Five minutes with Joe Thomas
When actor Joe Thomas (2003) came back to Cambridge for an interview with CAM Magazine, we spent five minutes catching up about his time at Pembroke.
On my first night at Pembroke I met Johnny Sweet (2003). I already knew I wanted to get involved in comedy and I just thought, ‘This guy is really funny, so if I can rope him into doing something with me…’ We started performing together and that was very important for me. Once you’ve said to someone else that you’ll do something stupid you’re much more likely to go through with it. I’m actually pretty sensible when I’m on my own.
I remember being involved in Footlights Smokers and performing at a Pembroke Players Smoker in the New Cellars. We also did our own comedy nights in Clare Cellars and quite early on I was in a European Theatre Group production of Much Ado About Nothing, which involved singing and playing the violin.
A career in comedy was always in the back of my mind. Stand-up seemed lonely and really nerve-wracking. I am full of admiration for anyone who tries it, even if they’re not very good. I chose a gentler path and started with skits.
Cambridge was a perfect place to start out. There is so much encouragement here to create original work that nothing else really matters. You have such a generous audience. People don’t even mind if you’re not funny, as long as the material is fresh. We wrote all this weird surrealist stuff, just classic meaningless nonsense.
When it came to work I had a bit of a schoolboy approach. I was convinced that I could get it all done in about two evenings per week. I simply refused to believe that an essay was a week-sized task. There were times when I was more into my studies and I definitely wasn’t a slacker. I am just always drawn to do the thing that’s in front of me and quite often at Pembroke that wasn’t work.
I treated my room like a prison cell. I just accepted it as it was. Until I saw my friends doing it, it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to put up posters or anything. I like to think it was ‘authentic’.
My bedder used to come in and I’d still be in bed shamefully late. I’d just pretend to be asleep.
I was spoiled by Cambridge. There is so much going on that you could easily fill your week. You could see a different play every night if you wanted to and not run out. There is also visual beauty all around you. Now I live in Elephant and Castle, which is a bit of a contrast.
The only value I was raised with was that you should say yes to stuff. My Mum always told me: ‘If you want to do it, say yes. If you don’t want to do it, say yes. You’ll like it when you get there.’ I think it has made me in to a person who just doesn’t know how to say no. A lot of the time my present self is furious at my past self for signing up for things. But the times in my life where I’ve predominantly said yes to things have been much happier than the times when I’ve mainly said no.
Joe is best known for his role in the award-winning sitcom The Inbetweeners. He is currently filming a fourth series of Fresh Meat, a comedy drama about student life. You can read his interview in CAM Magazine here.