Dom Joly has never been one for holding back when it comes to his humour or forthright opinions. So what better man to send on a tour of the US during the turbulent and testing times of the Donald Trump presidency.
The result is Dom Joly’s Big American Vacation; an audio podcast odyssey that sees the Trigger Happy funny man embark on a road trip across the continent in a Chrysler Enormoburger, taking in everything from alligator wresting to marijuana sommeliers and much more besides.
Best of all, he managed to make it back in one piece without incurring a travel ban from Trump in the process. In fact, he’s even got a few stories to tell loaded about his adventures and also some exciting plans for Trigger Happy.
loaded: Why visit America now?
Dom: I thought it would be interesting to visiting America, particularly at the moment because of the way it is changing under Donald Trump. A lof people are hating on it and I wanted to remember what I loved about America and specifically go into the heart of America and the states that voted for Trump in the first place. I wanted to do a non-clichéd American road trip but it’s almost impossible not to. We did some really weird stuff though.
loaded: What did you learn from the trip?
Dom: When you meet Americans from places like New York and L.A. is who the fuck actually voted for Trump. Because most people you meet are pretty normal and fairly sensible and not the kind of people that would be taken in by Trump.
But then you get into the centre, the real heart of America, and the flyover states where I was and you realise it’s an entirely different country. It’s kind of Jesusland and a place where they have no connection to Washington D.C. and our vision of America. It’s so different and that’s why someone like Trump, who has turned up and shaken things up, even though they know he’s a bit of an idiot is way more appealing than any normal politician.
The other thing is that people take the piss out of Americans for not travelling – I think something like 60 per cent of Americans don’t have a passport – but when you visit America you realise why. It’s like 30 countries in one. There’s just so much to see, so you can’t really blame Americans for not going further afield.
loaded: What does a Drive-Thru wedding entail?
Dom: It’s not quite as straightforward as getting pissed and driving through one of these places like a McDonald’s. You can’t just rock up and get married. You have to get a license first from a town hall, which takes about 10 minutes. So you need to be a bit together to do that. Then you can literally drive through and there will be this woman sitting in a booth looking very bored and they will you how you want your marriage.
You can choose from two types of Elvis: drug Elvis and thin Elvis.You have a choice of Elvis songs and there is a costume box containing mostly Elvis outfits. There seem to be no laws to it. Just as we were about to get married I asked “Is it a problem that I am already married in England?” They said “Only if it’s a problem to you”. The whole thing is very odd and probably not totally legal.
loaded: Is alligator wrestling as scary as it sounds?
Dom: I started wrestling a foot-long alligator but that wasn’t too bad. By the end I was taking on a 15-footer. The only lesson you really have to learn is that alligators can’t see behind themselves so you have to approach directly behind, jump on their back, hold their head down and just hope they haven’t got a mate who gets you from the other side. They are pretty amazing, frightening things. Actually the big alligator I wrestled was given the nickname Kim Kardashian because it had a huge arse, but it was alright.
loaded: What was the strangest place you visited?
Dom: There’s a place called Nederland where they have this festival called the Dead Man Festival. So basically a Norwegian anarchist moved there a few years back and built a place in the mountains. Eventually he flew his granddad out to live with him. Anyway, long story short, two years later, the grandfather died so this bloke had him frozen and kept in a shed outside his house.
The Norwegian anarchist then got deported but couldn’t afford to take his grandfather back to Norway with him so the town adopted this dead guy and replenish the ice every week. The whole town has become famous for this frozen dead guy and they have this festival there. It’s fucking weird.
loaded: You also took in Colorado’s thriving marijuana industry that must have been strange?
Dom: You see so many films in which DEA agents are raiding weed farms and then suddenly you head to a state like Colorado, where it’s legalised, and we were able to go to one legally. We met like a kind of weed sommelier who took us through all the different strains and there’s a place like a pharmacy where you can buy all the different types of dope.
