Josh Widdicombe: ‘I was basically like a young Alan Sugar’

Josh Widdicombe, 38, is best known for co-hosting the late-night comedy talk show The Last Leg on Channel 4. He wrote and starred in the BBC sitcom Josh and has appeared on Live at the Apollo, Have I Got News For You, QI, Would I Lie to You?, Mock the Week and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He lives in east London with his wife, Rose, and their two children.

Did you have a good financial start in life?

I grew up, an only child, in Haytor Vale on Dartmoor, a village in south Devon. My mum worked from home, editing reference books for Dorling Kindersley, the publisher, with titles such as Herbaceous Borders Through the Seasons. She was the main breadwinner. When she went freelance, my dad became a house husband, which was very progressive at the time.

Before that, he took a Del Boy approach to business: one week he would be earning cash as a plumber; the next writing a misjudged pitch for a TV show; the week after selling a herbal cure for nits to other parents at the school gates.

This isn’t to say that my childhood was one of hand-to-mouth existence or running from the creditors when a thousand bottles of nit cure hadn’t shifted as hoped. It was just that we didn’t have foreign holidays and my dad drove a secondhand car.

We also had support from my gran, who had played Mrs Dale’s daughter in the long-running Radio 4 serial Mrs Dale’s Diary, because she lived in the other half of our house and helped pay the mortgage.

What was your first job?

At the age of 14 I worked at our village pub for two hours a week at £2.50 an hour. It was my job to bring the logs in from the woodshed and stack them next to the open fires. This was 20 minutes’ work, so I’d string it out by sitting in the log shed for minutes on end. Being paid £2.50 to sit in the log shed seemed like a lot of money at the time.

Did you show any other entrepreneurial skills?

When marbles became a big thing at my school, which shows how behind the times we were, my friend Thomas and I started an after-school club called Marble Mania. It wasn’t particularly marble-themed. Basically, we charged local kids a quid to come to my house after school.

We usually had about 15 kids, which was £15 straight off the bat, but we also sold stuff from our bedrooms that we didn’t want anymore. Afterwards we’d all watch Neighbours and have a disco. With no overheads, we were seeing upwards of £8 a week each.

I don’t want to overstate things but it is the kind of thing you read about in a biography of Alan Sugar.

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