"I'm trying to make a drum kit with stuff from a pound shop.”
This is comedian Spencer Jones at work. Speaking to Londonist from his study, he appears buried under hoarder levels of bric a brac. But then, it is from exactly this kind of assorted jumble that Jones crafted one of the most talked about shows at this year's Edinburgh Fringe. And now, Jones's character creation The Herbert trundles into Soho Theatre.
Jones is not the easiest comedian to categorise. His act is a patchwork of songs, props and amiable silliness woven together with a subtle background story of The Herbert's latest life event: “It can be like putting together a jigsaw,” he says. His act is variously described for its resemblance to street performance, clowning or silent comedy to name just three of the several pigeon-holes he doesn't quite fit into. “I never wanted to be a comic,” says Jones, “or a physical comedian, but I've ended up being both. I didn't really like doing standup at first because I think good standups have to be really honest about their private life.”
It's not long since Jones first took The Herbert to Edinburgh in 2014 and in January this year he came joint second in the New Acts Of The Year final at Bloomsbury Theatre. It was around this time he impressed Londonist too, at the Malcolm Hardee Tribute Night, where the audience revived the heckling tradition and welcomed acts on stage for only as long as patience allowed. But, Jones was well suited to such a bearpit, he knows how to make a high impact entrance.
In the latest show, with the help of an upbeat opening track and The Herbert's tights leaving little to the imagination (“everyone is looking at my winkle”), Jones ensures the audience are involved from the start: “The first thing is the music, which is inspired by Down and Out in Bugsy Malone and tells everyone 'this is happening now'.” From this beginning the show takes many bizarre twists as the eclectic odds and ends Jones' has at his disposal are put to comedic use (look out for the fox 'cub').
Despite his success over the last year Jones is keen not to let it go to his head, or more accurately his nose: “You get those comedians who are doing really well and you see their smug face. I call it 'comedy nostrils' because their nostrils seem to flare with smugness. It's similar to theatre neck, that's when an actor is doing well and they hold their neck in a certain way that helps them look down on you.” It's perhaps because Jones nostrils do not flare with arrogance that fellow comedians voted him winner of two peer to peer awards at the end of the summer. “I was chuffed to bits. I felt I've done it, the comedians like me. I'm in this big dysfunctional family now.”
Spencer Jones is The Herbert in Proper Job plays Soho Theatre, Wed 21 - Sat 31 Oct, 7.30pm. Tickets £12.50