Justin Moorhouse - the clean living comic
- Credit: Pics; John Cocks
Lancashire’s Justin Moorhouse is big in comedy, but not as big as he used to be. Paul Mackenzie reports.
Comedians traditionally perform late in the evening in smoky rooms, possibly while knocking back a few drinks, before heading into the night to find some fast food. But Justin Moorhouse has far healthier habits.
In the last couple of years the 46-year-old has turned his back on that stereotypical lifestyle and embraced a whole new way of living. ‘I had a hip replacement about 18 months ago and I realised I didn’t want to spend the second half of my life in pain, miserable, bloated and overweight,’ he said.
‘I spent 40 years eating rubbish so it’s going to take a little while to recover from that but I’ve completely changed. I’ve been vegetarian for a long time but I’ve started on a path of clean eating and I’ve lost about four and a half stone. I’ve given up smoking and drinking and started going to the gym. I’m not too bothered about watching the weight but I am keen to be able to buy whatever clothes I want.
‘I’m feeling great and I’m very much on the path to being an evangelical, self-righteous so-and-so about it.
‘It’s about creating habits. I allow myself 541 calories per meal – 40 per cent carbs, 40 per cent protein and 20 per cent fat. I drink three litres of water a day and only have one or two cups of coffee, no sugar and no wheat.
‘Giving up smoking was the best thing I’ve done and the thing I’m most proud of. There’s this great app that shows I gave up two years and 121 days ago, I’ve regained 213 days of my life, I’ve not smoked 17,000 cigarettes, I’ve saved £8,000 and I’ve not spent 1,400 hours smoking.’
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He spent a further hour not smoking – although he did sip a cappuccino – as we chatted outside Nook, a stylish café on Heaton Moor Road close to his home in Heaton Mersey.
He’s obviously a regular at the cafe, but it’s not obvious whether people recognise him from there, or from his frequent walks along these streets with his dog Coco (as in Chanel, not the clown, he makes clear) or from his appearances on tv.
After impressing in Manchester’s comedy clubs, he was cast as Young Kenny in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights. He has presented programmes on commercial radio, written and starred in a Radio Four sit com, appeared in Coronation Street and on stage at the Royal Exchange. A keen United fan, he also appeared alongside Reds legend Eric Cantona in the film Looking for Eric and won Celebrity Mastermind where his specialist subject was Les Dawson.
But despite the variety on his CV he insists: ‘I’m a comedian, that’s the most important thing, my stand up. If I didn’t do anything else I would be a stand up and be more than happy. Everything else I do comes from that.’
One of the more recent additions to that CV is a production company he runs with two friends which has aims to make comedy programmes set in the north. A year after its launch, Working Men’s Productions has just sold its first show, a sitcom, but Justin says: ‘It probably won’t be starring me, they’ll want someone famous.’
He may not class himself as being famous – ‘I’m at a level where if people know who I am they’re very nice’ – but he’s been in the game a long time. He told his first joke at the age of eight in the British Legion Club in Cleveleys, not far from his grandmother’s house. ‘It was the one with the punchline ‘ping pong balls, not King Kong’s balls.’
‘It went down quite well, as I remember,’ he says. ‘All my mates were funnier than me at school but I was the one who took it a bit further and I was the one who got in trouble. They were funnier than me but they didn’t have the courage of their convictions.
‘I had no plans for my future, I was just drifting through life without a purpose. I had about 35 jobs – I was a milkman, a salesman, a driver, I went travelling but only got as far as Felixstowe.
I wanted to be a chef for a while but I’m too scruffy. I’m quite good in the kitchen but I’d need someone cleaning up after me all the time. It was all preparing me for the comedy.’
Born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Justin was the eldest of four children and grew up in Hyde.
He now has a family of his own. ‘My son has just started at university in Leeds doing English Literature and my daughter has just started high school. He might be at uni but he’s still my little boy. I think he wants to write but she’s the one who’s more likely to be a comedian. She understands the timing.’
Stories from his own childhood are at the heart of his current tour, People and Feelings, which reaches Bury Met on November 25 and the Royal George at Oldham on November 27. ‘It’s a lot of stories, all true, comparing my childhood with my children’s. It’s gone down very well so far.
‘If I could tell my 18-year-old self one thing it would be to go for it and do it sooner. That’s the one regret I have. I think you might as well try to fill your life with laughter. Do what you want to do and fill your life with laughter.’w
NEXT MONTH: Read more about Justin every month when his exclusive Lancashire Life column begins in the December issue.