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Podcast Transcript – James Longman

James Longman

– You need humour to kind of to lift you

and move you along and to
help you and it can heal.

So I think a world without humour

would be a much sadder place.

(upbeat music)

– Welcome to the Humourology
Podcast with me Paul Boross

and my glittering lineup of guests

from the worlds of business,
sport and entertainment.

They’re going to share their wisdom

and their use of humour
with you and with me.

Humourology is the study of how humour

can dramatically improve
your business success

and your life.

Humourology puts the fun
into business fundamentals,

increases the value of your laughing stock

and puts a punchline back
into your bottom line.

Please remember to like,
subscribe and leave a review

wherever you get your podcast.

(upbeat music)

My guest on this edition
of the Humourology Podcast

has had an astonishing
20 year career trajectory

that has taken him from
making tea at the BBC

to hanging with Tom Cruise in Hollywood.

As co-executive producer
of “The Late Late Show”

with James Corden,

he understands the
remarkable capacity of comedy

to cut through the cutthroat
world of American television.

He’s now a regular on the red carpet.

And in 2019 he won his second Emmy award

for “Carpool Karaoke” –
When Corden met McCartney.

His passion for punchlines
has been his path

to the premier league of
entertainment professionalism.

And he’s produced sketches
with, amongst others,

Michelle Obama, Will
Smith and David Beckham.

However, he’d probably swap it all

to play for his beloved West Ham United.

James Longman, welcome to
the Humourology Podcast.

– Thank you for having me.

– It’s-

– What a lovely intro.

– Oh, well it’s our pleasure.

What is it when someone’s funny,

why do we love them so much?

– Well, I just think a funny
person just has the ability

to kind of make you feel happy.

It’s really quite basic I
think with things like that.

Humour just makes you happy.

People who make you laugh, make you happy.

You know, watching something
funny makes you happy.

It gives you a warm feeling.

It makes you feel comfortable.

It makes you feel, I don’t
know, in good spirits.

It just can lift moods,

it can lift rooms, it can lift a funeral.

You know, someone could
be funny in a funeral

and it can make you
feel happy and relieved

and out of the moment.

So it’s so important to life.

– I love that thing of
that out of the moment.

I don’t know if you remember it

but do you remember when
John Cleese gave the eulogy

at Graham Chapman’s funeral

and for those of our
listeners who haven’t seen it,

you can look it up on YouTube.

And he suddenly went from this,

everybody was giving the usual eulogies

of wasn’t he a lovely man,

wasn’t everything.

And in the middle of it John
Cleese just turned around

and went “bastard”,

“selfish bastard”.

And it actually just changed
the whole tone of the room.

– It kind of makes people,

yeah it brings you out a moment

and just suddenly it’s a moment of levity,

a clever moment of levity

that just takes you away from the misery

and often the tough things in life.

It just lifts you.

Lifts you up.

– Was the young Longers keen on comedy?

– I think so.

I mean, funny enough you
mentioned John Cleese

and I can remember my favourite film

watching it over and over again,

which was “Monty Python
an the Holy Grail”.

Which I think “Monty Python”
had such a big influence on me.

And that was a film I loved as a kid.

And I guess I think the
running thread in my life

has always been, I love nonsense.

I love silly stuff.

And I always found
humour to be a way to…

laughing at something is
a way just to, as I said,

make you feel good about things.

And I’ve always enjoyed
laughing at things,

laughing at some of my own things,

laughing at other people’s things.

And laughter has always been
a really big part of my life

because as I say, the
essence of it is happiness.

And I think positivity,

and although you can have negative humour

and you can go down dark paths,

it still has a positive influence on you.

So even as a kid, yeah I
always used to laugh at things.

I used to watch lots of
TV with my dad and my mum.

And funny enough, it
was horror and comedy,

they were always the things I’ve loved,

the opposites in many way.

But then when you combine
the two, it’s brilliant

like Shaun Of The Dead
and things like that,

like horror and comedy can
be really good together,

but yeah, they’ve always
been the two things

that kind of pushed me along.

– It’s interesting because
did you as a young person

understand comedy?

Was there inherent understanding?
Were you taking it apart?

Because I’ve obviously
having worked with hundreds

if not thousands of
comedians over the years,

there is a comedy sort of gene.

You either get it or you don’t get it.

What do you feel about that?

– There is, I’ve always thought,

I mean, one of the things
about what I find funny

and why I find it funny,
why things are funny,

I don’t even think I’ve
ever really analysed things.

I just feel I have an
instinct about comedy.

I feel like something makes me laugh

and it’s all so subjective.

What I find funny, someone
else won’t find funny,

but I always think that I have an instinct

to find a funny in things.

And I kind of know a broad comedy

like what people generally find funny.

And yeah, I think, yeah, for
me it’s not analysis of things.

I think some people like
if you get into comedians,

some people write words
over and over again

to find a perfect joke.

And some people just have
funny bones, you know,

some comedian would analyse
one word over and over.

Is this the right word?

Is this a funny word?

And then other people
just have a eyebrow raise

and that’ll make you laugh.

