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Joly good fun

Probably best known from hit Channel Four series Trigger Happy TV, Dom Joly is heading out on the road with brand-new offering The Conspiracy Tour... What’s On chats to him about the show, his life, and what makes him angry...

You’re hitting the road with new show The Conspiracy Tour in February. What can we expect?

It's a companion to my latest travel book, The Conspiracy Tourist, in which I travelled the globe looking into the strange world of the Conspiracy theorist. I will take the audience through some of the wackiest conspiracy theories out there and explain what I think of them. I’m pretty much a sceptic, and so, for balance, I’ll be joined by an eminent conspiracy theorist: Dr Julian Northcote (author of the book COWS! Britain's Secret Killers). Expect fireworks.

What sort of conspiracy theories did you look at?

I took my long-suffering wife to Finland for a holiday in order to prove that it exists. There’s 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. 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...

Why the interest in conspiracy theories?

Conspiracies used to be fun. Did we land on the moon, Bigfoot, was Paul McCartney cloned? Nowadays they’ve gone batshit insane. They’ve 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’s also often very funny.

This isn’t your first travel book...

No, it's my fifth. Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve 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, and joined an illegal crossing of the US/Mexican border. I even spent a night in Swindon! I seem to be attracted to dark destinations...

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, so we weren’t friends, but I long to get a school photo. The weirdest part is that it was a Quaker school - Quakers being famous for pacifism.

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’re 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 Four 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. We sold the show to 80 countries and it opened so many doors for me.

What were your favourite moments making the show?

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. Also, while dressed as a traffic warden, I once gave a fire engine a ticket while they were putting out a small fire, only to find that I’d 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.

What makes you laugh?

If I had to sum it up, it would be ‘travelling vast distances and making 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.

What makes you happy?

My dogs. All dogs, actually - except for little ones. No dog should be smaller than a cat.

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...

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 shit...” 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 instead mind saying that I was ‘investigating cultural attitudes towards alcohol’. Surviving for three weeks on The Island With Bear Grylls; I lost three stone and nearly my leg. Getting my Alexa to turn on all the lights in my sitting room when I tell it to.

What do your family think about your life?

A strange mix of pride, confusion and disappointment. My wife, Stacey, is Canadian, 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 I had a part in. We are a very argumentative family. We once drove across the Canadian Rockies in a motor home. If we’d recorded the trip, I’m convinced that we’d have had the best reality show in history... except for Below Deck.

What does the future hold?

Who bloody knows? I’m developing a Trigger Happy movie. I’m 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’ve yet to go to. Algeria is currently top of my list. I’m 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 visits Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on Wednesday 21 FebruaryThe Old Rep, Birmingham, on Thursday 22 FebruaryTheatre Severn, Shrewsbury, on Wednesday 13 MarchSwan Theatre, Worcester, on Saturday 16 March and Lichfield Garrick Theatre on Tuesday 26 March