You can then sit in a limo on a dope tour and get off your face. I ended up in this strange restaurant where you can eat anything lie alligator nachos and snake pie. It was weird to have munchies with all that strange food on offer. I also had to try and keep it together for the podcast but it’s kind of difficult to remember what happened – I do know I was not nearly half as funny as I thought I was at the time.
loaded: Has it opened your eyes to the benefits of legalising weed?
Dom: Of course we should legalise weed, it’s fucking ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that you’ve got one state where it’s legal and another where it’s illegal. It’s one of Colorado’s biggest crops right now and legalising it has put some bad guys out of business. It has given a whole new economy to the state. But we all know this. If weed had been discovered now it would have been legalised. Alcohol and cigarettes would be banned though.
There’s no question it will be legalised in most of America – apart from maybe Alabama. It’s crazy too because about a quarter of all inmates in the US prison system are in there for weed-related offences. It’s insane.
loaded: This trip feels similar to one of your old shows – Dom Joly’s Happy Hour – where you went around the world trying difficult kinds of alcohol. Did you do much boozing in the US?
Dom: Actually, Dom Joly’s Happy Hour is a good comparison. This is like a radio version really. There’s probably less talking about alcohol but we definitely consumed more.
One of the best places we visited was in Vegas; a place called Hangover Heaven and it’s something that should exist everywhere in the world really. Basically it’s like a mock hospital run by real doctors. The idea is that a lot of people come to Vegas for maybe three days and end up totally blowing it on the first night. Vegas wants them to keep spending their money though. So if you have a hangover, you go to one of these places and they fit you up to an IV and give you vitamin injections that can get rid of your hangover in about half an hour. If you can really afford it, they can also send out an ambulance, with nurses, to come and treat you in your hotel room.
I wish I had had it later in the trip when we stayed in the hotel where they shot The Shining. Now, I’m not easily scared by things but I got really creeped out there. The film is on a loop constantly and you get taken on a tour. By the time you go to bed you are completely creeped out. So I raided the mini bar and got absolutely fucked. It got to about 2am and I was so utterly freaked out I had to check out.
loaded:What advice can you offer for anyone planning a trip to the US?
Dom: Just get a beaten up old car and go on a road trip. America was designed for road trips. It’s an endless place full of weird and amazing things and feels like you’ve stepped on a movie set.
My favourite experience involved fake crossing the Mexican border. There’s a village just the other side of the border that used to organise people to cross. But a lot of people were dying so they decided to do something different and created this kind of fake crossing experience. You turned up in this village and they walk you four or five hours through this desert and you’ve got people dressed up as policeman shooting over our heads and people pretending to be drug cartel members playing shit rap. It was so weird and surreal.
loaded: What can you tell us about your plans for Trigger Happy?
Dom: We released a small miniseries on All 4 to see if there was any appetite for it. It was a big success so now we’re doing a full series. It’s Trigger Happy attacks modern life. We’ve got all sorts of things; a Shoreditch hipster in the country trying to find lattes and a kick boxing café, we’ve got a guy constantly telling people he’s not Banksy even though he is Banksy, there’s a pop up raving penguin, a vlogger out of his depth, a guy who things everything is racist – including black coffee. It’s amazing, all new characters, great soundtrack, I’m really excited.
loaded: Could a Trigger Happy movie ever happen?
Dom: Weirdly, that’s the plan. The idea of bringing Trigger Happy back is to kind of reassert my claim to hidden camera shows. There’s been a real resurgence in the last few years, especially online, but most of it is shit, not very good or fake. It pisses me off. Often it’s viewed as lowest rung in comedy. If you’ve got a brain, you are meant to go off and do scripted stuff. But I’ve always loved hidden camera stuff. It’s a real art form. The idea is to put ourselves back on the map with lots of hidden camera projects with a view to making a film.
loaded: What are you up to next?
Dom: Writing a new travel book walking from across the top of Lebanon from the Syrian border to the Israeli border in the south with two friends. It’ll take 30 days and I hope my Sat Nav works so I don’t slip off past the Syrian border. I’ve also just bought a hot air balloon and the plan is to do something Trump related with that though I can’t say too much more.
Dom Joly’s Big American Vacation is available to download now at www.audible.co.uk/domjoly.