So it’s so many different
ways and kind of skills

that people have comedy
and can use comedy.

But I always find I’m not
an analysis man about it.

I think I know what is funny.

– Well, no, but you used a very
interesting word, instinct.

I mean that your instincts are funny.

I wonder what happens to,

you’ve got an amazing career

where you’ve produced astonishing people,

but when you get a non comedian

to come and do a sketch
with you, how is that?

I mean, when you’ve got an
Oprah or somebody like that

coming in, whereby your instincts
are not their instincts.

And do you have to tell
them wait another beat

and it will be funnier?

– Yes, you can do.

I mean, there’s always,

as with any level of on-screen talent,

there’s always a management aspect to it

because you never want to rock egos.

And I think everyone is
different how you get into it.

What I’m fortunate with on this show

is James Corden is like for me,

one of the funniest people
I’ve ever worked with,

he knows where to find the funny,

he knows how to find the funny,

he’s got physical comedy to him

as well as kind of the verbal comedy.

And often I can use him
to get to a certain person

like if they’re not delivering it right.

But lots of things on
this show, for instance,

we’ll do a sketch with Oprah

and we’ll have an hour with her.

And we’ve got such a reputation
now that people trust us.

Not everyone agrees the way
I think something is funny

is funny,

but you know, you have to find a balance.

You can’t always be overly
particular with things.

It’s something you have to let go.

but I think they trust you.

They’re in good hands on the show,

and I think we’ve got
a good level of trust

where someone can come
in and they trust us

to make it funny.

And our instinct is generally right.

And also they trust James Corden.

– Yeah, no, no, but that thing about trust

is so important in a comedy, isn’t it?

Because in order to get somebody to laugh

you first have to trust that
their instincts are right

and their heart is in the place.

Don’t you think?

– Yeah, absolutely.


when we put a sketch together,

sometimes you’re taking ages
putting a sketch together

on the show and you’ve
got an hour to film it

and then you can’t be overly precious

about how someone delivers a line,

but you can only kind of
guide them in the right way.

And hopefully it will
work out for the best.

I mean, we sometimes do two
or three sketches a week.

You could, as I say, you can’t
be over particular over…

you can’t worry too much about everything.

‘Cause we don’t have a luxury of the time

to be able to really pick things apart,

which is also a good thing.

But generally we know what is funny

and what worked for James
and what works for our show

and the people coming into the show

know that that’s how we work

and what we think is good usually works.

Doesn’t always work, but usually works.

– So you’ve talked about
watching “Monty Python”

when you were young, what
else makes you laugh?

– Well, this is a good question.

I’ve been thinking about
since we first spoke.

Like currently what makes me laugh,

I’ve got three year old, currently
he really makes me laugh.

And the basis of what he makes me laugh at

is he’ll say a phrase I
wasn’t expecting him to say,

like an adult phrase I
wasn’t expecting to say,

or currently his fascination is poo poo.

So everything will end in poo poo

and which is just funny.

– Of course it is.

– Him Saying poo poo
and laugh about poo poo

and everything poo poo based is funny.

So at a moment that
kind of makes me laugh.

And then I was thinking
about all the comedy

I’ve seen over the years
and the various bits,

they’re kind of a broad
range of comedy I’ve seen

that wouldn’t necessarily be funny

but has also really made me laugh.

There’s a comedian called Kim Noble,

who’s quite a niche UK comedian.

And his hour show that you
did a couple of years ago,

which I saw at Soho Theatre,

was one of the darkest
shows I’ve ever seen.

And some of the things he does are verging

on disgusting and shocking and outrageous

but then he has the
ability to pull it back

into something really funny.

And to be able to kind of
straddle that is remarkable

without going into too
much detail about it.

He’ll do some things that if
I tell my parents about it

they’d be like, this is disgusting.

Why is he doing it?

He should be banned from life.

But he’s put together this hour long show

where he plumbs the depths of humanity

but then lifts it up somehow

and kind of you’ve that humour

in the darkness of something like that.

And then you’ve got,

This week say the Sofia
Coppola film On The Rocks

with Bill Murray, who is
just, he’s got funny bones.

He’s just really funny.

So kind of the broadness of that.

And then in life things you find funny,

usually I think stuff that
really makes me laugh is friends

and mishaps that they encounter.

And then I guess that a
lot of what you find funny

is also who you’re with.

And I remember watching films
that I consider really funny

with my ex girlfriend who
she wouldn’t find it funny.

So sharing a funny film with her

would change the essence
of funny in this film

because she wasn’t laughing.

And I was like, but this is really funny.

So I guess funny is so kind of caught up,

there’s so many different layers to it.

It’s always difficult
to really narrow it down

to what makes me laugh.

It can depend on where you are,

who you’re with,

what you’re watching,

who’s in it.

I mean, there’s so many layers to it.

– But I love the fact that
you run the whole gamut

of what is funny.

So you will go from the
darkest to poo poo basically.

– Yes, absolutely.


I’m generally lucky, I think

cause I find fun in a lot of things.

