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Phill Jupitus in Spamalot

Phill Jupitus in Spamalot

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FUNNYMAN Phill Jupitus is hoping to uncover the wonders of Wearside on a royal visit to the city.

The TV star, who appears on pop quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks, will make his debut visit to Sunderland in the role of King Arthur in Monty Python musical Spamalot.

Phill says he is particularly looking forward to the Sunderland Empire leg of the tour because of his passion for Wearsiders – author Bryan Talbot, former Kenickie star and TV presenter Lauren Laverne and pop band The Futureheads.

He said: “I am really looking forward to coming to Sunderland. It’s a place I’ve never been before but I love Bryan Talbot’s books and it would be great for him to show me around the places he mentions.”

Author and cartoonist Talbot has used Wearside landmarks as his inspiration for scenes in novels Alice in Sunderland and most recently Grandville Mon Amour.

Sunderland’s music has also helped to put it on the map and Phill – a regular contributor to BBC radio music shows – says it too has sparked his interest in the city.

He said: “I think when you have a bigger place next to you it makes you up your game.

“Being in Newcastle’s shadow has informed the culture that has come out of Sunderland and there have been some great bands from the city. I absolutely loved Kenickie and I am so glad I saw Lauren perform in the band.

“I was gutted when the band broke up, but she is brilliant on TV, so adroit.

“She is so happy for me doing theatre. She came to see me in Hairspray and said this is what I should have been doing all along.

“I saw the Futureheads perform live twice on tour and they were just brilliant. They are such a great band. I love the fact all four of them sing, they are what a band should be. Which reminds me, I should ask them to come along to the show.”

Phill, who made his name as a stand-up comedian, will perform alongside former Eastenders and Bill actor Todd Carty when Spamalot is performed at the Sunderland Empire later this month.

The comedian, who is a fortnight into his role as King Arthur, said: “When I was about eight or nine I remember doing Monty Python sketches at school. If someone had said then that I would be paid to do them 40 years later I wouldn’t have believed them.

“Monty Python was so new and non-structured when it came along. It was what punk is to music, it came along and had no rules. Up until that point comedy had to be slick and ordered and disciplined.”

The show parodies the Arthurian legend and also other musicals.

Phill said: “It was a gamble to stage Spamalot, but fans have embraced it because it is such a tribute to Monty Python.”

l Spamalot is at Sunderland Empire from February 28 until March 5. Tickets costing £11.50 to £36 are available from the 24-hour Box Office on 0844 847 2499 and SunderlandEmpire.org.uk