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But then lockdown came in and with the barbers forced to shut, John suddenly found himself with more time to focus on writing as well as acting. He came up with a whole soap-full of characters and created what’s gone on to be the biggest Scouse comedy hit of the year.
From improvising sketches for Corona Mums on his social media, with a few wigs he had lying around the house, he watched as a huge following kept on doubling over the spring. So much so, that when the first run came to an end in May and he’d planned to let it go out on a high, fans asked him for more so he created new characters which have become even more popular.
What started as a bit of a joke has become something which he now works on every day. He’s got a range of merchandise which has been flying out ahead of Christmas, and he sold out four live shows – the first he’s ever done – within minutes.
“My world as I know it stood still back in March, but that gave me time to have fun and it’s taught me a lot about what I really enjoy.
“The reaction has been mad, but I think that’s because what I’ve been doing has really struck something with people,” he says. “Everyone tells me it’s like a current Scouse comedy, not the old ‘calm down, calm down’ type, and people recognise these characters as someone they know or they’ve met.
“I started off just me doing all the characters, but we’ve stepped it up now so there’s a few others helping with the production and the editing, and we’re developing a little team. I’ve tried, every time I do a new video, to just do my best and make every one better than the last and if I keep doing that then hopefully it’ll take me somewhere.”
Creating the characters, says John, is the easiest part because he’s a lifelong people-watcher.
“I grew up in a pub and I saw all these characters every day and then I was in the barbers, so they’re both environments where you’re working with the public all day every day and you get to see different faces with the same eyes.
“What I’ve done is take a bit from lots of them, so there’s no character that’s totally based on one person. The way Kenny Corona speaks is actually based on an old girlfriend of mine.
“Turkey Teeth, who’s just taken off and made everything even bigger, came because I thought of all these lads going to Turkey to get their teeth done.
“I remembered this customer in Sweeps saying he’d bought these teeth on eBay – I went online and bought them, I got a wig and that was it. That’s how Turkey Teeth happened, I added him to the five original characters in about July and everyone loved him.”
John’s most recent series has been Kenny’s Christmas Carol, a Scouse twist on the Dickens classic. It stars him as Kenny Corona, of course, but there are a few famous faces in there too and it’s raising money for the Come Together Christmas Appeal helping local children in need.
“I thought Kenny was like Scrooge and Craig is Tiny Tim, then it just went from there,” he explains. “I asked Jake Abraham if he’d play Jacob Marley and he said Drew Schofield was willing to get involved so he’s the storyteller. We wrote a piece for Pete Price hoping he’d do it, which he did, and Paul Smith as well, so loads of Liverpool talent has come together for this which I’m really flattered by.”
With his Instagram following now up over 50k (including Steven Gerrard), John’s already had an unexpectedly successful 2020, and 2021 could be even better.
His ultimate aim is to get his own TV show, but before that there’s a series of live stand-up dates to prepare for.
“An event organiser got in touch with me and said, ‘do you fancy doing stand-up?’ and I’d never really done that type of thing but I thought it was too good an opportunity to say no to.
“He said we’d start off with 200 people at Hangar 34 in April next year, all Covid safe, so the tickets went on sale at the beginning of December. Then I was getting messages saying ‘John, what’s going on, the tickets aren’t online?’ so I phoned to tell him and he said it was because they’d already all gone.
“They just went, 800 over four back-to-back nights all sold out straight away, which for me is really overwhelming.
“It’ll be me, doing all the characters in a live show so I’ve got a big challenge on my hands but I’m going to put all of January, February and March into it and I know I’ll nail it. It’s the same process I apply to everything: just make the next thing better than the last and hopefully I’ll get what I’ve always wanted.”
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