The dancing celebrity who can't resist a challenge
THE man who was crowned King of the Jungle in 2004's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here, won the hearts of TV viewers again with his efforts to hone his ice dancing skills in Dancing On Ice.
But Joe Pasquale's ice-skating experience was not without difficulty.
"Wearing a jock strap for the first time made me feel as though my bum had been done up in a boot lace!" remarked Joe when discussing his Dancing on Ice journey.
Added to which his bunion 'Barry', which almost forced him to quit the show, will, no doubt, try to steal the limelight from Joe once again during his stand-up tour.
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He will be on the road throughout this month playing 16 live shows, including one night at the Princess Theatre, Torquay, on August 16 – and he is thrilled to be back to his first love – stand-up.
"I love the interaction with the audience," he says. "There was a power cut during a stand-up show I did recently at Cheltenham Town Hall. I'd been on stage for just 10 minutes. There was no microphone and no stage lights. So I said to everyone, 'We could all go home, or we could sit here and have a chat'. So I sat on the edge of the stage fielding questions for an hour and a half. It was the most brilliant show!"
And he intends to make his new tour just as good by adding a touch of jeopardy to the evening.
"There will be a lot of stand-up, as well as singing, ventriloquism, magic and an escape routine. In that section, I will try to beat Houdini's record for escaping from the straitjacket," he laughs.
"This is my comic version of that stunt. There's never any proper jeopardy in shows these days. So I'm bringing it back. I have to escape from the straitjacket in under 180 seconds. It could be quite serious! I love doing magic tricks. Tommy Cooper was my idol when I was young. He was an absolute genius. "
And Joe believes that comedy is thriving now – especially during the recession.
"Comedy has always done well in times of economic crisis. People want a laugh. They want to escape from their daily problems. That's why I am very hopeful that this show will do well."
He may have a lot of strings to his theatrical bow now, including a spell following in the footsteps of Robert Downey Jnr and Benedict Cumberbatch in September when he takes on the role of Sherlock Holmes in the touring theatre production of Ha Ha Holmes – The Hound of the Baskervilles. But he also did a lot of jobs before breaking into show business.
"I was 'humper' at Smithfield, humping huge slabs of meat around the market. It was hard, but I'd get a great big chicken and a lump of beef every week, so it was not all bad," he said. "I also worked at the Department of Transport and Environment Dangerous Goods Branch, but I didn't deal with any dangerous goods – all I did was make the tea.
"I worked as well at the Ford factory in Dagenham spot-welding Cortinas. I went on to work on garage forecourts. Eventually, in the early 1980s, I got a job at a Warner's holiday camp calling the bingo and refereeing wrestling bouts. I thought I was in showbiz, and compared to having a dead cow on my back all day, it was showbiz!"
Although he was well known on the comedy circuit it was his appearance on I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2004, that really sent his career to another level.
"People still come up to me in the street all the time and say how much they enjoyed the show," he said. "I had always had a career, but winning that show opened TV up for me. I liken it to going on a terrible holiday and coming back as Elvis."
He was also a real favourite with the public during his recent appearance on Dancing on Ice. And it was a show he enjoyed.
"It was a lot more work than being on I'm a Celebrity, where you just sit around the jungle on your backside and eat kangaroos' privates. I had to learn how to ice skate, which was really demanding. I lasted six weeks on the show and I was really chuffed about that," he said.
"I learnt that I was more disciplined than I thought. I had to do three hours of skating every morning and then two shows of a panto in the afternoon and evening. I got so run-down, I got shingles."
All the same, did he relish the fact that it was more taxing than most reality TV shows?
"Yes. A lot of reality TV shows that you're offered are very generic. I'm not interested in that. After I'm a Celebrity, I had a mid-life crisis and wanted to challenge myself by doing things I didn't think I could do," he admits.
"So I thought, 'I'm scared of flying, so I'll become a pilot and do a parachute jump'. Then I thought, 'What else am I frightened of? Fighting'. So I learned boxing. I'd never run before, so I ran a marathon. I'd never done exams before, so I took a geo-science degree.
"I also took on a lot of other challenges. My missus and kids thought I was mental, but I did a documentary called Alone in the Wild. It entailed four days being stuck in the jungle in Guyana completely on my own. It was really tough. I lost a stone and a half in a week.
"But it's all about warding off approaching mortality. It's a fear of not doing enough before I die. I know that in 10 years' time, I won't physically be able to do these things. But for the time being, that fear is driving me to do some amazing things!"
Joe recently made his West End theatre debut as King Arthur in Spamalot – was that another of his challenges. "I really enjoyed all my new challenges and Spamalot has been the icing on the cake," he said. "I loved stepping into King Arthur's shoes. Also working with Bonnie Langford is brilliant – we starred in Panto together in 2000 in Peter Pan and she invited me to see the show. I am a huge Python fan and absolutely loved it.
"The next thing I knew my agent got a call from the producers to see if I would be interested in the role of King Arthur. I jumped at the chance but didn't take the inquiry too seriously because I only had six or eight weeks left available this year because of my other commitments – like my summer stand-up tour and then the touring theatre production of Ha Ha Holmes – The Hound of the Baskervilles.
"A week or so went by and I thought no more about it until they called my agent's office again and offered me the role. I was delighted of course and very surprised."
With everything Joe has done and achieved over the past decade, does he have any unfulfilled ambitions?
"Yes, I want go down a volcano and walk the 600-mile Pilgrims' Way from Lourdes to Santiago," he says. "I also want go to Base Camp at Everest and be weightless on the antigravity plane they used in the film Apollo 13. I'm 52 and I still don't know what I want to do! No, I'm very glad that I'm still here after 25 years.
"Am I surprised by it? Every second, like Bobby Ewing, I think someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and say, 'It was all a dream'. and I'll be left thinking, 'Oh no, I've still got a dead cow on my back at Smithfield!'"
The Joe Pasquale Summer 2013 Tour will be at The Princess Theatre, Torquay on Friday, August 16. Support will be Ben Langley. The show starts at 7.20pm. Ticket details on 0844 871 3023 or visit www.atgtickets.com/torquay or www.joepasquale.com