Comedian Josh Widdicombe on his parenting dilemmas and watching a lot of TV when he was growing up in the 90s
Comedian Josh Widdicombe talks to Hannah Stephenson about juggling work with a growing family
TUNE into most contemporary panel shows and comedian Josh Widdicombe will have at some point made an appearance.
Tousled, boyish and bespectacled, you may have seen him on Channel 4's late night talk show The Last Leg with fellow funnymen Alex Brooker and Adam Hills, or on Mock The Week and Taskmaster, or with his good friend James Acaster on Hypothetical. He's even starred in his eponymous sitcom, Josh.
Yet the 38-year-old comedian, who grew up in Devon, says most people who approach him in the street these days do so because of the chart-topping Lockdown Parenting Hell (now just called Parenting Hell), a podcast he created with comedian Rob Beckett when they were stuck indoors with their kids.
In it, they highlight their own real parenting dilemmas and disasters - Widdicombe has two children, Pearl, three, and four-month-old Cassius - and interview celebrities about their own parenting techniques and terrors.
They've had some great names on the show - Paloma Faith, Peter Crouch, Dawn O'Porter and Robbie Williams, who was still in bed when he joined the parenting chat, he recalls.
"In a weird way, we're like a much lower key Kardashians," Widdicombe muses.
"Our life is a soap opera. As we talk about our lives and interview comedians and celebrities about theirs, they show their reality, complaining about their lives and talking about the things that we all go through, whether it's trying to get a (child) seat in a car or struggling with a night feed.
"There's a vulnerability that you maybe don't get in a chat show appearance where you talk for seven minutes, and four minutes of that is about your new film."
The podcast has become a huge hit which the pair, who are good friends, intend to continue.
During lockdown Widdicombe's wife, TV producer Rose Hanson, had their second baby and he says he relished the time at home although he doesn't want any more children. The podcast did at least give him a reason to shut himself into a room...
During lockdown he also found time to write his childhood memoir, Watching Neighbours Twice A Day... in which he recollects growing up on Dartmoor in the 90s and watching an inordinate amount of TV.
The book features a mix of news events which framed his youth and is filled with his memories of the pop culture of the time, from Neighbours to TFI Friday, the Spice Girls to Blur, along with a mixture of iconic news events including the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the election of Tony Blair, the emergence of Cool Britannia as well as comedy influences of the time.
He writes from a viewpoint that his actual life wasn't very exciting, unlike events in the wider world.
"I lived an exciting life vicariously through the television. If people ask me for my childhood memories, the truth is the scenes in Neighbours or events in Gladiators are far more vivid to me than bike rides."
Is he careful these days about what he lets his three-year-old watch?
"It's not the television that terrifies you, it's the whole world of social media, and phones. You see TikTok and all these negative things you didn't have as a child."
When the pandemic struck he was in the middle of a tour, which has just resumed.
"The good news is, I'm so unsatirical and untopical that every joke still stands," he says, smiling.
Of course, fatherhood has affected his lifestyle.
"Some people are much more tired once they've got children. I would say I'm less tired because I'm just not hungover. I used to go out on a week night and have four pints and be tired the next day. I don't do that any more. That's the biggest lifestyle change.
"But I don't need to do any of these things really to have a good time now. I really like my life. I like my job. I love my family."
::Watching Neighbours Twice A Day... How '90s TV (Almost) Prepared Me For Life by Josh Widdicombe is published by Blink, £20.