IT is often said that behind every great man is an even greater woman. And for comedian, broadcaster and writer Ian Stone, that adage may ring more than true.
The Londoner had left his job as an engineer, designing air conditioning systems, when his wife, Rosie, suggested he try his hand at comedy.
It was a piece of advice for which he will be forever grateful, having established himself as one of the country’s top stand-ups.
And, if that is not enough, she also suggested her husband write a book on his favourite band, The Jam. The book, To Be Someone, will be published next year.
“I had left my job and went to India and the Far East to try and ‘find myself’,” the affable Londoner told me.
“When I got back I tried hospital radio, but I was writing jokes at the same time.
“Then I was offered a chance to go on a hospital course for radio production, but I decided to stick with the comedy.
“I think Rosie suggested it so I took my comedy nonsense out of the house and try and make some money out of it.”
His first gig was at London’s Comedy Cafe in August, 1991, at a new act night.
“I didn’t really get a laugh and it was terrifying, but, when I got off stage Rosie told me there were two guys sitting behind her who said my material was good, but I was a terrible performer,” Ian recalled.
“I took that because I had never performed it before.
“I tried again and, at my fifth gig, Dave Schneider, who is a really great comedian, was on.
“He would do this act where You Can Leave Your Hat On would be played while he lasciviously peeled an orange — it was hilarious.
“After the gig, he told me he really loved my stuff and to keep going, which sustained me in the months ahead.”
Ian was raised in a traditional Jewish home in north London, but now neither believes in God nor keeps kosher.
The 56-year-old sees himself as culturally Jewish, while Judaism also sometimes informs his comedy.
And the title of his 2000 Edinburgh Festival show caused controversy, as it was called A Little Piece of Kike — ‘kike’ being a pejorative word for Jews.
Ian explained: “I had a Geordie mate who used to say ‘Anyone for a piece of cake?’ but, because, of his accent, it sounded like ‘kike’.
“I thought it was a funny title for a show, but obviously not everyone agreed!
“Was I surprised? No, of course I wasn’t, but I wanted the show to sell, so that is why I did it.”
In Britain, liberalism and comedy tend to go hand-in-hand.
There are exceptions, such as Geoff Norcott, who describes himself as right-wing, and whose podcast left-leaning Ian appeared on earlier this month.
Ian also did not realise just how worried Britain’s Jews are about Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, especially if they get into Number 10.
“I did a private gig the other week for a Jewish family and when I mentioned Corbyn, an icy chill went through the room,” he said.
“I had not realised quite how scared Jewish people are of what is going on.
“I am not going to belittle it, but I do think some of it is partly inflated by the mainstream media and I am not going to take f****** lessons in morality from the Daily Mail.
“What I will say is that Labour has not got on top of it because, essentially, they hate Israel and do not like Jews who like Israel — which is most Jews.
“I don’t think there is a strong sense of antisemitism in this country, I just think there are a lot on the hard left who are making a lot of noise.
“I don’t get upset about it because I know when it is having a laugh and I know when it is insidious.
“I have seen antisemitism on Facebook from left-wing comedians putting stuff out about the Rothschilds, but once I explained how offensive it was, they backed off.”
There was also the case of a well-known comedian who was in the same room as Ian when someone dropped lots of money on the floor.
The former shouted out ‘Jew Roll’ before looking at Ian in horror and apologising, claiming it was a term he learned in his youth.
Since the 1990s, father-of-two Ian’s career has been on an upwards trajectory.
Ranked among the top 10 stand-ups in Britain by The Independent, he has appeared on numerous comedy programmes, such as Mock The Week, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Live at Jongleurs and The 11 O’clock Show.
A lifelong Arsenal supporter, he also presented ESPN’s Off The Ball, a weekly comedy sports panel show which was later renamed The Football’s On when it moved to BT Sport.
A regular on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Fighting Talk, Ian presented Rock ‘n’ Roll Football for six years every Saturday afternoon throughout the season on Absolute Radio alongside Arsenal legend Ian Wright.
The show was awarded a Sony Silver Award for best sports programme in 2012 and, in 2015, won the Gold Award for best Specialist Programme of the Year at the Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards.
Most recently, Ian presented the breakfast show on Love Sport Radio, where he will be presenting a new programme in a few weeks.
Surely, then, as a passionate Gooner, Ian was in awe of former Arsenal striker Wright?
“I could have thought ‘oh my God’ when I first met him, but, the truth is, I am a grown up,” Ian laughed.
“We were just Wrighty and Stony, and we would go out for dinner and drinks.
“He is a mate and a good guy with a nice persona who wears his fame lightly.
“I remember Ian coming to see me at the Comedy Store, which was a big thrill.”
Ian has added another string to his bow by penning To Be Someone, which he calls part-social history, part-autobiography and him “talking about how much I love Paul Weller”.
Ian said: “It was 1977 and I was 24 when I first heard The Jam’s In The City on John Peel’s late night show.
“I’d had an angry upbringing — my parents did not like each other and there were a lot of arguments in the house.
“I was disillusioned about what there was for me in this country, where there was a moribund economy.
“Weller then comes along, singing about social housing and people having s*** lives, and disenfranchisement.
“I was listening to someone articulate what I was thinking and he was only five years older than me.”
Ian saw The Jam live more than 30 times before they split in 1982, while also following Arsenal home and away.
It was a time when football hooliganism was at an all-time high, with Ian sometimes caught in the thick of it.
He was knocked down by a police horse, beaten up in Wolverhampton and chased for three miles by a group of Liverpool fans as they wanted to steal his sheepskin coat.
“I remember being at Sham 69’s last gig in 1980 where there were 2,000 skinheads doing Nazi salutes,” Ian continued.
“I was there with my mate Paul Moss and we looked down from the balcony, two Jewish boys, thinking ‘what are we doing here?’.”
The illustrations in To Be Someone have been provided by Ian’s friend, fellow comedian Phil Jupitus.
As Porky the Poet, he regularly opened for the Style Council, Weller’s first band post-The Jam.
“Weller has read the book — he phoned me up,” Ian enthused
“I knew he was going to call me because he kept sending my mate screenshots telling him how much he loved the book.
“When he called he said, ‘Ian, it’s Paul’, to which I replied ‘I know’, as I would recognise that voice anywhere. He told me he loved the book and that he had ‘forgotten how s*** it was in the 70s’.
“I asked him if I could use that quote on the front cover, and he agreed.”
Ian has also started to write a film, but gigging is still his bread and butter.
He added: “I love getting up on stage and talking rubbish in front of loads of people. With the political situation the way it is, there is a lot to talk about.”
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