• Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

The Masked Dancer has ‘huge’ reveal that will amaze viewers, teases Joel Dommett

May 24, 2021

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When Joel Dommett left the I’m A Celebrity… jungle in second place back in 2016, the stand-up comedian never dreamed he’d go on to front a huge prime time hit.

“If you’d have said, ‘Joel, in a couple of years, you’ll be standing next to a massive Carwash in a very bright suit on Saturday night television,’ I would never have guessed it!” Joel, 35, tells OK! as we catch up at our at our exclusive shoot.

But fast forward to 2021 and that’s exactly what he’s doing, as Joel fills us in on ITV series The Masked Singer’s even crazier spin-off, The Masked Dancer.

The show, which will air all next week, follows the same format, but this time the all-star panel and fans will be trying to guess which famous face is showing off their dance moves under an elaborate mask. “It’s such a ridiculous notion, the whole show is so stupid, but that’s what makes it brilliant,” Joel laughs.

The comedian-turned-host has hit the jackpot in his personal life too, marrying model wife Hannah Cooper in an intimate Mykonos ceremony in September 2019, after meeting at what he describes as an important crossroads in both their lives.

Here, Joel tells us about the big name signing that will shock The Masked Dancer viewers, his friendship with the show’s panellists, including Davina McCall and Jonathan Ross, and how it was a case of right person, right time for him and Hannah.

Hi Joel. The Masked Dancer sounds even crazier than The Masked Singer!

When I heard about it, my first reaction was the same as everybody else’s: “How is this going to work?!” I had reservations. Then we started filming it and I realised there’s something completely joyous about it. It’s so wonderful.

Have you been surprised by the huge success of The Masked Singer?

It took off in a way nobody anticipated. It’s such a ridiculous notion, the whole show is so stupid, but that’s what makes it brilliant. People just wanted a bit of silliness. I always have people texting me saying, “I think I know who this is!” It’s infectious. The first series, everyone said it was a guilty pleasure. By the second, it just became a pleasure.

Did any of the dancer reveals shock you?

My assumption with The Masked Dancer was that the names would be lesser than The Masked Singer. But I can honestly tell you the names are equal to, if not better. There are some amazing reveals. One in particular completely took us all by surprise. You just wouldn’t expect someone like this to do the show. It’s the biggest reaction we’ve had.

Oti Mabuse is on the panel. How was that?

It was really lovely. She’s brilliant and slipped right into it. It’s really nice, with the year we’ve all had, that we just really enjoy making this show and being a part of it.

Has Oti roped you into signing up for Strictly?

Not yet! I definitely haven’t got the talent for Strictly! Hannah and I came back from the BRIT Awards the other night and I discovered I was dressed like a salsa dancer, so I was trying to salsa around the kitchen. I posted it on Instagram and Oti called and said, “Oh my God, I was howling! You’re so bad at dancing, it’s so funny!”

Are you and the judges close off screen?

Definitely. Presenting a show in front of two of the biggest presenters on UK television is huge for me, and both Jonathan and Davina have been so welcoming and encouraging. Davina has become a sort of TV older sister. She’s wonderful. And it’s my life’s work to try to be best friends with Jonathan Ross. I feel like I’m slowly wearing him down. (Laughs) I constantly WhatsApp him, a bit too much, but I’m trying to kill him with kindness.

Have they given you any advice?

I’m still learning, and having someone like Davina to call if I want to ask anything, or need advice, is so nice. Other people have reached out too. Dermot O’Leary was wonderful. He said, “If you ever need to talk about anything, let me know.” It’s nice that these elders of the business, who have been doing it for a long time, are just lovely and know we’re not trying to step on anyone’s toes, we’re just the newbies. I’m learning all I can from them – they’ve paved the way.

Did you ever imagine you’d land a job like this?

(Laughs) Even two years ago, if you’d have said, “Joel, in a couple of years, you’ll be standing next to a massive Carwash in a very bright suit on Saturday night television,” I would never have guessed it! It must have made you more recognisable when you’re out and about… It’s been much easier this past year as you can just wear a mask! But it’s happened at the perfect time. If I was younger and wanted to go to pubs and nightclubs all the time, maybe it would be more difficult. But people are just really lovely. It’s not like they shout angry stuff at me in the street, apart from, “Who the hell is the Unicorn?!” And because I’m the age I am, I love where I live, and I love my wife, we just stay in a lot. (Laughs)

Speaking of Hannah, you proposed in a pretty epic way…

Yes, it was the ending of my book. I wanted to propose, but I also needed an ending to my book, so it was two birds with one stone! (Laughs) I ripped out the last page and gave her the very first copy to read. I kept ringing to ask, “Have you got to the end yet?!” She said, “I’ve finished, but it ends suddenly, it’s weird.” So I told her to come home as I wasn’t sure about the ending, and then I did it. We got married in Mykonos, a small wedding with 29 of us. This whole year has made us really appreciate why you do things like that.

In what way?

I was never really a wedding person, but we had an amazing time. Then, being separated from everyone you love and not being able to go out and have fun – that makes you really appreciate it more. We’d constantly think back to our wedding and go, “That was the most special time of our lives.”

How has married life been?

Wonderful. Hannah’s a very good person and she keeps me grounded, and I do the same for her.

So she’d tell you off if you started acting like a diva then?

Exactly! I met Hannah at the perfect time, just as I came out of the jungle. She hadn’t watched it and had been living in Miami. The day after she arrived back, we went out on our first date, so it was the perfect crossroads for both of us. She’s been modelling for 10 years and I’d been doing stand-up for 10 years, so we were both in the same place in our careers. It’s the same with my friend Steve, who was best man at my wedding. If ever I was a diva, he’d be like, “What are you doing?!”

Have you still got the same mates, or is your phone full of famous contacts now?

I don’t really move in showbiz circles. I do have friends who are famous, because my generation of stand-ups have done really well. I came up with Josh Widdicombe, James Acaster, Rob Beckett, Romesh Ranganathan. We all started on that same open mic circuit together, doing terrible gigs in front of three people – now they’re selling out huge theatres! We’d go to Edinburgh together for the festival, and I lived in a house there for three years on the trot with James, Josh and Tom Allen.

What an amazing bunch! Are you all still in touch?

With stand-up comedy gigs, you tend to see everybody in the clubs and it’s like a little family again. It’s nice to hang out with them.

What was your worst experience from your early stand-up days?

I had one woman stand up – when someone stands up, you know they’re serious – and she said, “Why don’t you just read out the raffle?” and sat back down. I realised the audience was excited for the tombola and not for me!

What’s your big career dream now?

It’s a difficult question. The Masked Singer has given me my dream – a Saturday night TV show that I enjoy, working with people who inspire me. Then being able to tour to people who are buying tickets to your comedy shows. Having reached that dream, it’s difficult to set new ones. But I think it’s following in Jonathan’s footsteps and getting to talk to people and be funny.

Would you consider going to America, or is home where your heart is?

I really love the UK. I love the comedy circuit here, it’s an amazing community. America is a daunting prospect – a lonely place, especially when you have to start again. I’ve seen people go there and succeed, and I’ve seen people not succeed. It’s a difficult nut to crack. I love where I am in my career, the shows I’m doing, my house and my wife. So at the moment, I’m not willing to throw a spanner in the works like that – but maybe at some point.

The Masked Dancer starts Saturday on ITV and runs nightly (except Wednesday).

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