From family & friendship to the Fringe comes a touchingly hilarious show..
Hello Joe, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
North London, I grew up in Camden.
When did you first realise you could make people laugh?
I could do an impression of my art teacher when I was 16.
When did you first develop a passion for being a comedian?
When I was 18 I started to go to comedy clubs and got the bug.
You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, what have you got for us?
It’s the first story show I’ve done and the first show I’ve done about someone else. It’s actually about two people, my granddad and his best friend. It’s called ‘The Story of Walter and Herbert’, about town planner Walter Bor and actor Herbert Lom. Herbert helped my grandad Walter escape Nazi occupied Prague and they were very close for many years until they had a falling out, but something brought them back together.
How did you do your research & most of all, where did you find the humour in Nazi-occupied Europe?
I had to do a lot of research, I had to do a lot of interviews, I read my grandad’s book, listened to a 18 hour interview online and read letters they wrote to each other. On the face of it, it wasn’t particularly funny, but there is comedy in everything, I just had to look deeply and experiment with my telling of the story. What the Nazi’s did is far from funny, but there is still comedy in the story. Just looking at the photographs, the fashion, the relationships, the architecture, my grandad’s obsession with food…I realised there is plenty of potential for laughs. the challenge is in not belittling their achievements and being sensitive to the tragedy that surrounds it. It’s a delicate balancing act.
Can you tell us a little more about the two mens’ careers post-war.
My granddad was in charge of rebuilding the East End of London after the war which was pretty important and then was a town planner for Liverpool, he then designed Milton Keynes and went back to be a town planner for Prague.
Herbert had some big roles in the Theatre, the King and I, before working as an announcer for the BBC after the war, so his mum could hear he was alive and well. He did some heavy dramatic roles in big movies such as Spartacus until Blake Edwards (director of The Pink Panther) said he was funny when he was serious and cast him as detective Dreyfus in The Pink Panther, he did many films opposite fellow comedy legend Peter Sellers and was in Ealing comedies such as The LadyKillers as well.
What was your relationship with grandfather like, & how does your show reflect that?
I discuss our relationship in the show. He died when I was 18, and when I was a teenager I wasn’t really interested in him and I am ashamed of that. I was his eldest grandson, I saw him lots and he’d take me to architecture lectures and influenced me a lot but I think we were very distant. I have since realised he had a similar sort of that relationship with a lot of people. He never spoke about his family or his life, probably because it felt too painful.
What advice do you have for anyone performing at the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time?
Find nice places to eat and exercise and nice places to escape the festival, that’s important. Don’t drink too much!
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
It’s a story about friendship, two best friends, who escaped nazi occupied Czechoslovakia, were each others’ best men, had a big falling out but an extraordinary thing happened that brought them back together. It’s a show that I’ve been working on for a while that means a lot to me, that’s funny and interested and heartwarming, if that’s what you like.
What will Joe Bor be doing for the rest of 2019?
I have a few things I am working on, some films and I am doing a big tour with Kojo Anim (finalist of BGT). Hopefully I’ll be touring this show too, I’d like it to have a life after Edinburgh, I feel like it’s an important show.