How chuffed were you to get a second series of Judge Romesh?
Listen we smashed the first series so if people want to make poor decisions then it's up to them. I'm joking! It was great, I was really happy. I really enjoyed doing the first series; it was good fun and what I'd like to watch. It's a funny concept and I think you always want to do stuff you enjoy. You can't take any of these things for granted.
What do you enjoy so much about it?
You can react to what's in front of you, and you don't know what's going to happen. There's so much variation between the cases and some of them go in really unpredictable directions so you just go with it. Sometimes when a case is first read out you think, I don't know if there's much in this. But then it can suddenly take off on some small detail and go somewhere completely unexpected. It means making the shows is very exciting. Not that I've got anything against other shows, and I do enjoy doing them, but you generally know what's going to happen in them. With this you really don't know how it's going to go. Our only concern about the first series was whether viewers would find it as fun as we did making it. Because you know how sometimes you can have fun making something but then you watch it and it feels like you're watching a party you weren't invited to? But we got really good feedback from and I think the second series is better. I'm really excited for people to see it.
What can we expect from this series? Are there any changes?
There's Jessica Knappett as the new court judge, and we have a lot of interesting celebrity cases. Harvey and Romeo from So Solid Crew for example are arguing about who came up with "Romeo done" for one of their songs. I'm bringing new court entrances to the game so my entrance is the next level now. The producers focused on their favourite cases from the first series and found similar ones for the second series so it felt like our hit ratio in the room was a lot higher. And for some reason just more mad shit happened than in the last series. More stuff has gone off the rails and that wasn't deliberate, it's just how it's gone down. There's real jeopardy in some of the cases.
Quite a major case is your mum and wife arguing over whose cooking you prefer...
Yeah (laughs) that was, I would say, truly unpleasant.
Whose idea was that?
It wasn't my idea! The producers just said it would be quite cool to get a personal case so I said yeah go for it and that's all I knew about it. And then my mum and wife turned up! I started to get a bit suspicious because obviously I live with my wife, and she'd been a bit cagey. But she hates being on TV; every time we get asked to do something as a couple she will always say no so I didn't think she'd come on. My mum I was less surprised by because she's absolutely buzzing to get on TV. What I wasn't expecting was my mum to come on with my wife and have a real case! It was due to a genuine screw up by me because I'd been requesting food from my mum and not telling Leesa, so it was truly horrible. There was one bit where my mum said to Leesa, 'Your food is bland anyway'. And I was like oh my God!
Has it caused any difficult family awkwardness?
Not really but what has happened is I have to let Leesa know if my mum's bringing over food and be absolutely upfront about it rather than the cagey operation I was running beforehand.
So Leesa got the result she wanted...
Yeah (laughs) she did basically! But my mum's been cooking less, which is not great for me because I do love her cooking.
Leesa must have felt strong about it though to overcome her dislike of being on TV...
Yeah well the thing is that initially she was bringing my mum to court about making food for me and when they chatted about it before the case, my mum told her I'd been sending her text messages asking for food. So initially Leesa got involved thinking she was angry with my mum but by the time she arrived at the courtroom she was angry with me. And I didn't know she knew that so it was only as the case unravelled - you're seeing me discover that information in real time!
Does your mum feel like she's a celebrity in her own right now?
Very much so, yes. She gets a great response whenever she appears on anything and she's sort of naturally funny - she's not trying to be funny. My wife's been in a couple of things and when she gets recognised she finds it horrible and runs away, whereas my mum pretty much tells people who she is. My mum would deny this but I believe 100% if my career were to come to an end and she was offered to carry on all the things I've been doing, she'd do it in a heartbeat.
Do you get your sense of humour from your mum?
My type of humour is very much from my dad who passed away a few years ago; it's very similar. My mum and dad were always joking around so my brother and I grew up with a lot of laughter. We had a very funny upbringing in terms of that and also constantly watching comedy. My mum's sense of humour is very different, she likes slapstick and her favourite things are the Pink Panther films with Peter Sellers. I think they're good but I'm more in to stand up. There was a lot of roasting of people going on in our house growing up so I think it came from that.
Why does Tom Davis work so brilliantly in his role as the bailiff?
Tom is one of the most talented comic actors in the country I think. He's such a great improviser and we're friends as well so we all, Jess included, trust each other to play around, take risks and throw ideas about - and you know it'll go somewhere good. Tom is willing to go with anything and he suits that part so perfectly. What Tom and Jess do; it's not about preparing gags, it's about being funny in the room and reacting to stuff that happens in the moment. And both of them are very talented in that regard so it's great for the show.
What does Jess bring to the courtroom?
She's very funny and off the cuff. But she has a different take on things from Tom and often she'd happily call me out on stuff if she thought I was making mistakes or she found a logical misstep in something I was saying. It was her idea for me to become the defendant when my mum and wife turned up. It's a nice blend and she's just so naturally funny, I think she's going to be a really big star. We're really lucky to have her on the show.
Which of the celebrity court cases did you enjoy the most this series?
Well basically I am obsessed with So Solid Crew. I love them to the point where they had to cut what the exec producer described as a lot of 'arse kissing' because I just lost my mind. They are so amazing; they revolutionised urban music in this country and when they were in the courtroom I was thinking 'I can't believe I'm meeting So Solid crew for my work!' But then it got to the point where it was embarrassing because initially Harvey and Romeo were like thanks man, but then I think they started to think this man is such a loser. When you see me demand the courtroom show them respect, that is about 10% of what actually happens in the room! I made a real dick of myself.
