AGE INSIDE: Phill Jupitus

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Phill (pictured here in front of his “girlfriend”) was one of the first people who sat down with me, back around 2010 or even earlier — he was doing or had just done Hairspray — to talk about the disparity between calendar age and internal age. He’s been a staunch supporter of this project — and of all my projects. He and his missus are true friends.

Remember all you have to do is scroll back if you want to read the previous ten or so of these Age Inside interviews posted so far. There are about eight more in reserve, and I hope to add new voices soon.

Phill Jupitus, entertainer
b. 25 June 1962
Age inside: 15

My view of my age has been skewed by my job, because I see myself on television and that informs your thinking. That guy on the telly is in his mid thirties, but how old do I actually feel? I still feel 15.

Because when you get older you get wiser, and that has not happened with me. I’m still kinda quite naïve. Like, I recently did a theatre job and when the director turned up from America [late in the run] I was all, ‘What is this?!’ That’s naïve. Of course people who have put millions and millions into a play are going to want it run properly.

At 15 I had a pudding basin haircut. I looked like one of the Monkees or the Beatles, when their hair started to get too long. I was chunky, but not fat by any stretch of the imagination. I sailed, did a bit of rugby, and I thought I was gay. I was at boys’ boarding school and I was crushing madly on boys. I really wanted girlfriends and there were no women to interact with, so I’d find myself crushing on pretty boys at school. Never doing anything about it — well, nothing major, put it that way.

That kid was a mess and there are still elements of that mess in me. I’ve been involved in television and light entertainment for 20 years now in the UK, but I’ve never had a project of my own. I think that’s naïve. I never got off my arse and thought, right, what am I going to do for Phill Jupitus?

There’s so much crass diversion out there – some is edifying and other stuff is cultural white noise. My view is that I’ll know when the project comes, I’ll just know. In the meantime, I like the sense of discovery about life that is still here. I’m quite flighty. Once I’ve done something I’m like, ‘That was fun, what’s next?’

I’ve been in a feature film, a sitcom, I’ve written a play, I’m writing a book, I’ve been in a West End musical, I’ve dressed up as a woman. I love being able to do all these things, but I do think it’s quite teenagerish, this feeling that there’s still time to decide.

Another reason why I think I’m 15 is because when I love the job I love it in a giggly giddy way. Especially if I’m doing anything connected with the music business, like being on stage with Paul Weller in front of 2,000 people in Essex, singing Town Called Malice. When you do that, you’re 15! And I remember them shouting, ‘You fat bastard! You fat bastard!’ And I went, ‘Yeah, all right, but I’m on stage with him, you’re not.’ It’s one of the first times I ever thought, you know what, I don’t fucking care any more.

Yeah. I’m fifteen.

As a kid, I thought about the future in the broader sense. I thought we’d have holidays on the moon by the time I was grown up. After Apollo 11, I thought there would be a Butlins on the moon by the time 2010 came around.

But I never thought abut my future and I never had any ambitions. If you want a visual allegory for the way that I’ve gone through my life, it’s Baloo from Disney’s Jungle Book – not Kipling’s – lying on the river singing, ‘I’m a drifter.’ I’ve led a reactive rather than proactive life. I don’t think there’s a shame in that.

I find the mirror an odd place, because I never knew my real father. I see elements of my mother and I cling to those because I know everything that isn’t her is him. I don’t know what the man looked like; I don’t even have a photograph. I spent my late thirties and early forties thinking about finding out about him and then through a combination of circumstances I discovered he was dead. I thought, there will be no resolution, so there’s nothing to be gained.

The funny thing is you wonder. We are ultimately masters of ourselves, but if you’re a fatalist and a bit of a drifty person, when the nature/nurture argument comes about you think, ‘If I fuck up in my life I can almost go, I’m my father’s son.’ I can almost blame this anonymous mysterious character who basically just gave me a squirt of DNA.

As I get older I see more of my mother in me, because she raised me, but also because she’s very passive, too, and unable to deal with confrontation. Her two settings are incandescent rage and complete silence. There’s no middle ground, which is not good, neither works. And that’s the thing I wish I didn’t have. I don’t like criticism. I still get hurt when people are mean to me in the street, which happens all the time. I don’t like people assuming things about me based on the fellow on television. He is a construct. That’s me at work.

When my two daughters were born I didn’t think, ‘I’m a man.’ I thought, ‘I’m a parent.’ You’re so fucking clueless, that’s the brilliant thing. The real reason your relationship changes with your parents is because they always seemed to be in the ascendant position, but the real power position is to be the child.

You have your own and suddenly realise your parents were fucking faking it as well – because you are! We’re all faking it! There are no rules. There isn’t one way of being a parent, you just are one and there’s no great secret to it and you realise, ‘Oh my god, you were fucking up massively as well.’ Suddenly they diminish a little bit in your eyes, and I think that’s the shock of parenthood. So I never felt being a parent was a benchmark of maturity.

I think I have a 15 year old sexuality. It’s older women for me. Women become more alluring, interesting, and wiser – they shift the gears down on their sexuality and it’s so appealing. I don’t know that men get sexier as they get older, but there’s more confidence.

I remember feeling quite sexual when I was a kid. I loved kissing and girls and bras and knickers when I was six. I lived in a pub in the East End, and there was a carnival with floats, and the one from the pub, they were cave men. They asked my mum if they could take me and they dressed me up in a little sack with a fake animal print on it and a club. That was my first show biz experience.

I was put with the women when I got changed – four women who all undressed at the same time. It is the most vivid memory, seeing them peel down to their undies.

I always liked grown up company and hated when I was excluded. I always wanted to be with the adults because they had fun, they were funny. But what I liked was being a kid around adults.

People always think I’m younger than I am. I need to lose weight for my health, and I know if I do then I’ll look older. But I think that guy is going to be able to do different things, and I’m quite looking forward to meeting that fellow. And I like the grey hair. I like seeing myself get older. I don’t like seeing myself get fatter, because that’s an emotional in and out thing. But I like the ageing process.

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