And that’s why I guess in horror

sometimes when I’m watching a horror film

and it’s a really dark moment,

when you’re in a cinema
watching a horror film

and something shocking happens

people laugh cause it’s a release.

– Yeah.

– And so you can kind
of, it’s such a good,

I guess there’s a
self-preservation about it.

Isn’t there, laughing.

– Yeah.

– ‘Cause it settles you and
kind of makes you think,

Oh, things will be okay.

– Well, I mean, as a psychologist

it actually changes the
whole brain chemistry.

And so you’re suddenly
getting a shot of something

that makes you feel good
which can wipe out the fear,

the horror.

And you know, that’s where
dark humour comes in.

If you know, I used to train doctors

and the surgeons used to say
the most outrageous things.


– Gallows humour isn’t it?

– It is gallows humour, yeah,
which is really interesting.

Tell me a funny story

about something that’s happened to you.

– Well, I’ll have thought a lot about this

and I’m going to have to disappoint

that I can’t think of one
good appropriate story.

I don’t know.

I don’t know if I can
answer that question.

– The interesting thing about that

was because I had two instincts there,

one was a former comedian
and one is a psychologist

and I was going well tell me
the inappropriate one then.


– I do have a good story

but then I don’t know if I can tell it

because if the wrong people watch it-

– We can always cut it out Longers.

– Well, I was working at a
TV company many years ago

when I was an associate producer

which is a step down from a producer,

which essentially means
you have to do everything

that producer and the exec
producer wants you to do.

And we were working on a show

where it’s kind of like Big Brother

with six people in the house
but three of them are actors.

And the three people who weren’t actors

didn’t know the others were actors

and we were feeding them storylines.

And there was one storyline
that there was a part of it

that I can’t say what it was

but I really, really, really,
really did not want to do it.

Like I could not have been more adamant

and I didn’t want to do it.

The exec who was a Bolton fan

and myself who is a West Ham fan.

That weekend was also the clash
of who would get relegated.

It was either West Ham or
Bolton that very weekend

on a Sunday.

And this was a Friday night

and he really wanted me to do his thing.

In fact kind of made me
do it against my will.

And that night I was in this house.

I was sleeping in the same house

as the six people on the show

and had to perform this task.

And it went against everything,
every bone in my body,

every sinew of my body
didn’t want me to do it,

really, really really
didn’t want to do it.

But I thought all of his
production and this show,

all the money spent on it
was building to this moment.

So I had to do it.

It was like 200 grand’s worth of show.

So I was kind of stuck.

So I had to do it.

So I was alone in this house at midnight

and I had to do this thing
that I didn’t want to do

but I had to do it.

So I did it.

And then what followed was a disaster.

On that Friday night, I
went out with my friends

to a place in Essex to a club.

On the way home, somebody (indistinct)

outside of the nightclub
so my friends said,

Oh, let’s get a taxi this way.

So we started walking out for a taxi.

Out of nowhere, man
steps from out of a bush

with a plank of wood
and smack me in the face

with this plank of wood,
absolutely out of nowhere.

– Oh my God.

– So I was lying on my back
going what has just happened?

They ran off, we kind of
followed them for a little bit

and I was on the phone to police

and I had just been hit in
the face with a plank of wood.

Where are you?

The police picked them up.

And the guy was like,

Oh, sorry we thought he was someone else.

It was a case of mistaken identity.

During that walk, the girl
I was seeing texted me

saying, Oh, by the away,
it’s not working out anymore.

You’re not seeing me enough,
it’s not going to work.

That was the Friday night.

Sunday was relegation day,


West Ham drew at Birmingham
and Bolton won their game.

I can’t remember who against,

and West Ham got relegated.

That was a run of three incidents.

– But that is a brilliant story.

Why is that so funny?

Is it because tragedy…

Isn’t it that classic of
comedy is tragedy plus time.

– Yeah.

Yeah, whenever I tell that story,

is a bit someone will pick up on

whether it’s a plank of wood in the face,

the girlfriend dumping me or
West Ham getting relegated.

Someone enjoys every moment along the way.

The comeuppance of it.

– Well, yeah.

I mean but that is a
classic of humour, isn’t it?

Because you’re actually
telling it about yourself

but all of that is a wonderful story.

Is everyone funny?

– I think everyone’s got the ability

to be funny.

Not everyone is naturally funny,

but I think you meet people along the way

who aren’t intentionally
funny who make you laugh.

So I think everyone’s got
the ability to be funny.

– But do you think it’s
something that can be learned?

Or do you think…

Because you think everybody’s
got this potential

but can they, I mean, if
you were running a college

for being funny,

do you think that everybody
who came through the door

could be find their niche in funny?

– I think so.

I think you can,

some comedians break down
as I mentioned early,

break down every word,

every syllable the way they say things.

If you analyse things correctly

I think there’s a way to be funny.

You know, if you’ve
got a time and patience

to go through it.

I think everyone can be funny.

And you have, you know, there’s people

I don’t think my mum is particularly funny

but she’ll tell a story
and really make me laugh.

You know, so everyone…

Or there’ll be something
about her that makes me laugh

that she doesn’t intentionally know about.

