Dom Joly discusses The Conspiracy Tour, based on his latest book, which visits Maidenhead, Farnham, Basingstoke, Winchester & more this month and next…
Q. Hello Dom. Your new tour, The Conspiracy Tour kicks off in February. What can we expect?
“It’s a companion to my latest travel book, The Conspiracy Tourist in which I travelled the globe again looking into the strange world of the Conspiracy Theorist. I will take the audience through a range of some of the wackiest conspiracy theories out there and what I think of them. I am pretty much a sceptic and so, for balance, I will be joined by an eminent conspiracy theorist, Dr Julian Northcote (author of the book COWS! Britain’s Secret Killers). Expect fireworks.”
Q. What sort of conspiracy theories did you look at?
“I took my long-suffering wife to Finland for a holiday to prove that it exists. There is a theory that it doesn’t. I also went on a massive road trip across America popping into Denver International Airport, rumoured to be the assembly point for the Illuminati come the Rapture. I investigated UFOs with a visit to Roswell, New Mexico. I looked into the JFK assassination in Dallas, Texas. I chased Alex Jones, the Info Wars grifter around Austin Texas. I also took a Flat Earther to one of the four corners of the square flat earth- an island called Fogo, off Newfoundland. It didn’t go well…”
Q. Why the interest in conspiracy theories?
“Conspiracies used to be fun. Did we land on the moon, Bigfoot, Was Paul McCartney cloned? Nowadays they have gone bats*** insane. They have infected the body politic, with the actual President of the United States supporting Q Anon and urging people to inject themselves with bleach. It’s dangerous and being used by a series of grifters to terrify gullible people and fleece them for money. It makes me angry…but it is also often very funny.”
Q. This isn’t your first travel book?
“No, it’s my fifth travel book. Over the last 15 years or so I have travelled to more than 100 countries and written about some pretty strange stuff. I went on a coach trip around North Korea, an assassination vacation across America, skiing in Iran, walking the length of Lebanon, monster hunting in the Congo, joining an illegal crossing of the US/Mexican border…I even spent a night in Swindon. I seem to be attracted to dark destinations.”
Q. You grew up in Lebanon – is this why you like this sort of travel?
“Possibly. I grew up in the middle of a vicious civil war and yet, I had an unusual but wonderful childhood. Lebanon is an exciting, beautiful place and I always try to find the same in other places that maybe have a bad public image. My favourite fact about growing up in Lebanon was that I went to school with Osama Bin Laden for a year. I was six, he was 18 and so we were not friends but I long to get a school photo. The weirdest part is that it was a Quaker school…Quakers being famous for pacifism.”
Q. You first shot to fame in Trigger Happy TV- how did that happen?
“I did my life the wrong way round… most people do silly stuff when they are young and then knuckle down. I did the opposite. I was a diplomat in Prague and a producer for ITN in Parliament. Then, I started making satirical comedy but fell into just trying to be as funny as possible when Channel 4 spotted my stuff and asked me to make Trigger Happy TV. I am immensely proud of it. I put blood sweat and tears into every episode and we sold the show to 80 countries and it opened so many doors for me.”
Q. What were your favourite moments making Trigger Happy TV?
“Often, they were the behind the scenes, private jokes. We used to work next to the office where Tony Blackburn worked and we got his autograph every morning, at exactly the same time for seven months and he never noticed. I also, dressed as a traffic warden, once gave a fire engine a ticket while they were putting out a small fire, only to find that I had lost my cameraman and nobody was filming. My favourite Trigger Happy sketch was probably the large snail crossing the road because only in Britain would the traffic stop and wait so patiently as I crawled across excruciatingly slowly.”
Q. What makes you laugh?
“If I had to sum it up, it would be ‘travel vast distances and make an enormous effort to do something totally pointless’. My favourite sketch of all time was actually in a sequel to Trigger Happy TV called World Shut Your Mouth in which we flew all the way to Northern Canada to ‘frighten an Eskimo’ by sneaking up behind him and crashing a large pair of cymbals together before running away and flying back home in triumph.”
Q. What makes you happy?
“My dogs… all dogs actually… except for little ones. No dog should be smaller than a cat.”
Q. What makes you angry?
“How much time do you have? Jacob Rees Mogg, trains, bigotry, bullies, injustice, poor grammar, Boris Johnson, tax dodgers, people failing upwards, grifters, Covid deniers, bureaucracy, traffic wardens, people who stand up the moment the plane lands, people who say eXpresso, automated customer services, Elon Musk, religious zealots, scammers, Q&As, Swindon…”
Q. What have been the highlights of your career so far?
“Learning to fly a hot air balloon. Getting the BBC to pay for me to visit all Seven Wonders of the World in one trip just to stand in front of each one and say “That… is sh*t…” Making a show called Dom Joly’s Happy Hour for Sky One in which I travelled the world getting drunk with my best friend. The Sky lawyers got nervous and asked me not to say that I was ‘getting drunk’ would I mind saying that I was ‘investigating cultural attitudes towards alcohol’ instead. Surviving for three weeks on The Island with Bear Grylls. I lost three stone and nearly my leg. Getting my Alexa to turn all the lights in my sitting room on when I tell it to.”
Q. What do your family think about your life?
“A strange mix of pride, confusion and disappointment. My wife, Stacey is Canadian and much nicer than me and is often very embarrassed by my behaviour. My daughter, Parker just graduated from Oxford Uni and is now working at the university looking into a cure for Alzheimer’s. My son Jackson has just started at Durham and has exceptional music taste which I like to think that I had a part in. We are a very argumentative family. We once drove across the Canadian Rockies in a motor home. If we had recorded the trip, I am convinced that we would have had the best reality show in history…except for Below Deck.”
Q. What does the future hold?
“Who bloody knows? I am developing a Trigger Happy Movie. I am working on a TV series of The Conspiracy Tourist for the US. I’ve only just really discovered radio and it’s something that I really want to explore further. I also have a list of places I have yet to go to. Algeria is currently top of my list. I am obsessed with the place. My son and I want to go storm chasing in America. I want to walk the Cotswold Way with my dogs.”
Dom Joly The Conspiracy Tour lands at theatres around the UK from 21st February, including Farnham Maltings on 29th, Oxford Playhouse on 18th March, details and ticket information at domjoly.tv/dom-joly-tour/
Dom Joly’s The Conspiracy Tourist: Travels Through a Strange World is out now (£22, Robinson).