Do you find the celebrity cases very enlightening? It's quite an insight...
Yeah and it's weird isn't it because before I started doing TV I assumed that everyone on TV knows everyone else on TV. That's what you think and then when these celebs come on you think well I have the same perception as anybody about them based on what I've seen of them on TV. Then you see them in a different context and it sheds a new light on them so you see them in a different way. I really enjoy that. I didn't expect Hervey to be able to laugh at himself as much as he did because you think So Solid would be super serious. But they were a laugh and funny.
Is the importance of having celebrities to prove everyone is the same?
Yeah I think so and also that celebrities can get upset about petty shit as much as anyone else. It's a fun addition to the show. I wouldn't want it to all be celebs but I think having a few sprinkled through the series is good fun.
Have you really never done any research in to how to be a judge?
Fuck no! (Laughs) No way man I have no clue. And in fact sometimes as soon as I've made a judgement I might think it was the wrong thing to do later in the day, and that I should have gone the other way. But then sometimes I go the other way just because I feel like being a contrarian. So there is no real ability in what I'm doing; I'm just going on gut instinct or if someone says something to annoy me I'll rule against them regardless of how the case pans out. So I really don't have any clue what I'm doing and really shoot from the hip in terms of my legal judgment.
Do you enjoy the power of being a judge? Is it one big power trip?!
It's fun to play at being a judge but the truth of the matter is that people don't respect my judgment! I would feel some sort of power if what I said had any bearing on what they do outside of the courtroom but it doesn't! So essentially I'm just playing at it but it is fun! It's fun to have a courtroom that you're running as well as tell people to shut up and have them listen to your opinions. I have no right to be giving people advice about anything but they are forced in that context to listen to what I have to say about their situation. I really do love that.
If you could put anyone on trial who would it be and why?
Piers Morgan because I don't believe that he believes a lot of the things he says; I think he's just on the wind up. I'd like to really take him to task on certain things. Like I refuse to believe he really was that passionate about the vegan sausage roll from Greggs. I just don't believe he really gave a shit about that. I don't believe he has an opinion about anything apart from his own image so I'd like to get him in court to discuss that with him. I'd glean nothing from it probably. He's the master of the dark arts isn't he? I can't imagine that he'll suddenly fold under the pressure of my kangaroo courtroom!
Who do you find judges you in your own life?
Everybody on Twitter, that's the first thing. Social media is very judgey. But I do a very ego driven job being a stand up comic - particularly when I'm on stage, you're being judged every 30 seconds when you do a joke assessing how funny you are. It's part of the job being judged but it's my job and I love it. The real judgement - I think you know who I'm going to say - comes from my mum. She veers from being hugely positive to hugely diggy. She'll go, 'That show was wonderful, you were so funny', then say, 'But you looked so fat'. Particularly on the travel shows. When you do those you can't really give a shit about how you look because you're in difficult accommodation or circumstances and you just want to be comfortable. That's often when I start looking a bit wild man of Borneo and my mum will say, 'You look fat in that shirt' or, 'Your beard wasn't properly combed'. I'm like mum, I'm in the middle of Mongolia, I didn't have a hairdresser! But I think it's good because my wife and mum are quite honest, they don't ever blow smoke up my arse. If there's something I've done they don't think is good or they think I look shit they'll tell me. So even though it might be hard to hear at the time, I'd rather that than them say everything I do is great and I just go through in this bubble. I'm grateful that they are how they are.
You always have a final thought on the show - how philosophical are you really?
I wouldn't say I'm particularly deep but you are trying to make judgments all the time in life: work/life balance, is this a good thing to do, is it worth getting stressed about? I'm quite philosophical about how important things are and the truth is nothing that I do in my job is really that important; I'm not a doctor or teacher. I'm fairly philosophical and if I start getting stressed about something I'm doing at work, I then remind myself I am just a comedian and no one is going to die apart from me on stage as a result of me failing.
What ambitions do you have?
There are a lot of people I look up to and if I ended up working with them that'd be great. I'd love to do something with Idris Elba. He's been talking about doing comedy and I'd love to do something with him, mainly to piss my mum and wife off. Asim Chaudhry I'd love to do something with and the People Just Do Nothing boys, if we ever got something together that'd be great. And I'd really love to do more with Tom (Davis); we talk about stuff to do together all the time. I'm going to be in his new sitcom King Gary, I play his neighbour, but we'd like to do loads more stuff together so we'll see. I do enjoy acting; I'm not putting myself out there as De Niro or anyone but I do enjoy it. I'm in the middle of doing a second series of my sitcom The Reluctant Landlord and I'm getting more comfortable with acting as I do it, it's great fun.
It's a far cry from teaching maths...
I know! I was acting like I cared about doing that job so there was kind of performance in that. I was under the impression that I was unique coming to comedy from teaching but it turns out I'm not, it's actually quite common. There are loads of comics who used to be teachers!
Do you hope for more series of Judge Romesh?
Oh definitely yeah! I'd love to do more. I've really enjoyed it and it's such a laugh to do. I know everyone says this about everything they do but I do mean it. It just doesn't feel like work doing Judge Romesh.