You know, when I go home whether it’s her

offering me a cup of
tea every two minutes,

there’s things in life
where people are funny

without knowing it.

And I think you can find
humour in everything.

– Well, talking of that

what would the world
be like without humour?

– Well, I think a sadder, grayer place.

I was thinking about this actually,

we had a really lovely thing.

A couple of times really
where people have said to me

what I do often I think is
I make a lot of nonsense.

A lot of stuff I’ve made on
all the shows over the years

have a thread of silliness
through them and nonsense.

And sometimes I throw away humour and go,

it’s not a proper job,
I’m very lucky to do it.

But every now and again
you’ll meet someone

and they’ll go,

Oh we’re just going
through a really dark time.

And we saw that sketch you did,

and it really lifted us out of it.

And the idea that humour can help people

which is when you do it
day-to-day you forget about that.

And it’s really lovely
when someone says something

really lovely about it.

You need humour to kind of to lift you

and move you along and to
help you and it can heal.

So I think a world without humour

would be a much sadder place.

– Well, it’s, I mean, as a psychologist

I can tell you that it’s a state shifter.

And so actually what you are doing

is… so when your children
get a little bit older

and they ask you what you
do, what will you reply?

– I have the classic Brit about me,

where I’m always a little bit embarrassed

about being proud of what I do,

which is a very un-American thing I think.

But it’s, I guess I’d say I make,

when a little bit older,
so I make silly TV.

I make TV that makes people laugh.

Which is what I think my
career has been really

making TV that makes people laugh.

– But that…

that’s a lovely thing, isn’t it?

And my son is now 19, so he’s grown up.

And for the last few years
when his friends have asked,

what does your dad do?

My son says, “he talks
bollocks for a living”.


Harsh, but true.

To be honest with you.

– Yeah.

– But you know what are we again?

You’re at the wonderful
age where daddy’s a hero.


You just wait, my friend.

Do you find yourself funny?

– My friends will always
tell you I laughed loudest

at my own jokes,

but I don’t know if I’m naturally…

Yeah, I do think I’ve got an
instinct for funny and timing

and those things.

I don’t think I’m a comedian
by any stretch of imagination.

I think in the right group of people

I can be funny and I can help people

and kind of lift people up with laughter.

I don’t think I’m a natural comedian

but I’m definitely not natural comedian.

I think I can be funny.

– But we will define what
a natural comedian is

because I mean, you and I
both know, so many comedians

of the last 30 years
and and beyond probably,

but what’s an natural comedian?

‘Cause some of them are
miserable backstage.

– Yeah, some of them.


– No names on this one.

– Yeah, you’re right actually,

it’s difficult to define.

I think some people can, it
goes back to the storytelling.

I think that some people
can tell a great story

and whether that story is a joke

or whether that story
is a 15 minute anecdote,

some people have that
natural instinct in them.

So at a party they’ll be
the one telling an anecdote.

So I mean, you’re very good
at that Paul, actually,

when we’ve spoken in the past,

you’re a good storyteller

and you can tell a story
about.. with different beats

where people listen and
kind of engaged in it.

So some people have that about them.

And if you can add humour
to that storytelling

and that’s a real gift,

whereas I don’t know if I’m
a natural, as I’ve mentioned,

a natural storyteller

but I can make cheap jokes.


– By the way, you are
a natural story teller

because that goldfish one
was dynamite and everything.

And if it’s not in the podcast,

that bit is going to be,
where was the goldfish story?

What happened to that?

You find yourself funny.

Are you able, which I know,
knowing you a bit like I do

you’re able to laugh at yourself then.

– Yes and no.

I can laugh at myself.

I think my wife would say
differently, but I do.

I can laugh at myself.

I am quite self-deprecating

but sometimes…

Here is when I’m not very
good at laughing at myself

and I’ll give you an example

with my little three year old yesterday,

he wakes up at quarter to six.

And yesterday I took
him to the supermarket

’cause that’s a little job to do.

We can do for half hour.

And we came back and we’re making,

he wanted to make muffins.

We made muffins together.

I’m not a very good cook. To cook,

I have to concentrate so
intensely on the recipe.

I can’t just, my wife is an amazing cook.

That’s her business,
you can throw stuff in.

I’m like one cup of
this, half a cup of this

I have to be like, like a
serial killer about cooking

and we’re doing the muffins

and she halfway through said,

Oh you should use this
tray instead of that tray.

And then so I used this tray

and I didn’t put a paper
muffin cups in there.

I just put the mixture
straight into the tray

and she walked past and said,

why have you put it straight into the tray

and not into the paper muffin cups.

And I was like, ’cause that’s
the tray you said to use.

she’s like, well, you’ve got
to use your common sense.

I said, well, I don’t even
want to be doing this.


So I’m just trying my best,

in those instances I’m
definitely not going to laugh

at myself.

But I think I am quite
self-aware of my thoughts.

And often laughter comes through

being aware of those thoughts.

So yes, I can’t laugh myself
if the occasion is right.


– Just ” “,

yeah, let’s just put that in the middle.

“If the occasion is right”-

– Not cooking.

