What if you decided to chase your dream... but it turns out you're completely rubbish at it? That's the basic premise of The Comedians Guide to Survival, a new film that charts the early failures of British stand up James Mullinger as he tries to navigate his way to stardom.
It stars James Buckley - he of The Inbetweeners fame - as Mullinger, as well as a host of memorable cameos from the world of comedy.
We caught up with the unassuming star to see what attracted him the project and what his own joke-telling skills are like.
What made you decide to get involved with the Comedians Guide to Survival?
Boring answer but it was the script. They sent the script to me asking if I'd like to do it. I read it and I really liked it. At the time Paul Kaye hadn't been formally attached, but I'd heard that they'd been talking to Paul and that was enough for me to say "yeah I wanna do this".
What was it like working with James Mullinger and telling his story?
It was really good. He's a really funny guy. I didn't dwell too much on the fact that it was about him because that can become quite confusing. I can imagine it must have been really weird for him. The way I approached it was the James Mullinger in the film was a character that I was portraying just like I would any other character. I tried to separate the character from him as a person.
Have you ever tried stand up comedy in real life? Simon Bird was pretty good back in the day!
I haven't, no. I can't imagine enjoying it. I'd be too nervous and scared. Simon did very well a few times on the Chortle Student Comic Awards. I think he got to the finals a couple of times. That stuff's on YouTube actually – it's really, really funny. I think one of the competitions one year was sponsored by Maltesers and so Simon Bird decided it would be funny to read out the contract you sign if you agree to do the competition and it was mostly stuff like 'do not mention any other confectionaries'. So then he started doing loads of jokes about other sweets. He got disqualified.
If you hadn't had got into acting, what would you be doing right now?
I think I'd probably still be fitting kitchens and turning up to acting auditions and things like that. I think that's what I was set up to do. I was fitting kitchens before I could afford not to – so I was still fitting kitchens whilst the first series of The Inbetweeners was coming out. It was quite awkward going up to Haldons to pick up a kitchen for a client, and someone would go "aren't you off the telly?" and I'd go "yeah", and they'd ask "what you doing here then..?", "well I'm fitting a kitchen."
What's the best piece of advice you've ever had?
When I was a kid going to acting school in Romford, my acting coach Anna Karen (she's most famous for being Olive from On The Buses), she told me that when you're thinking about accepting a job offer, you must consider three things:
1. Will I learn anything from the experience?
2. Will it further my career?
3. Is the money good?
If the answer is yes to 2 out of those 3 things, then you take the job.
What's your all time favourite video game?
Off the top of my head I'd have to say Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. There's something borderline romantic about the experience I had with that game. I really love it. It means a lot to me. I love the way it looks, I love the story of the game, I love how fun it is to play, I love the music. It genuinely has a place in my heart, that game.
What's the main thing people stop you and say in the street?
What do you have lined up next we can look forward to seeing you in?
At the moment I'm filming a new show called White Gold for the BBC with Ed Westwick (Gossip Girl, Children of Men) and Joe Thomas from The Inbetweeners and it's written and directed by Damon Beesley, one of The Inbetweeners co-creators. It will be on TV next year and it's set in 1980s Essex. Me, Joe and Ed are double glazing window salesmen and it has a very sort of Wolf of Wall Street feel about it. A friend of mine made me laugh the other day, I was trying to explain to him what the show was about. I was saying it was sort of Essex yuppies start making a load of money ripping off people with double glazing windows – it's cool – it feels like Wolf of Wall Street?" He said "Wolf of Wall Street? You're more like The Div from Dagenham."
Can you tell us a joke?
One day I'll bring a biography of my life out and that will be the biggest joke I'll ever tell.
The Comedian's Guide To Survival is out now in cinemas, on demand and DVD, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.