Two Joes together: Pasquale and Tracini
Funny man Joe Pasquale, the comedian with the high-pitched voice who has been entertaining audiences for more than 25 years, has a motto: unless you literally can’t speak or can’t stand up, you go on stage.
Unfortunately he was unable to stand up when Spamalot, the show ripped off from the classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, moved to Liverpool Empire and he missed performances for the first time in his career. He also had to pass on a number of press interviews, including one with Country Images.
But just as all shows have understudies who can step into leading actors’ shoes, Joe Pasquale had someone to speak to reporters: 26-year-old Joe Junior who goes under the stage name of Joe Tracini.
Fans of Channel 4’s Hollyoaks will know little Joe as Dennis Savage, a character who took on comedic storylines in 165 episodes of the soap from 2011 to 2014.
Now Joe is playing Patsy in Spamalot alongside his dad who takes the role of King Arthur – when he is not ill. Hopefully Joe senior will be back on his feet when Spamalot ends its current tour at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.
He was suffering from an infection which, according to Joe junior, knocked his dad off his feet. “In the show we do an awful lot of skipping about, so he’s resting at the moment,” says Joe. He speaks quickly and confidently with an accent that demonstrates his Kent and London roots although it is probably an octave lower than his father’s unmistakeable voice.
Joe Pasquale’s big break came when he finished runner-up in the television talent show New Faces in 1987. After that he did a number of live stage shows including one called Does He Really Talk Like That?, performed in six Royal Variety performances and his career was given a huge boost when he won the reality TV show I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! in 2004.
Two years ago he delighted television audiences with his antics in Dancing On Ice. On top of that he has appeared in pantomime for more than a decade.
Now the two Joes are undertaking their first professional job together, with the younger Joe absolutely loving it although he admits it can be nerve-wracking.
“If anybody’s dad comes to see them do anything, you get a bit nervous. But it’s lovely. We’ve always had a friendship as well as being father and son.
“I love the show but just to get to spend a bit of time with him is better than anything. Because of our jobs we don’t see each other much, so the fact that I get to spend seven weeks on the road with him is fantastic.”
In Spamalot Joe Tracini plays King Arthur’s manservant, a role previously played by Todd Carty, the actor who was Mark Fowler in EastEnders for 13 years.
“I’ve only got nine lines throughout the whole show,” says Joe. “Patsy just follows King Arthur about with coconuts pretending to be a horse. I love it, I really do. I get to sing Always Look On The Bright Side of Life in the second half as well, so that’s my five minutes when I try to squeeze in as much as I can. It’s great, really good fun.”
He admits that taking over from Todd Carty brought a certain amount of pressure.
“Todd was brilliant! I saw Spamalot in Manchester and I said how great I thought he was. It’s quite daunting when you take over a part like that with a cast who’ve been doing it for five months and also following someone who’s been doing it for five years.
“I didn’t want to copy what Todd had done because it worked so well for him. I wanted to do something a bit different. I approach it differently and that’s slightly more exciting for me. It was lovely to take over from him and I’m enjoying trying to uphold what he did with the part.”
Even Joe’s 53-year-old dad was too young to experience Monty Python’s Flying Circus when it first started, so how did the younger Joe get into Python?
“When I was little I used to video myself doing shows in my bedroom. Sometimes I’d get friends or family members involved. When I was about ten my cousin printed off the Dead Parrot sketch and said let’s do that. So we did that and then we did the cheese sketch. He grew up and got a job while I kept on watching Monty Python.
“I love it. The fact that Eric Idle (Spamalot’s creator) knows that I’m alive and knows my name is incredible because he’s a genius, a legend.”
So does Joe Tracini always look on the bright side of life?
“I try to. I always think it’s harder not to be nice than it is to be nice. I think it takes a lot more effort to be grumpy and rude than it does to be polite. I do try – I don’t know if I succeed all the time but I give it my best shot.”
Joe Tracini was born Joe James Pasquale in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, the son of Joseph Ellis Pasquale and his second wife Debbie. The family moved to Kent where little Joe was educated.
It was never in my plans to do telly because growing up with someone who gets recognised everywhere isn’t the best thing in the world.
He trained as a magician and became British junior magical champion before going to the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London.
In his last year at drama school his teacher David Willoughby got Joe to play the lead in Shakespeare’s Richard III. “It was a brilliant experience,” says Joe. “David gave me a chance to do something different. If you’re a bit chubby, little and you’ve got a funny face like me they just give you the comedy parts. He took a chance on me and gave me something that had a bit more depth. I learnt more in those three months than I did in the rest of my college time.”
Joe followed his father into panto and his television career took off when he was cast in the action comedy sitcom My Spy Family which was broadcast on the Boomerang channel. He then made three series of the BBC Three sitcom Coming of Age before Hollyoaks came calling.
“I was in that for three years. It was a wonderful opportunity. It was never in my plans to do telly because growing up with someone who gets recognised everywhere isn’t the best thing in the world. I never wanted that for myself so I always wanted to do theatre. I’m fortunate that I get to do something I love for a living.”
He auditioned for Hollyoaks twice without being accepted. Then the head of casting rang Joe and said there would be a part written specially for him – the first time that had happened.
“They were always wonderful in letting me play about and improvise. They gave me quite a free rein which made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.”
He was twice nominated for an award while on Hollyoaks, first at the British Soap Awards for best comedy performance and then at the Inside Soap awards for funniest male.
Joe has no idea what he will be doing after Spamalot, although he has a couple of options for panto at Christmas.
“I’m very fortunate that I get to do something I love every day, so I’ll do anything as long as I think it’s right for me. I think it’s very important that you enjoy this job because if you’re not having fun, an awful lot of people have to sit and watch you not have a good time. As long as it’s something that makes me happy, I’ll do it.”
And does he think he and his dad will ever be in panto together?
“We’re quite similar and in a show like Spamalot it works because we’ve got separate characters. But in panto we might encroach on each other’s personalities a little bit. Maybe one day we can play the Ugly Sisters!”
That really would be something completely different.
* This article appeared in the June 2015 issue of Country Images magazine