– Do you think, because this is a podcast

so people can take away things

about how to use humour
to improve their lives.

So do you think people laugh
enough in the workplace?

I mean you work in television

and so it’s rarefied air,

but you must go into situations
or have friends who do.

Do you think people laugh enough?

– It’s a tricky one for
me to really comment on

because I’ve always been when
I started at BBC and then MTV

and all of those jobs,

it’s always been making
silly stuff really.

So I’m surrounded by good
people and smart people

and funny people.

So generally it’s always laughter.

I remember once after I’ve gone to MTV US,

we were going to shoot over there.

We went to MTV there.

And it was all like
everyone was in offices

and it wasn’t open plan at all

and MTV in UK was an open plan,

so we’re always chatting
and it was very social

and I’m always thinking
that kind of world offices

isn’t always conducive to laughter

because I think I much prefer

I’m in an office here with
with another colleague,

but we’re open plan out there.

And I kind of always
prefer the open plan world

because it’s much more social, I think.

And a lot of humour comes
from people being social

and lots of jobs,

people do jobs where they’re
just in their little cubicles

and don’t see people all day.

So it’s very difficult to make a judgement

on people in other jobs.

But I don’t know if…

Here we’re always
laughing and being silly.

So we laugh enough,
probably too much at times.

And I don’t know if everyone
has that opportunity.

– What do you think on the back of that?

Because you said about
people being in silos

obviously lockdown is full of silos.

Do you think that that lockdown

has stopped the laughs basically?

– I think, yeah.

Well it’s definitely harder for,

I think there’s a real mental health issue

with people on their own anyway.

And I think as soon as
you’re away from other people

even I’m lucky enough to come into work

and we’ve got big barriers around us,

wear masks when we leave our desks

and we do a show every
day, all social distanced.

I’m lucky enough to see
people even at home.

I can imagine lots of
people at home on their own

don’t have that social aspects,

they don’t have the humour

and don’t get energy from other people.

So it must be really
difficult during lock down

to kind of keep that going.

Loads of comedians doing
their stand-ups on Zoom

and that kind of world
has been great, I think.

And lockdown is terrible for
the creative arts anyway.

So I think it’s really tough for people

not to have that social aspects

and yeah of course humour
will be lost during it.

– Yeah.

I completely agree.

But I think there is still the…

I keep on saying to
people, it’s not perfect,

but at least when you’re on a
Zoom or you’re on a phone call

you can still get some banter going.

– Yes.

– I think what happens is
people have to make sure

that they’re not just sort
of hiding away from it.

And we had a chat a couple of weeks ago

and we just bantered

and there was still, it
felt like there’s something,

it would be more banter if
we had a pint in our hands

and West Ham were on the telly.

– Yeah.

– But it’s too-

– We’d definitely have humour then.


– I know this is a difficult question

for somebody who’s not a businessman

but make a business case for humour.

Why is the world,

whether that’s the world of your office

or somebody else’s office,

better for having humour in it?

– I think it comes back to happiness.

I think if you’ve got a happy workplace

and people work better and work harder,

if you’ve got humour in
your life and in your work

and everything,

then generally, as I’ve
mentioned, you’re happier

and lighter and you’ve
got less woes of the world

on your shoulders.

And then without all of that

then you can focus on your job.

I think if you’re in a happy
place, it’s easier to focus

and it’s easier to kind of
get on with what you need to

without worrying about other things

and laughter and comedy
and all those things

helps you get into a better place.

– Well, that’s really interesting

because like the people
we need to convince

are the people who run businesses,

that actually the the people
in an open plan office

going round telling a
joke at the water cooler,

are actually good for
business not bad for business.

So would you say that there
is a return on investment

on that?

– Absolutely.

Happy staff work harder,

happier to be at work.

There’s every reason to kind
of keep people happy at work.

I’m always intrigued by the tech companies

that seem to have all
of these kind of ways

to, I guess, entrap you at work.

That’s what happens.

That’s what Netflix do.

They kind of have a job where you go in

and they encourage you.

They make the place a
really good place to work

because then you stay at work longer

and you’re more efficient and
you’re happier to be there.

So kind of the benefits of
it are massive, I think.

– Well, yeah, I mean, it
started in this country

and I think in America
with companies like Google,

who were my clients for many years

and having ping pong tables in there

and this was encouraged.

And I’m always amazed when more companies,

’cause I get brought into companies

and go can you help our
board become more creative?

And you go, well, you could
actually help yourselves

by loosening everything up a bit.

Because presumably on
“The Late Late Show”,

you don’t sort of like have rules

about nobody’s allowed to sort of laugh

when they’re at their desk.


– No, I remember one company
I worked at were very strict

before I’d been there,

everything’s like you can’t have post-its

and you can’t put your coat on your chair

and you can’t do this and can’t do that.

And I think that you’ve
got to be happy at work

because you spend so much time there.

So as soon as you get rules

then people don’t want to be there

and start butting their heads against it.

And I think particularly in what I do,

kind of in the entertainment
and comedy world of things,

it’s healthy for people
to be happy and to laugh

and to be social.

