Ha!Milton is not a musical, says tone-deaf comedian Milton Jones as he launches tour show. York, Sheffield and Ilkley await

Shirt alert: Which bright idea will Milton Jones try out next on tour?

MILTON Jones, the shock-haired master of the one-liner, has been toying with using his latest tour title for a while.

Cue Ha!Milton, heading for the Grand Opera House, York, on September 7 on his September 3 to December 15 itinerary. “To be honest, people have been encouraging me to use my name in a title for a long time. This one’s been around for seven/eight years,” he says.

“This is not a musical,” he clarifies, wanting to “make it clear that it’s not a spoof of Hamilton”, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s multi award-winning Broadway and West End hit. “I am tone deaf and have no sense of rhythm, but at least I don’t make a song and dance about it.”

In his “whole new show of daftness”, the 59-year-old Kew comedian from BBC Radio 4 solo series and TV panel shows has “more important things to discuss.  “Like giraffes…and there’s a bit about tomatoes,” he says.  

Giraffes and tomatoes, Milton? “You know what it’s like. You don’t want to be painted into corner when you’re asked for a title and some details a year ahead of a tour without making a rod for your back,” he says.

“I have 200 new jokes, but if it has a story, it’s about my life being tone deaf, starting with a Nativity play, with me playing Angel A and everyone else calling me ‘Angela’.

“I’m also including an AI machine, something called an ‘overhead projector’! It’s nice when you uncover it and you release observational gizmo nostalgia.”

Whereas music fans want bands to play the old hits, comedy audiences demand fresh material. “People want similar, but not the same jokes, and as long as you can provide that, that’s OK,” says Milton.

“To some degree I’m fortunate because I travel at such speed in my shows that people don’t always remember the jokes, but for my own sanity I don’t want to go dead behind the eyes by sticking to the same lines throughout the tour.

“Apparently, I go around the house muttering words, constantly looking at words and images and turning them upside down and then coming up with new things. In fact, soon I’ll be going out for a jog because physical exercise is one of the few things that turns my brain off by putting my body under stress.”

The poster for Milton Jones’s Ha!Milton tour, bound for York Barbican on September 7

Putting a show together, built around quickfire gags and puns, is “not just a case of whether a joke is good or bad, but of how you package it so they don’t see it coming,” says Milton.

“What I like doing is putting something in someone’s head, where they think of one punchline but then it veers off into another one.”

What’s more, Milton does not merely rattle off pun after pun. “You have to try to pace the show overall because, after 15 minutes, people can’t take more of the same,” he says.

“So you have to change the angle of attack, whether it’s with the overhead projector, or with a narrative story or a cartoon, to pace the show and find ways to keep it fresh. That’s why you do work-in-progress shows to do that.

“What you don’t want is for the audience to be ahead of you, so you have to keep making the formula different for the next joke.”

Milton tours regularly and favours long itineraries when doing so. Why? “Possibly because I enjoy it! That’s rather a basic answer, but one of things about Covid, when all of us were at home, we were thinking, ‘how are we going to get out of it, if we are going to get out it?’, and I really missed touring,” he says.

“It takes so long to put together a tour that I might as well do as many dates as possible before doing another one.”

What happens when a new idea pops into that punning cranium? “I can hold about three things in my head, and if I think of something and don’t write it down, normally I’ll run into it again,” he says.

“You think you have brilliant ideas in the night, but then when you look at them in the cold light of day, often they’re not so good. Or sometimes you have a bad idea but you improvise something from it, and you wouldn’t have got to that point without coming up with the first thought. The point is to try something out so at least you’re one step up the ladder to something working.”

Come September 7, let’s see what has become of Milton’s first thoughts on discussing giraffes and tomatoes…

Milton Jones: Ha!Milton, Grand Opera House, York, September 77.30pmBox office: atgtickets.com/york. Also Sheffield City Hall, December 4, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk; King’s Hall, Ilkley, December 8, bradford-theatres.co.uk.