Saturday, April 19, 2008
I went to it last year, wrongly assuming it was for up and coming writers and would be set in a scout hut with cheesy pineapple on a stick as a dozen writers milled awkwardly. It was, in fact, the total opposite of all of my assumptions, being in a hall the size of an airplane hanger, containing hundreds of celebs of all ranks, with stuffed quail. On a stick.
It was, in short, like stepping inside my own television. If my telly could only get channels beginning with “BBC”.
I am not famous. Not even nearly. But I have done stand up comedy for years, which is a kind of fame inoculation. Standing before hundreds of strangers, night after night, who clap cheer and laugh at your words, then sitting in a cramped crowded dressing room kind of takes the sheen off showbiz, of any kind. You've crossed behind the curtain and you can never fully go back.
So upon seeing David Tennant, chatting with a group of friends, my immediate thoughts were “Oh, there's David Tennant. That's cool. Nothing particular to say to him, other than 'Good job', which isn't really worth interrupting a conversation for. I'll move on.” And so on, around the room, with dozens of vaguely familiar faces.
I saw Charlie Brooker, acidic Guardian columnist, and considered saying “Hello, I've been a fan since you wrote for PC Zone.” but decided against it, as that would probably be the end of the conversation.
I did a few loops of the room, grinning at the bizarre nature of it all, then went home.
This year, I was determined to make sure there would be people there I knew. I asked around my small group of stand ups I still have links with, and lo, there were three who had also been invited. This year, I could have a posse.
I'm not going to name them, partly because they're my mates, and partly because I'm going to be doing enough name dropping in this piece as it is, and want to keep a little bit in the indulgence bank.
Rolf Harris was there. (Let's get the big guns out of the way first). And a lot of news readers, and a lot of makeover show presenters, and that shouty American bloke from The Boosh (Rich Fulcher) and Kenneth Cranham and Graham Norton and the bloke from behind the bar who serves Maggot Bhunas in the Old Gregg episode of Boosh, and that bloke, wasn't he in an ad for beer? And that news reader that I used to vaguely fancy.
At a certain point in the evening, I was at the perfect level of drunken playfulness to take advantage of serendipitous event. I spotted Tom Bell, stand up comic, on one side of the bar. On the other side was Rasmus Hardiker, who plays the vacant boyfriend of Jack Dee's daughter in Lead Balloon. Check out the linked pictures. I think you'll agree, especially if you're drunk, that they look very similar, close enough to be brothers. Obviously I would have to introduce them, despite the minor barrier that I knew neither of them.
And I did. And it worked like a charm. And it was a good laugh. And they both agreed that they looked similar and I left them chatting happily away. And I met Antonia Campbell Hughes, who plays Jack Dee's vacant daughter, and who was very nice.
Standing near Tom Bell was Isy Suttie, who reminded me that I had seen her perform years ago at try out stage in Nottingham – I had complemented her and recommended a couple of comedy writing books - which she had bought and appreciated. I was left with a warm glow about something I don't even remember doing, very much like wetting the bed.
I met Tim Minchin, who has a great brain under great hair. And I introduced myself to Morwenna Banks, opening with my anger that all the men talked over her on her recent appearance on the Jonathan Ross radio show, and ending with fanboy gushing about her part in Absolutely.
All in all, it was a great evening and as I staggered out into the night, I reflected on the fact that I hadn't spoken to Charlie Brooker again, but there was always next year. As I was pondering this, I noticed there was a man falling into step beside me as I left.
It was Charlie Brooker, who provided me with the perfect cherry on the cake for the evening.
I stuck out my hand: “Charlie Brooker! I've been following your writing since PC Zone.”
“God.” he said. “There must be something wrong with you.”