I think you’re right.

And actually the more that
people get to understand that

the more actually the
Humourology project will work

and actually companies
ultimately will make more money.

Because guess what, if
your staff are happy

they’re going to stay longer.

You’re going to retain all the talent.

And that’s what everybody wants.

– They’ll be more productive.

– Be more productive, that sort of thing.

Have you ever…

Now this question feels a bit lame,

but have you ever taken a joke
too far or crossed the line?

– Absolutely.


But I sometimes don’t know,
when I have in the past,

sometimes you push the
wrong button on someone

which you think is a joke and
that they don’t see as a joke.

A lot depends on people’s sensitivities.

And sometimes when you
think you’re having a joke

with someone and you’ll say something

and they take it the wrong
way, that can be tricky,

but yes over the years, absolutely.

But it’s never really,

I don’t think that it’s ever
coming from a bad place,

although I have… I just think

sometimes you have to
apologise for these things.

But I do…

I think what you talk
about banter and things.

Lots of my friends at home

banter is pushing people’s
buttons and windups,

and I think I’m very good at windups.


And sometimes you can
just take it too far.

It’s just you need to know when to stop.

You don’t always know when to stop,

you can’t push it too far.

– Isn’t that the essence of comedy

is to actually be pushing
the boundaries all the time.

– Yeah

Yes, it can be.

But I also think that
at times you need to be,

particularly now actually,

particularly now the
world is a lot more woke

and a lot more aware of things.

And I find that what I
would have done or said

in a group at MTV when I started,

well, 18 years or 19 years ago,

I definitely wouldn’t say in a group now

because you learn and evolve

and you need to work out
what the boundaries are

and who’s comfortable.

And a lot of it is your audience.

If you’re with people
you’re very close with

you can push your boundaries
more than you could,

if you’re not with the people you know

but also there is some element

that I still enjoy of
saying something shocking.

The humour in saying something shocking

and the people go, (gasps)

and gasp a little bit.

I remember when I first
time I met my wife’s family

for dinner, they were
Tories – all conservatives –

and that was back when there were bands.

You remember we had the
yellow Armstrong bands.

Yeah the yellow ones.

‘Live strong’.
– Yeah.

– And I had a red band.

I can’t remember what it is for.

it was for some kind of charity

and the family were like,
‘what’s a red band for?’

I was like oh this is for Tony Blair.

And so kind of the shock… the
initial shock of things like that

is still enjoyable

because you can poke fun at,

you say the boundaries,

you can just push over
a boundary a little bit.

I still believe humour needs
to push boundaries, as you say,

and you need to poke fun
of a lot of the things

that the world is furious about now.

‘Cause that is part of humour.

But we’re in a very delicate time

where we have to be a little more gentle

than we would have been.

Because there’s all these new
worlds opening up all the time

and it’s impossible to be
completely level about everything

because then the world is really bland.

So I think you have to find
ways either side of that line

to just gently nudge.

– Yeah, but that’s a really
well put, gently nudge it,

but you can’t stop it,
because who polices that?

– Yeah.

– Once you put humour into sort of like…

I mean, I was talking with
Alistair McGowan on the podcast.

Who’s an old friend of mine.

And we were talking about

when we started at the Comedy Store,

the whole essence of the circuit,

which is a very small circuit,

was that there was no
racist, no sexist material.

Because this was as a backlash
to the clubland comics,

the Jim Davidson’s of the day

and all those people and everything.

I don’t think woke is a bad thing.

To be honest with you,

I think there’s lots of
good things come out of it.

But what you can’t do
is throw the baby out

with the bath water and
lose all the humour as well.

– Absolutely.


You need to, it’s really delicate
time I think at the moment

with everything.

And you’re right about
it, who is the police.

And I think social media
seems to be to current police

and the cancel culture, which is terrible.

So I think we’re in a
slightly tricky time,

which we’ll come through
the other side of it

but our world is a slightly
harder place for humour

than I think it has been.

So I like to think things
will come out the other side

and be better, and we’ll be
able to joke about these times.

And a lot of it comes
from the world we’re in,

whether it’s a Trump president

or whether it’s a Boris
Johnson prime minister,

we’re in a world where it’s
more about anger than humour.

And hopefully that will shift
back to the other direction.

– Well, that’s really interesting,

the anger versus humour thing,

because it’s very hard to be
humorous when you’re angry,

isn’t it?

Try and make somebody very angry laugh.

– Yeah.

– It’s not going to work.

– No.

– Have you ever gotten
yourself out of trouble

by using humour?

– Well, I think I’ve
got myself into trouble

by using the humour.


I don’t know if it’s the opposite.

I remember at school when
I would use to make a quip

in front of the teacher

and that would often,

you’d get in trouble for
those kinds of things.

I don’t know if I’ve ever got
myself out of trouble with it.

I’m very good at calming down situations

should there be a heated situation

and being level and kind of
on the fence about things.

But I think you can
disarm people with humour,

if you first meet someone
and they’re cold to you,

you can disarm them with humour

and like you can warm
to people through it.

But I’ve never been in a
threatening situation I guess

and kind of used humour to get out of it.

