato, and a rather pressing need to undergo major neurosurgery. Obviously, one doesn’t wish to make a big deal of it, but the experience has left him with a story to tell and a few things that he’d like to share with the room. So that’s exactly what he’s doing in his new show On I Bang – a tale about surprise, fear, luck, love and qualified medical practitioners…
Hi Miles, you are looking very well. “My skull probably has a groove in it, but it’s at the back, I can’t see it. I feel quite quite jolly.
Q. This major life event in 2021 forms the basis of your new show On I Bang. Without any spoilers what happened? “Well, the big spoiler is I survived. I had a brain seizure, which was actually quite lucky. It meant I was taken to hospital where they ran tests. So having the seizure was an element of fortune because it’s like a big helpful sign that something is up. And that something was a brain tumour the size of a cherry tomato, which had to be removed.”
Q. What were you doing when it happened? “I was filming the ITV series Trigger Point. I’d just finished my scene. Ludicrously my character, a radio host, is speaking and then a bomb goes off roughly when it felt like a bomb had gone off in my own head. Luckily I was in a work environment which meant there was a medic on the set so they wrestled me into the appropriate position. It was only a day’s work, but taking that job might have saved my life.”
Q. Was it completely unexpected? “The tumour was there but I was totally unaware of it. They can’t date it. It’s not like trees or fossils. The swelling of the tumour causes the pressure. And it’s the pressure that eventually caused the seizure. It could have happened at any time, but until about five minutes before, there was nothing. I just started feeling very dizzy very quickly and there was some flashing of lights. I remember falling forward and then some people holding me down and then it’s just like a series of moments of consciousness. Next time I was in an ambulance and then I was in A&E at West Middlesex Hospital.”
Q. Has it changed your outlook on life? “It’s very good for putting things in perspective. Not that I don’t moan about all the pathetic things other people moan about as well. But after a while, you can go, oh, I’ve got the freedom to moan about it. You just think about things in a different way.”
Q. It must have been very worrying for your family? “I could be lying in a hospital bed plugged into stuff and actually feeling fine, whereas from their point of view it’s ‘oh no, he’s lying in a hospital bed with lots of stuff plugged into him.’ And they got the call from the programme’s line producer to say I was on my way to hospital. So that’s quite as a shocking thing to get when you are on the bus. The luxury for me was you go, ‘well, all I can do is trust these people.’ In a way it’s sort of freeing. It’s all the unknowns that are stressful. Even dealing with being lucky is stressful. Because you think why? Why me?’
Q. You had surgery after three weeks to remove the tumour… “It was accessible, but not totally straightforward. I found being in hospital, very uplifting, actually, partly because you’re just surrounded by people that are very caring. There must have been about five other people on that ward all in the same boat. So you don’t feel alone in that sense. It is scary. And I’ve not experienced a thing like that. I can’t pretend that it isn’t.”
Q. So On I Bang is all about this event – before, during and after? “This is the show. It’s a story told in a stand-up style. I promise you there are lots of jokes. It’s not me moaning about unsatisfactory customer experience or something I’ve noticed about luggage. Hopefully it’s a pure piece of storytelling, with a beginning, a middle and an end. I got a letter from a guy who saw a work in progress gig and he’s been through the same thing. He was saying people around him were worried but it was very cathartic for him.”
Q. How did the show come about? “I started writing it down, not in a comedic way, but I thought it would be useful to have a record of it. Then I thought, I haven’t done a stand-up tour for six years. And I went to see Blur at Wembley and I just thought it’s great being in a crowd, isn’t it? I just thought I like this thing of a crowd enjoying a thing together so much. And I thought, yes, I should turn that thing into a show and do it, which is a kind of an odd genesis, really. And I like going to theatres.”
Q. You started out as a stand-up but many people will know you as an actor. You’ve done so much, from Balamory and Harry Potter to Rev and The Thick Of It… “I think filming my part in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix took 20 minutes. My costume fitting took longer. I’m a sucker for a straight offer without an audition. There’s a difference between working hard and working a lot. And I think if you’re creating the work yourself, that counts as working hard, if you’re just accepting the work that you’re given that’s not the same. Working on my own has its pleasures in terms of control and being able to fix something quickly, or make adjustments. But I really like the bit when you’re making something in a team, the rehearsals are the best bits.”
Q. With acting you don’t know what’s next… “I got a nice part in a thing in Antwerp and then a week later I did one audition for Disney+’s The Full Monty on a Friday, got the part on the Tuesday, the next Friday I had a costume fitting, then started filming on the following Monday for six months.”
Q. You’ve got some high ranking roles coming up. The Duke of Rochester in the series Belgravia and Emperor of Austria in Ridley Scott’s movie Napoleon… “It could be cut to nothing but I did get to ride a horse in Napoleon. I had to go to a riding school and I thought, this is quite fun, quite therapeutic. But then when we started filming a stunt rider did absolutely everything!”
Q. You clearly enjoy performing, but stand-up seems to be your first love. “I like walking out onto a stage somewhere. I think the best view of a theatre is nearly always from the stage. I find there’s a sort of romance about touring. I remember with my show Fibber in the Heat appearing in Swindon on a Monday night. I turned up and there was 170 people there. I don’t know Swindon, I didn’t know anyone in Swindon. And I remember thinking, that’s great that 170 people have come here to watch this thing. I just love touring for that. So I really look forward to walking onstage again and telling a story. And hopefully, you know, we’ll have fun.”