Vegan comedian Jake Yapp talks to Vegan Life about loving falafel and hating Monaco
So, recently you’ve been doing bits for Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe on BBC two, where you critique shows like Take Me Out and The Voice in short, often scathing blasts, walking and talking while timing yourself with a stopwatch. How did the idea for those come about?
In June 2013 I put a piece up on YouTube, called Radio Four in Four Minutes. It was a bit of a cri de coeur, to be honest – I was broke, my son, it transpired, would be born less than 24 hours later, and I felt like my career was going nowhere. I have always loved Radio 4, but, like a beloved family member, I didn’t think it was above a bit of teasing. The video went mildly viral, and as a consequence, Charlie Brooker kindly invited me to come and ‘pollute’ (his term) his Weekly Wipe show. So we took the same idea and applied it to other programmes. And, thank goodness, my career has revived with an unfamiliar vigour…
My favourite one of those is ‘Sunday Brunch in 99 seconds’. What do you think of the state of modern cooking shows in general? I love cooking, but I’ll often have to switch over when some TV chef starts casually handling and patting the bald corpse of a chicken.
Haha! Poor Tim Lovejoy. Actually, no, wait, unbelievably rich Tim Lovejoy. I enjoy a lot of TV cookery. I watch meaty bits with a psychological curiosity. You wonder how people, knowingly, think
shoving a bunch of Marjoram up an actual chicken’s bottom is, in any way, a good idea. I’m fascinated by the switch in people’s heads – how they coo over lambs gambolling in a field on a warm spring day, and then go and tuck into lamb hotpot in the pub. I’ve seen exactly that happen.
The TV chef shows I find most offensive are the ones where they say ‘I want to renew our sense of wonder or whatever by making a giant boiled egg out of a shed-load of marshmallows and mango pulp or whatever, woops, it didn’t work, let’s chuck it all away and start again’… At a time when the best part of a million people in this country are using food banks, I find that offensive.
When you’re doing gigs or filming, are you well catered for? Is there usually a good spread of vegan food, or is it a case of make do and bring snacks?
I often bring vegan iron rations to shoots just in case – favourite staples include Taifun Basil Tofu, peanut butter, or some nuts. The Weekly Wipe team have been lovely, and very considerate, checking with catering and everything. The most difficult was last year, when I was in Monaco, writing the script for the World Music Awards. There wasn’t enough food as it was, but there was nothing for vegans. I had brought some tofu in my suitcase. I rationed it to half a pack a day. I would steal bread rolls at breakfast, and try to keep going on that for the rest of the day. I hate Monaco.
Can you tell us about your decision to go vegan – was there a particular incident or thing that informed your choice?
I am so ashamed that I didn’t get there by myself. I had been vegetarian since I was eleven, but it was when I met my amazing partner Kim, who had made the leap a few months earlier, that I ‘turned’. And it is, without question, the best thing I’ve ever done. That was in 2011. And it wasn’t easy. But even in that short space of time, it’s got so much easier, I think.
Your YouTube channel includes some videos that document your attempts to make vegan bacon from scratch – have you cracked the art of vegan bacon yet?
Ha! No! It’s the Holy Grail. We will get there. I haven’t had much time to experiment, lately. Although I recently bought a dehydrator. That could be key. But at the moment I am playing with kale chips. I have a great recipe now. My son, Spike, who is two in June has started yelping ‘Keeeeele! Yaaaay!’ his fists punching the air. He loves kale chips. I worry sometimes, about his quality of life.
And how’s the vegan cheese making going?
Rubbish. Haven’t done anything in ages. There are so many good alternatives out there now. But, if you want a quick replacement for parmesan, mix ground almonds with garlic granules, salt and pepper, and nutritional yeast flakes to taste. Man, that stuff is GOOD.
You joke in one of those videos, when you’re frying vegan cheese, that you want to prove you can be vegan and still die of a heart attack. Do you think it’s important to show people that vegans aren’t all pious health freaks, and that vegan junk food can be just as deliciously unhealthy as anything made with meat and dairy?
I do. I think vegans get lumped in with a lot of other dietary choices which have more of an emphasis on health. For me, it’s entirely an ethical decision. And I do want people to realise that it’s quite possible to eat fun stuff, like cheesy pizzas or hot fudge sundaes. Before I went vegan, I used to say ‘I would go vegan, but it’s just miserable’. I was so wrong. What a fool.
Do you think being vegan has made you a better, or at least a more adventurous cook?
Definitely. Even meat-eaters rely too heavily on cheese and butter. Everything gets a little added cheese or butter. Everything. As a vegetarian, most meals are ‘Anything-At-All And Cheese’. It’s a fun challenge to get away from that. You have to start to think.
What’s your favourite vegan meal at the moment?
I do a mean carbonara. I make it with coconut cream. It’s divine.
And what’s the last great thing you had to drink?
I had a milkshake from Cookies and Scream in Camden. It’s an all-vegan ice-cream and cookie parlour. The milkshake had toffee sauce and cookie dough balls. Unnnnngggh.
Your favourite vegan place to eat out?
If you ever go to Miami, go to a place called Choices. It’s in the middle of nowhere. The food – and the soul of the place – was so good we cried. And if you go to Paris, try The Gentle Gourmet – the food is phenomenal, and the people are lovely. And, if I’m honest, if I’m in London, nothing beats a really good, skanky falafel in a pitta with hummus. With chilli sauce. Come on. You can’t beat that.
What can we expect to see next from you? I hear you’re appearing at this summer’s Camden Fringe festival…
I am! With my brother, Joe. Which is very exciting. It’s nice to be able to expand into something long-form, after being asked to condense things into two minutes… And it’ll be fun to have an audience to play with. And do songs and characters and stuff. I’m also appearing at VegFest. But I really need to rehearse what the heck I am doing there.
Thanks very much for your time, Jake. Lastly, do you have any words of advice for any of our readers that might be considering going vegan?
JUMP IN. If you really want to believe you care about animals, then you have no choice. But you’ll love it. Don’t underestimate how hard your brain is having to work to make what you’re eating seem alright to your conscience. Once you can let all that effort go, and feel better about yourself… I promise, you’ll never look back. And I’ve never enjoyed food so much. Honest.
On a practical level – go cold tofurkey for twelve weeks. Try to do twelve weeks going vegan without trying any fake cheeses or yoghurts or whatever. Then try them. And give some time for your palate to adjust. They might taste of beans or cardboard, or your own calcified tears at first… But, I promise, your palate will adapt, just as it did to dairy. I’ve reached the point where I can’t tell the difference between soy milk and dairy any more. Do it!
To find out what Jake Yapp is up to visit: jakeyapp.co.uk
Taken From May 2015 (Issue 5) Vegan Life Magazine