– So at school were you the joker then?

– I don’t know if I was a joker,

but I did get to…

I think I was always quite a popular kid

and I went through a year
of not being so popular.

And I remember during that time

I think I developed humour
and jokes a bit more

for getting myself a
bit more popular again.

So I remember a way of doing that was
being cheekier to teachers, I think.

As I

analyse it now, haven’t
really thought about this,

analyse it now why I was doing that

was by being cheeky to teachers.

And I think when you’re cheeky to teachers

people will like you a bit more.

And so it’s a way to make friends

and get back into the popular bracket.

– So is humour a superpower?

– I think it absolutely can
be if used in the right way.

Yeah, I think it absolutely can be.

People like funny people,

it’s just people like funny people.

I think about people with
funny bones, for instance,

like Will Ferrell.

I can’t believe anyone’s ever disliked him

because he is just funny.

Like he can lift an
eyebrow and make you laugh.

And that to me is a superpower

because to have that ability
to make someone laugh

with a tiny muscle in the
face moving is like amazing.

So, yes it can be.

– You’ve worked with Will Ferrell.

You’ve worked with all these people.

Are there any people who’ve surprised you

and you’d go, their public
persona wasn’t funny,

but actually when I met
them, they were hilarious.

– Well, no, funny enough

when I think about people who are funny,

there’s a handful of people
I think are really funny.

Like there’s a comedian
called Joe Wilkinson

who just really makes me laugh.

Like he’s really funny.

There’s Will Ferrell who’s really funny.

There’s my friend, Joe,
who when I’m in his company

we’re a group of us,

like I’ll get belly laughs from him.

And that is because he is shit at life.

Like here’s a kind of
person who’s shit at life

so everything he does turns
into a little bit of a disaster.

So someone like that, he’ll
have a workman come in

to fix his bath, and instead
of paying the Workman 200 quid,

he’ll go for 20 quid version

and the taps will be on an upside down.

Like he’s the kind of guy who
never learns from anything.

So will always be shit at life.

And so people like that make me laugh.

So thinking about in terms of celebrity,

I’m not sure if there’s
anyone who’s the opposite.

They’re usually a bit more
quiet and then really loud

like really funny on camera
rather than the reverse.

I’m sure they’re out there.

– In business, is it
survival of the fittest

or survival of the funniest?

– Part of my mantra is I think

is you don’t have to be great at your job,

but if you get on with
people and try hard,

then it’s going to be okay.

And I think that being funny helps that.

I think it’s harder to be…

I think funny is a massive
attribute to anyone in life.

I think, because it can get
you through a lot of situations

where you don’t necessarily
have the skill to do something

but you can get by because people like you

and you’re funny and there’s
an emotional connection.

So yeah, I think if it is
survival of the fittest

that isn’t a business
that I’d want to work in

because it feels already,

even that phrase feels
a lot more cutthroat

and a bit more American Psycho.


So I would much rather be in
the survival of the funniest

range than survival of the fittest.

– Well, no, it’s really interesting

that you were saying that

because just that whole thing
about funny getting rapport

and funny making you fit in,

funny makes you fit in,

it’s it’s actually more
important, isn’t it?

Because you can be funny and fail,

but people will forgive.

– Yes, absolutely.

– I’ve just alliterated again

but you can be funny and
fail and people will forgive.

And that’s actually a
real takeaway for people,

is that when you are very,
very serious and you fail,

people will judge you
more, don’t you think?

When they’re doing that.
– Yes.

Yeah, I think you can fail and be funny.

Because people just like you more,

people just like you more, if
you’re funny and you mess up

then you can kind of,
as long as you admit it

and go, ‘Look I messed up’,

people generally warm to
you and it’s easier to fail.

And also, you know, failing is important.

So if you fail and learn
from it and you’re funny,

then it’s all okay.

Everything will be
okay, we’ll work it out.

– So there you go, listener, fail funny.

– Fail funny.

– That’s actually quite
good phrase to actually-

– ’cause every time if
people will fail upwards

and quite a lot of people fail
upwards without being funny.

So you can have it both ways.


– There you go.

That’s an ambition in
life is to fail funny.


But yeah, I think it’s
absolutely true though

because I don’t think it’s
always about being the best

at anything.

I think it’s your face fits.

– Yeah.

– And part of that is if
you’ve got a funny face

which you have Longers
to be honest with you.


– Let’s break it down to a funny face.

– No talent, but a funny face.

– Failing upwards.

Failing unfunny upwards!

– Well, we’re coming to the
end part of the podcast now

where we do quickfire questions.

I’ve never seen anybody so excited

about quickfire questions.


Who is the funniest
person you’ve ever met?

– Well, Will Ferrell,

is just the funniest person I’ve ever met.

And the nicest actually,
he’s lovely and funny.

He makes me laugh.

– I hate the fact that
he’s lovely and funny.

– And he likes football.

– Love, funny-
– And he likes football.

He invests in LFC.

So there’s always LAFC games over here

and he remembers, so
first time I spoke to him

about West Ham, next time we
spoke about West Ham again.

