John Bishop with LJMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Weatherill
Presented by: Professor Greg Whyte
Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting John Bishop for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
Liverpool is known worldwide for its collective sense of humour and its giving and generous nature. In this sense John Bishop is a true son of the city.
The young John was not academically minded or particularly practical recalling a teacher at school saying: "Your sister is better at woodwork than you. Does that not embarrass you?" To which he answered, "Well, you should see me knit."' John did, however, have a talent for football and his dream was to play for Liverpool, he is still an avid supporter.
He did play semi-professionally, but felt he wasn't good enough to pursue it as a career and initially left school aged 16 only to returned a few months later to complete his A-levels and was then the first of his siblings to go on to university.
As a Politics student at Manchester Polytechnic he worked hard, paying his own way through college by playing football for Southport FC.
Commenting on his own Graduation he said: When I realised you just rent the robe for the shot I asked myself why I hadn't just done that and not bothered with studying? But in reality, John has always been a true worker.
It was at Manchester Poly that John met his wife, Melanie who is here with him today, and together they have three sons, Joe, Luke and Daniel. In order to provide for his young family, John was a well-paid Sales Director for a pharmaceuticals firm but the role and long hours left him unfulfilled.
After trying out at an open-mic session at a comedy club, he realised he loved to make people laugh and Melanie eventually encouraged him to quit his job and concentrate on stand-up. His first show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in 2007 was about quitting the corporate world and attracted audiences so small he could sometimes count them.
But just two years later, his show at the Festival was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award and he was beginning to attract audiences through television and stage work. He has had a meteoric rise to stardom but, crucially, John has never been motivated by fame instead he has been determined to put his fame to good use.
In 2012 he agreed to undertake a 290-mile triathlon for Sport Relief. I was lucky enough to be asked to accompany him on the challenge which was billed 'Bishop's Week of Hell.' In just five days he cycled 185 miles from Paris to Calais, rowed 26 miles across the Channel to Dover and then ran three consecutive marathons from Dover to London; a mammoth feat for even a professional athlete.
His dogged determination despite obvious pain, suffering and exhaustion was both inspiring and moving and John ended up raising a staggering £4.7 million for Sport Relief.
In typical John fashion, when the 'Week of Hell' was shown on television, he made sure he was out. But his family watched and his youngest son, Daniel was so impressed with his dad that he texted three donations – albeit that John pays his phone bill, so effectively he was sponsoring himself.
John is very modest but as our Health graduands here will know, the amount of training required for something like this is immense. For three months, day in, day out, John was up at 6am for two hours training, followed by another two hours every evening - alongside his usual heavy work schedule.
After the challenge, the intense training routine and the combined exertion from the triathlon finally took their toll on his body and as is common with these kind of extreme sporting challenges John was unwell for some months after.
This hasn't put him off supporting social causes and he has since taken part in a number of charity sporting events with several appearances for the Soccer Aid England Team and this year as a team captain for the Sport Relief Clash of the Titans event against Sebastian Coe and his team.
In May this year John donated £96,000 to the Hillsborough Family Support Group after hearing the personal statements delivered by the victims' families at their inquests.
John is not just an entertainer and a comic, he's a thoroughly decent person and a man who, through his passion, talent and determination to succeed, epitomises LJMU's ethos to dream, plan, achieve.
Thus, it is with great personal pleasure that I present John Bishop, this most distinguished son of our city, for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.