Joke Exchange Interview with Rob Hewitt

The Funny Things team have done their own survey to find out how funny Wolverhampton is with the Joke Exchange. During August they asked people to tell them a joke (and they’d receive one back) and during September the best jokes were displayed on hand-held placards in the city centre, with a different joke on display on the streets of Wolverhampton each day.

During the festival, an exhibition of large-scale photographs of the project will be shown in an empty shop in Wulfrun Shopping Centre and the placards will be on display for you to have the chance to get your own photo taken with them.

We asked artist, curator and ‘cultural provocateur’ Rob Hewitt of Redhawk Logistica to tell us more…

Tell us about the concept of the Joke Exchange?
Joke Exchange is a totally new initiative made in response to the brief put out by the Funny Things festival. I wanted to have a transaction at the heart of the artwork so that both parties are asked to contribute and both get something out of it. It is always exciting to turn up on the street with something that acts as a focal point or a catalyst, like our Joke Exchange stall, and just see what happens, you never know what reactions you are going to get and that’s what makes it so much fun.

The Joke Exchange has many layers – can you explain it?

The first part was the gathering of jokes and we have done that in several ways; spending three days at busy locations around Wolverhampton city centre with the stall and writing down the jokes we were told. We’ve also visited a few places, like Newhampton Arts Center and the Light House Media Center and set up in communal areas to engage visitors and we appealed on social media and through an article in the Express & Star, asking people to email us jokes, in return for one emailed back off us of course.

A selection of the jokes were made into placards – and a different joke was displayed in Wolverhampton City centre every day during September (excluding Sundays), on a placard held aloft by volunteers.

Finally, on Saturday 28th October all of the placards will hit the streets at the same time, to bombard Wolves with humour. During the festival the placards will go on display, along with documentation of the process. We will also be part of the Funny Things Finale comedy night that will include some of the jokes that didn’t quite make it onto the placards, in collaboration with musical comedy heroes Barry Bling and Mr Velvet and the Orchestra of Chaos.

There is a lot of great public engagement with your work – what do you hope/want people who interact with the project to come away with?
We simply want to share a moment and have a laugh with people as they go about their daily business. We hope they go away a little bit more jolly than when they started and perhaps with an extra joke or two in their repertoire that they can pass on the someone else…so the jokes keep getting exchanged and people connect with each other through laughter. In a way humour is very instinctive and that varies a lot between different people, you either find something funny or you don’t, it’s not an intellectual response, whether it is a groan or a belly laugh, it is an involuntary, authentic reaction. Perhaps we can learn something about ourselves by what we do (or don’t) find genuinely funny.

On Saturday 28th October a mass flash mob placard event will be held in the city followed by a procession to the exhibition location at the Wulfrun Shopping Centre.

Go and have your picture taken at the exhibition with your favourite joke and tag us with #JokeExchange @FunnyThingsBC

The Joke Exchange Exhibition
23 October – 5 November
Wulfrun Shopping Centre
Opening times: Monday–Saturday,
9am-5.30pm, Sunday 10.30am-4pm


The Joke Exchange is produced by Rob Hewitt of Redhawk Logistica.

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