Like he’s just a lovely man.

Oh I should also say,
Corden is super funny.

Like he can find a funny in so many…

We take him ideas in and
they may not be good ideas

and he can turn them really funny.

So he is super funny too.

– Well, have him look at the podcast then,

see if he can make this funny.

What book makes you laugh?

– “Catch 22”

– Joseph Heller.

What a great book.
– “Catch 22” has the ability


The first time I read it, I
remember almost being in tears

at the bottom of one chapter

and then laughing out loud
at the top of next chapter.

But that is a perfect example
of tragedy and comedy,

like a thin line between them.

– So bathos.

– Bathos.

– Yeah, that was fun.

What film makes you laugh?

– I’m going to go back to
“Monty Python and Holy Grail”

just because that’s where we started.

But I think that is a brilliant film.

I was trying to explain
to a friend out here,

an American friend out
here, the rabbit scene

where they go into caves

and the rabbit is a vicious rabbit

and they don’t believe him,

like “Monty Python” is
just second to none.

– Yeah, I mean it’s genius

and it still stands up as well today.

– It really does.

– And very few films last like that.

– Also very quickly, I
know this is quickfire

but I was watching yesterday.

The final scene of Blackadder Goes Forth.

And that scene, talking of
tragedy and comedy, is amazing.

Because just before
they go over to the top

there’s some really funny,
laugh out loud moments in it.

And then you’ve got the
tragedy and the poignancy

of them running over
and going over the top.

So that is an example of
humour and kind of tragedy.

– Yeah, taking it to another level.

And now it’s absolutely brilliant.

What word makes you laugh?

– I liked the word hullabaloo

and I also this morning
it was the word ‘muffins’

because yesterday morning
we were making muffins

and we were joking about it this morning.

And I was saying muffins loudly

my three-year-old just
said muffins loudely

and we’re both laughing
at the word muffins.


– Well, it makes a change from poo poo.

– Poo poo,

Yeah, I had a five minutes off poo poo

and then it’ll become muffins poo poo.

– Wait till you get to
the underpants stage.

– Yeah, that’s coming.

– Hilarious underpants.

You can say again and again,
and children will laugh.

Okay, good.

Just slightly shifting to
the serious side of it.

What’s not funny?

– I was going to say political humour

but political humour is a lot
of what we do on this show.

And also can be funny.

I think if you go too far,
either way on right-wing

or left-wing, whichever way you do it,

I don’t think that’s funny.

I don’t think the extremes of
right wing comedy are funny

and I don’t think the
extremes of left wing comedy

are funny.

So I guess racism.

I don’t find racism funny as such

but I can find what is funny
and jokes about different race.

It’s a very thin line, I guess,

but I think I get sent
memes sometimes from friends

that I don’t find funny,

that are usually based around
something Farage would say,

for instance.

And I’m like, I’m out this
is the wrong audience.

But I understand that
people do find that funny.

So who am to judge?

– Yeah, that’s a tricky one, isn’t it?

Because I get sent those same memes

and there’s the… Really?!,

did you think that this was
going to be funny to me?

And I wonder how many
friendships have broken up?

Because I actually think
you have to put people

in sort of little buckets
if you like of like,

I feel like they are good people.

– Yeah.

– But I’m not going to actually fall out

with them completely.

– Yeah,

but this isn’t for me.
– Because of one gag.

Yeah, but this isn’t for me.

– This isn’t for me and I
believe you’re better than that.

– Yeah.

And I think telling
people that is difficult

but actually sometimes necessary.

Would you rather be
considered clever or funny?

– Funny,

without a doubt.
– All day long.

– All day long.

I’m probably neither. (laughing)

But I’d rather be considered funny.

– Well, we’ve had a lot of conversations

on The Humourology podcast

about the fact that the
people actually are,

And I agree with this,

think that you have to be
clever in order to be funny.

What do you think about that?

– Well, maybe.

I’ll take it,

but then I think I’m sometimes funny.

So that means, I’m saying I’m also clever.

I’ll take it somewhere in that flow chart.

– But yeah, in the MENSA-

– It works out well for me.

– Yeah, in the MENSA test,

why is there no, tell me a funny gag?.

– Tell me a funny gag, there should be.

– There should be

Well, coming to that

and we’re coming to the end of the show.

The last thing is Desert Island Gags.

If you could only take one joke
with you to a desert island,

what would it be?

– Why was six scared of seven?

Because seven, eight, nine.


– You can tell that you’ve
got a three year old.


– That’s a good one.

‘Cause I just use the numbers.

That’s how clever that one is.

I think that’s a MENSA
one, numbers and humour.

– There you go.

And frankly, you should be
given an honorary mention

at MENSA for all you do for
comedy and entertainment.

James Longman, thank you so much

for being on The Humourology Podcast.

– Thanks for having me.

(upbeat music)

VOICEOVER: The Humourology Podcast

was hosted by Paul Boross

and produced by Simon Banks.

Music by Steve Haworth,

creative direction by Les Hughes

and additional research by Helen Sykes.

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This has been a Big Sky production.

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See also:

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