Recently we wrote about Yoko Ono, explaining that in our opinion, she demonstrated many of the facets of what it is to be a multi-intelligent human being. She is thoughtful, spiritual, creative, philosophical and appears to be very knowledgeable of who she is and how she wants to interact with others. She exudes empathy whilst having a firm hold on her own needs and desires.
It is, as we said at the time, difficult to write about people that we don’t know and can only know through interpreting the various sources of literature and photographs that are seen in the media but you can get a flavour of a person from an interview or watching and listening to what they say.
This week, the ‘subject’ on Desert Island Discs was John Bishop – the Liverpudlian comedian whose meteoric rise has taken even him by surprise.
He was born in 1966, the youngest of four children who were re-housed in Cheshire because the house that they lived in was unfit for human habitation, according to Liverpool Council.
He went to school, was the first person in his family to do ‘O’ levels rather than CSEs and then signed on at school to be one of a handful of students who had decided to do ‘A’ Levels.
He turned up at school in a pair of new jeans to be told that he couldn’t wear such clothes to the sixth form (‘smart trousers’ only), and as his family couldn’t afford another new pair of trousers, he left school, got a job at ICI and continued with his studies at night school.
He continued with his job until a former teacher told him he could go back and finish his studies at school – something that his labourer/factory worker parents were sceptical about. He had secured a permanent job at a large chemical company – why would you throw that, and its guaranteed pension, away for the sake of wanting to go to college or university? It was beyond their comprehension but they supported his decision nonetheless.
This wasn’t the last time John Bishop followed his instinct.
He had a secure job that had taken him travelling around the world, and finding The Blues in Chicago, he realised that he wanted more. He hadn’t arrived at his Element, unlike these brilliant, improvising musicians that he was sitting and listening to.
After separating from his wife, he found himself at open-mike sessions in comedy clubs, and the rest, as they say, is history.
He reunited with his wife, told her he wanted to be a comedian and just as his parents had done decades previously, she supported his decision with the quip that he’d better be funny if they were going to survive on his earnings.
A lovely story of a man with a fundamental belief that there was something for him out there that he wanted, a story of a man with a strong sense of family, of who he is and how he can do good for others – even those not known to him. A man who has never ever forgotten where he came from and is still now humbled and almost embarrassed of the stardom label that comes with the mention of his name.
There were, within the forty five minute interview, some snippets of life that we feel it’s important to share in order to exemplify some elements of our three dimensional model of intelligences.
Firstly, let’s start with the Element. Here was a man who had been more ‘successful’ than many of his peers. He had hoped that he would find fame through the footballing boots on his feet, similar to many a young Liverpudlian’s dream, but he wasn’t good enough to go beyond the semi-professional stage. However, he never lost the joy of playing and now looks back in astonishment at the fact that he, this young man from Liverpool, had the opportunity to play at Wembley and Old Trafford, doing something that he really loved, in front of 70,000 people, in order to help raise funds for charity.
But this was only one of his Elements. His real element was standing there in front of a huge audience, getting an adrenalin rush from talking and making people laugh. Without actually saying so, he expressed clearly the overwhelming elation of making people laugh – a natural high indeed.
Some people rush off with their ‘element’ and some might even eventually take it for granted, but not John Bishop. He explained how he looked out at a packed audience at the Albert Hall and was overawed by the whole experience. He couldn’t believe he was getting a standing ovation from all these people for doing what he wanted to do.
Finding your element is one thing. Enjoying it, appreciating it and realising just how fortunate you are is something that not all people are intelligent enough to realise.
To reiterate this, he explained how his son too had found his element – in dance; something that a man with John Bishop’s upbringing might have found difficult, but no – his response to his son’s choice of career was this:
“If you have a passion for something you love, follow it. You may make a living from it – and there’s a good chance that you will be happier than chasing the money.” – or words to that effect!
Secondly, there is his absolute grounding by not letting go of his roots. Take heed, Mr Gove. Here is a man with a strong identity that is personified in that raw Liverpudlian accent. His success has not been hindered by what many an education secretary and posse of civil servants have tried to do to eradicate regional accents.
A man can aspire and live his dream without forgetting where he came from and who he is, and it is this example of personal intelligence that is so forceful.
He explained how he took his youngest son to the house where he grew up. This child, who has probably known nothing of poverty all his life, marvelled at the brilliance of the community feeling in this council estate. He loved the fact that it was “like living with all your friends”, being able to play outside with them, live amongst them, and have that incredible sense of belonging.
Thirdly, there is John Bishop’s humility that is directly linked to the previous point. Throughout the interview, he baulks at the ‘celebrity’ label and demonstrates this with a tale of how he cannot bear to have someone carry his bags into a hotel. With the same level of humility, he says that he is not trying to belittle anyone’s job but he just doesn’t feel comfortable being ‘served’ in this way.
His response to his endeavours for Sport Relief, raising over £4 million pounds for charity, yet again demonstrated the level of humility the man has. Whilst in considerable pain from his five-day triathlon from Paris to London, he admits that it was the mental effects that really affected him.
John Bishop, throughout his interview with the very brilliant and astute Kirsty Young, demonstrated some very clear examples of what it is like to live an intelligent life.
Here are a few more examples
- Knowing that there was more to life than sulking and drinking alcohol on a Monday morning, having said goodbye to the children – knowing he had to do something about it, and then being proactive enough to get out on his own to comedy clubs to do just that.
- Understanding that so frequently aspirations are only “what you can see”. Going beyond the immediate to aspire to something quite unknown takes a fairly special person.
- “Poverty stays” – when you have experienced real poverty, says Bishop, you can never take anything for granted and never assume that the good times will always remain. “I’ve already exceeded my expectations”
- Knowing how important the balance between self and others is. John Bishop has a strong family. He loves both his birth family and the one that he has created with his wife but he also knows that he needs his own space and his own time away from them all.
To finish, here are a few quotes from the man for the reader to ponder and maybe meditate on.
“I’d rather be a failure than a successful moaner”
“Never think you’re too good to carry your own bags”
“If my ten year old self ………. I pause throughout life and think of my ten year old self”