Health & Wellbeing: Jack Dee on why being 60 is better than 59

The deadpan comedian talks to Hannah Stephenson about feeling his age, and working with much younger comedians.

Comedian Jack Dee, famed for his po-faced delivery and grumpy persona, says things are looking up now he’s 60.

The middle-aged funnyman says at 60, “You accrue a pretty big catalogue of experiences, and that gives you perspective”.

He’s been married to Jane since 1989 – the couple have four children, and divide their time between their home in London and a holiday bolthole near Chichester.

As well as continuing with his Off The Telly stand-up tour, he’s also offering hilarious advice as a self-styled ‘agony uncle’ in his new book, What Is Your Problem? – and his age has helped that process, he explains.

“When people write and say, ‘My 14-year-old is doing this and that…’, I know because my 14-year-old may have done something similar, but I also know that my 14-year-old is now nearly 30 and has turned into a lovely adult,” he says.

How was turning 60 for you?

“We didn’t have a big party or anything. In a sense, I find it quite liberating. There are two ways of looking at it. You either think, ‘Oh God, it’s the beginning of the end’ – or you think, ‘It’s a new beginning’.

“In a way, I prefer saying I’m 60 than saying I’m 59. It feels more of an achievement. People give you a bit more leeway.”

When you go on panel shows with younger comedians, do you ever feel intimidated?

“I feel my age all the time. I regularly work with comedians now who weren’t born when I started doing it. I wouldn’t mind, but they’re all so b***** good. And they get good very quickly. That’s what’s so extraordinary about the comedians that come through now. I don’t know what they’re on, but I wish I’d had some of it.”

Do you look after yourself more as you get older?

“I’ve always tried to do some small form of exercise each day. If I’m on the road, for instance, if I’m not careful all I’ll be doing is sitting in the car, staying in a hotel, doing the show then going back to the hotel, get up, back in the car. You become very sedentary without realising it, and it’s very important to do something each day.

“I always take my gym kit with me and try to use the gym at the hotel, just do a bit each day – even if it’s just 15 minutes – so you feel you’ve done something. I think it’s important for your mind as well. I do swim when I can.”

How do you exercise at home?

“I’ve got a rowing machine at home, which is really good. I’ve stopped jogging, because it was doing my knees in. I don’t want to keep pounding away, but I might come back to it because I’ve given them a good rest.”

How do you look after your mind?

“It’s really good to constantly stimulate your mind, so I’m always listening to audiobooks and podcasts and good quality radio. I read a lot, and like doing crosswords. I always keep these things ticking over. I go a bit mad if I haven’t got something to do like that with my head.”

How do you switch off?

“I play music a lot. I like to play guitar. I can happily spend an hour or two playing guitar at home, and I always have an instrument with me on the road. I also play the mandolin, which I take on the road as it’s a lot smaller to carry around. It’s a fantastic thing to have something you’re always striving to get better at.”

Are you careful about what you eat?

“Yes, very careful, especially when you’re on the road and travelling and you can’t prepare your own food. I go to supermarkets and stock up on fresh food and keep a lot of it in the back of the car, like salad and apples. I never eat fast food. Otherwise you turn into a blob.”

Do you get more aches and pains these days?

“Inevitably, yes. That’s where the exercise comes in.”

Do you have any fitness goals for the next year?

“My aim is always to try to keep up the regime and remain a bit disciplined, but not become a killjoy. If I go out, I’ll have a drink or eat what I fancy. My thing is, never take your diet out of the house. I hate that.”

What Is Your Problem? By Jack Dee is published by Quercus, priced £20. Available now

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