No longer an ordinary Joe

Wayne SavageThe Joe Pasquale who jumped out of an aeroplane on I'm a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here wasn't the same man who walked out as king of the jungle. Ahead of a string of live dates in the region he talks to WAYNE SAVAGE about his new outlook on life.Wayne Savage

Parachuting into the jungle for I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here can change your career. In Joe Pasquale's case, it changed his life.

The comedian, gameshow host and actor - who won the show back in 2004 - boxes regularly, has his pilot's licence and this autumn is starting a geology degree through the Open University.

'Over the past six years I've changed completely,' he says, admitting to being a big fan of self-help books as we chat about his forthcoming visits to the region, where he will play Great Yarmouth, Hunstanton and King's Lynn.

'My favourite is Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, which I found really useful. Even if I get doubts, every now and then I take it out and have a look at the bits I've highlighted.

'As you get older you realise the only thing stopping you doing anything is yourself. You've got to try new stuff.'

He puts this new ethos down to two things - not wanting to turn into his dad and not caring what people think of him as much as he used to.

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'He's got a mobile phone and can barely turn it on, he keeps sending me blank texts or pictures of up his nose,' he laughs. 'Ultimately you have to find yourself, who you are. It takes a lot of time, but when you start throwing those inhibitions away it can open the world up - nobody else will do it for you.

'I still go boxing four times a week and I've now taken up running and am planning on taking part in next year's marathon. I'm currently running ten miles three or four times a week, building up to 18 miles a week. I also go to the gym to work out with the pro-boxers.'

He's also started painting again for the first time since he was young.

'As you get older, doubt creeps in and it takes a lot of guts to draw and paint and not care what other people think,' he says. 'I am painting mainly landscapes and portraits, but I always feel a bit guilty about it and feel as though I should be doing other things. The thing with my hobbies is that I would happily swap professions if I could and be an artist, pilot or geologist.'

Which brings us to the degree.

'When I was a teenager I wanted to be a geologist and was really into it, but life had other things planned for me and I got run over when I was 13. I should've been doing my Duke of Edinburgh's course and had plans to go to university and be a geologist, but I lost a year's school and was in hospital for about six months,' he remembers.

'I missed the year when you chose your options and never caught up again and got known as a bit of a div at school and was in the remedial class. What I've realised over the past few years through the acting I've done is that I can learn a script in a day, so I can't be that thick!

'So I thought that if I could do that, I could take exams, no matter when it was.'

While he may be known for his high-pitched voice, it's clear the man behind it is deep thinker.

'I pack books to take on tour with me; I'm reading a book by Deepak Chopra at the moment,' says Joe, who has been an avid reader since taking his English O Level. 'The book that changed my life about wanting to read was Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, then Lord Of The Flies.'

He says he realised early on that he wasn't cut out for a nine-to-five lifestyle.

'I wasn't the comic at school but when I left, well, you re-invent yourself, so when I left college there was a whole new group of people who didn't know what I was like when I was at school so you can be whatever you want to be.

'I changed when I started work, which is when I suppose I started being funny. One of my first jobs was at Smithfield meat market with all these chunky East End geezers all taking the mick out of each other and I was a nine-and-a-half stone weakling and had to keep up by making them laugh while carting carcasses about.'

He thought about becoming an actor but couldn't afford to go to drama school so ended up as a Greencoat at Warners Holiday camp in Corton, near Lowestoft, eventually becoming operations manager.

'I was a wrestling referee. Because it was me, being who I am, the old girls used to wet themselves laughing as I'd play it for laughs and wear stockings and suspenders under my tracksuit. We'd set it up with the wrestlers that they'd pull my trousers down and it would bring the house down! It went down really well and it meant that I could walk around the camp like a god, just because of that one incident with my trousers around my ankles and ladies' underwear!'

Joe's big break came in 1987 when he won the TV talent show New Faces. He still loves touring and his latest show - Just Joe - sees him ditch the support act to give audiences two hours of his trademark craziness.

After a quarter of a century in the business, it's the diversity of the work - he's playing himself in a film about a serial killer bumping off daytime television hosts this September and has the panto Sleeping Beauty at Plymouth's Theatre Royal coming up for example - that keeps him going.

'As a performer, you get bolder as you get older. You don't care what you do, as long as people think the show is good. I've never been one of the fashionable comics, so I've never gone out of fashion and that's why I'm here after 25 years in show business,' he muses.

'I like working and I don't have to get up every morning and do a proper job - no carting carcasses around for me!'

t Joe Pasquale is at the Britannia Pier, Great Yarmouth, on August 17 and 31; the Princess Theatre, Hunstaton, on August 28; and King's Lynn Corn Exchange on November 5.

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