Cornish comedian Jethro (real name, rather cleverly, Geoff Rowe) has been making people laugh for 40 years. But if it wasn’t for losing his voice one night, he may never have found out he had such a knack for it.
At the age of 18, the comedian joined an operatic society – and after losing his voice as he was about to start singing in a local pub in his hometown of Cornwall, he panicked and decided to tell a few jokes instead.
“The next week I turned up to sing and the crowd just stared at me and said ‘where are your jokes?’ I only knew a few at the time! So I wrote 100 jokes down and stuck them to my guitar… The following week, I was wondering whether anyone would turn up and when I got there, I couldn’t park my car because it was so packed! So who knows, if I hadn’t lost my voice that night I may never have ended up telling jokes. Comedy has been very good to me.”
He’s not wrong; Jethro has enjoyed a long career which he suspects has included performances in every theatre in England, as well as television work on programmes with Des O’ Connor and the Generation Game with Jim Davidson and appearances at the Royal Variety Show.
This humble beginning allowed Jethro to develop a unique style which he describes as “old-fashioned storytelling which is sometimes naughty… Only a little bit though!”
So what does he think of the current crop of younger comedians? “I guess if I’d been brought up with the kind of comedy that’s around today then I would love it, but I wasn’t – so the modern styles don’t really make me laugh.
“I don’t see the need for all the swear words – they’re not funny, they’re just used to shock and I often think the jokes would be much funnier without those words.”
He has got praise for Sarah Millican however – a comedian who is in his opinion great at timing – which he cites as a key factor in getting a joke right. “There’s a lot in a pause.”
He gives his stories a deeper allusion of truth by giving the characters names as opposed to stock reference labels like ‘an Englishman and an Irishman.’ Many of his stories are based on things he had witnessed or heard in real life. “Just changing one word can sometimes take a story from generating a snigger to a big laugh.”
However, he owes much of success, rather modestly, to his audience – and their own imaginations. “When I tell a joke or a story” he says, “You are drawing a picture in your mind – so you’re using your imagination as well as my storytelling.”
“If I’m telling the story I vividly see the story. I amuse myself – I will sit there sniggering to myself as I write the story… how bonkers is that? I think you have to be a little bit bonkers to do this – to want to stand in front of 2 or 3 thousand people and trying to make them laugh.”
His general tone is that of the ‘humble court jester’ – with a distinct lack of pretence or malice. It’s hard not to feel endeared towards the warmth of his soft West Country drawl and cordial tone.
Ultimately, that’s the real key to his success, he is, by his own admission, very old-fashioned in his humour – and some of his jokes would likely raise frowns rather than laughs with modern audiences were it not for his overwhelmingly affable nature. He gets away with his outmoded humour; say many of his reviews, by being so likeable.
It’s what has earned him his loyal following. “The same people come to my gigs, I love them to death. Before the set and in the interval I will go to the bar and have a chat with them – the people who come to see me are like my friends, there’s no ‘me and them’, I’m just here to entertain them, and I love making people laugh.”
Jethro will be playing in the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, a venue he loves performing in – “I like playing around Staffordshire – it’s a really good area.”
“Come down,” he says, “and do come and say hello- I’m very approachable.” I’m inclined to believe him.