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Joe Pasquale on his love of Essex and his 'moose incident'

Joe has been touring the country for over three decades with his unique blend of squeaky stand-up
Joe has been touring the country for over three decades with his unique blend of squeaky stand-up

Born and raised in Grays, Joe has been touring the country for over three decades with his unique blend of squeaky stand-up, leading to an array of madcap television and stage appearances.

Since becoming king of the jungle on I’m a Celebrity… in 2004, he has appeared in Monty Python’s Spamalot in the West End, hosted The Price is Right, and even bared all in a Full Monty style charity routine for ITV to raise awareness of male cancer.

The experience spurred Joe on to lose two stone just before the first lockdown, after being described as ‘portly,’ and he has remained as active as ever.

In fact, this hands-on approach to performing has seen him survive a string of accidents; fracturing his hand while competing on Dancing on Ice and most recently narrowly avoiding becoming impaled on a giant pair of moose antlers on stage, the antlers being just one of his outlandish props that got lodged in his calf.

Great British Life: Nearly 40 years since the former holiday camp entertainer on television talent show New Faces, this much-loved comic has no plans to retireNearly 40 years since the former holiday camp entertainer on television talent show New Faces, this much-loved comic has no plans to retire

He refers to the incident as his “moose antler stabbing,” the wound requiring a respectable seven stitches.

Despite being in constant demand, Joe has never missed a pantomime and this December is back at the Cliffs Pavilion as Mr Smee in Peter Pan. His latest spell as Smee will see him star alongside former barrister and presenter, Rob Rinder, and it’s a role he relishes.

‘I’ve played Smee about 15 times,’ smiles Joe. ‘Every show is different each year, it’s never the same script. Bob Hoskins played Smee with Dustin Hoffman, (in Steven Spielberg’s movie Hook). I met Bob once and did the voiceovers for some nappy adverts with him about 20 years ago. I’m serious. There was always something new around the corner.

‘That’s what drives you on, being self-employed. As soon as you get a job you think, ‘what’s the next one?’ Even if it’s a job you really want, love, I don’t think that feeling ever leaves you.’

The cast members posed on rides at the resort’s Adventure Island in October to publicise the production, but have not had long to prepare.

‘You only get ten days rehearsal for pantomime. People think you rehearse for months, but you’re flying by the seat of your pants to pull it together. Not just learning your lines, but songs and special effects. And with Peter Pan you have to sort out all the flying.

‘Some people who have never done panto before think, ‘oh this is a piece of cake,’ but even if you’re an energetic comic like I am for my age, and I’m still running about as if I was 20, it’s physically tough. You do two shows a day for six weeks, and each audience deserves the same standard.

‘I’m knackered!’ he laughs.

Great British Life: As an Essex boy, the Thames estuary is a particularly special spot for JoeAs an Essex boy, the Thames estuary is a particularly special spot for Joe

As an Essex boy, the Thames estuary is a particularly special spot for Joe. He enjoys reminiscing about trips to the seaside with his father, Joe Pasquale Senior, a margarine factory worker and housewife mother Ethel. The family would eat whelks, hunt for rocks on the shore and visit post-war tourist attraction, The Golden Hind.

The ship, moored in a boating pool by Southend pier, was a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s vessel that sailed in 1577 and returned three years later with a fortune of treasure. On board were waxworks of sailors at work, wetting Joe’s appetite for history. In 1997 it was closed and scrapped.

‘I was one of those annoying lads on a moped at 16, up and down the seafront in the ‘70s. I went to Peter Pans playground. I loved the Crooked House and the Kursal. I still love Southend.’

The Pasquales, (the surname meaning Easter child in Italian), endured their fair share of setbacks, with Ethel suffering from depression and Joe breaking his femur at 13 and missing a year of school. It was Joe’s sharp wit that kept them all going as much as it gave the smart youngster with no qualifications to his name, a route out of mundane manual work.

Yet he has incredibly fond memories of his parents and early years.

‘I liked One Tree Hill in Langdon Hills country park and going strawberry picking.

‘At Grays Beach my dad used to take me to a pub called The Wharf. He would go in and come out with a packet of beef and onion crisps and I’d go off scouring round the beach mud larking, while they were playing darts.’

We share a sigh at the carefree ‘60s and ‘70s attitude of letting kids roam around in pub gardens and car parks while their parents propped up the bar.

‘You wouldn’t do it now would you!?’ laughs Joe. ‘You wouldn’t even leave a dog outside, let alone the kids.’

While pursuing exceptional hobbies including gaining a pilot’s licence, studying for a degree in geosciences and writing horror books, (the second instalment, Of Mice and Men, was published in June), there’s been no long breaks from showbusiness.

‘My wellness retreat is my work,’ confides Joe. ‘That’s what looks after my mental health. My medicine is working. The job comics do is giving the audience freedom from their concerns for however long they’re watching the show. If you can make them forget things for a couple of hours, you’ve done your job.’

Great British Life: Joe has appeared on the Royal Variety Show six timesJoe has appeared on the Royal Variety Show six times

Joe left the South East to move to Norfolk in March 2022, citing Covid for wanting ‘to get a bit quieter in the country,’ but this Christmas Day he will be with his family.

‘I’ll be at my daughter’s house in Stanford Le Hope. I’m at an age now where I don’t have a Xmas list, but I still get the same presents as anyone gets at my age; socks, mugs, wine gums, incontinence pads….’

And he’ll be catching up on sleep rather than reaching for the whisky.

‘I’m not a drinker. I don’t go to pubs at the end of my shows. Some people like the social side of it, I’ve never been like that,’ says Joe.

‘I’m not teetotal, but I don’t drink when I’m working at all because you just can’t. If I’m not working I have one glass of wine maybe. It’s so alien to my body. I don’t enjoy drinking, it’s literally for that reason. I don’t really like the taste of it or the effect it has on me. I’d rather a lime and soda. It’s not that I’m against it.’

But famously there was one of his six Royal Variety performances that became rather boozy, resulting in him telling Her Majesty that his hands were ‘a bit minging.’

Puzzled, she asked for further explanation and he clarified that he smelt due to egg-based paint from his act, causing her to brand him “whiffy” with a chuckle.

Great British Life: Joe has never missed a pantomime and this December is back at the Cliffs Pavilion as Mr Smee in Peter PanJoe has never missed a pantomime and this December is back at the Cliffs Pavilion as Mr Smee in Peter Pan

‘Well, they do leave drinks in your room at the Royal Variety,’ explains Joe. ‘They leave champagne everywhere, so all I’d done was have a glass after the show and that made me a bit drunk.’ It wasn’t an experience he cared to repeat.

‘It’s the same with smoking. I packed up 30 years ago, but when you stop and you’re living with a smoker, which I did at the time, they don’t want you to leave the club. They get the hump and say, ‘just have a fag’ and you’re like, ‘no I don’t want one.’

Nearly 40 years since the former holiday camp entertainer was discovered on television talent show New Faces, and approaching retirement age with absolutely no plans to retire, his craft is clearly more a vocation than a career, a mere chat with him lifting your spirits.

And in what can feel refreshing in a showbiz landscape obsessed with forcing the shock factor; Joe’s acts are family friendly.

‘I like working, is the bottom line,’ continues Joe. ‘I will keep taking job after job, especially after the hiatus of Covid. Now when the jobs come in, I tell my agent, ‘Don’t even tell me how much it is. Just tell me where it is, and what it is.’ ‘I don’t ask about the money at all.’

Peter Pan is running from December 8 to December 31. Visit southendtheatres.org.uk



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