I don’t know what I was thinking. The TV show This Week looks like a horrible gig at the best of times, but why had I agreed to do it the day after my birthday and the day before my move, when the fucking thing didn’t even start until 11.45. Because I am a dick, that’s why. Maybe I am hoping to push myself until I break so that I can have a rest.
I’d woken up at 4.30am with mild night terrors as the effect of all those different boozes hit me and couldn’t get back to sleep until about 7. But the removal men were coming to start packing at 8, so it was a mini-snooze. And a day full of running up and down the stairs, trying to work out which things we had to take with us and which things could go to the new house. I stayed calm, but it was pretty stressful.
I had a gig to go to in London Bridge, so struggled across town in the rush hour again, but it was worth it because it was maybe the best one yet. And I was finished by 9pm. In a sensible universe I would have gone home and gone to bed and got ready to say goodbye to the Bush. But instead I waited in the pub for an hour for my taxi to arrive. I discovered that Nigel Farage was going to be a guest on the show (and for a good while, assumed he was going to be one of the main two guests who sit in throughout. I was going to be talking about awkward interviews, because, as I’d understood it, of my experience on RHLSTP and the fact that I’d created Emergency Questions to try and get out of and not awkward situations. I thought it might be interesting to ask Farage some awkward questions, like “What was the meeting with Julian Assange all about?” But was I prepared for the Twitter storm from kippers if did such a thing? And would I have the bottle?
I got to the studio a good hour and a half early, so there was a lot of sitting around and waiting. I had been on a high after the gig, but quickly hit a slump. I was hungry and tired (were you there, were you there?) and nervous about having to share the tiny green room with Farage in the Garage. Would I have to make small talk? Would I shake his hand? I felt very uncomfortable about the whole thing. I had discovered that Farage was doing his own section so I wouldn’t have to interact with the human frog man on screen, but I didn’t really want to have to spend any time with a man who is the saviour or destroyer of the country, depending on if you listen to insane racists or normal people (but which is which?).
Ed Balls arrived at about the same time as I did and was pleasant enough, but had to rush off to get into an astronaut costume to film one of This Week’s trademark awkward sketches. He has embraced his showbiz success and that’s fair enough, but it was still weird to see a man who might have been Prime Minister walking around in a space man outfit. I was glad I wasn’t in the sketch. Everyone looks wooden and embarrassed and rightly so. But suddenly I was told that I was in the sketch. No one had mentioned this to me and they had sort of press-ganged me at the last minute and given me little choice. They asked if I would put on the costume and I said I wouldn’t. Ed tried to persuade me that it was better to jump in with both feet, but I disagreed. It was a world upside down where the comedian didn’t want to make a fool of himself, but the (former) politician did. I did my line with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. I guess it was funny that I was trapped into something like this, especially given I was supposedly communicating with Farage.
He had arrived by the time I was done with my pre-filming, but I managed to get away without sharing his hand. Bizarrely I had met Michael Portillo earlier and felt no compunction to avoid his hand-shake, which shows how far to the right politics has gone, that I didn’t feel the same sickness at pressing flesh with him. He seemed fairly charming and friendly to be fair.
I didn’t talk to Farage and tried to avoid his gaze, though he wasn’t interested in me. I looked at his face for a few seconds when he was talking. He’s more handsome in real life and looks like less of a frog, but it is impossible to disassociate him from his political choices and their consequences for us all. We all had a photo taken together. I knew I shouldn’t be here.
But Balls and Portillo and Neill were all friendly enough and I was assuming my section would be light-hearted. I’d talk about my own awkwardness (as discussed with the researcher), maybe riff a bit on the weird gaffs of Trump and May and then chuck out a couple of questions from the book. I felt happy that my weird little self-published compendium would be getting a plug on TV, even if it was late at night.
The opening sketch was eggy as expected, but the show itself fizzed along OK. Farage seemed to get an easy ride, not only getting to give a two minute opinion piece in which the BBC allowed him to make ominous but mainly unspoken threats if his own personal vision of Brexit didn’t come to fruition, but also a cosy chat with the others where no one pressed him too much and Balls was shouted down a bit when he tried.
I popped to the loo towards the end of their bit and ended up walking behind Nigel as he returned from the studio. We were alone, it was dark. I could at least have called him a prick. But live and let live.
No one had talked to me about my part of the show and I felt confident I could talk about awkwardness fairly easily. I felt very awkward being here. But also too tired and detached from events. I’d been awake for 21 hours by the time I sat on the sofa.
And things were made even more surreal because the team had given us all musical instruments to play at the end. I was rushed into my seat, unable to really watch the opening video explaining why I was here, but it did seem to be saying that it was my belief that we were living in an age of unprecedented political awkwardness. I had never said this. I had agree with the researcher that I could talk about awkwardness based on my emergency questions.
Neill turned to me and said “So, are we living in an age of unprecedented political awkwardness?” It was not a question that I had really considered and not something I’d ever said, but as the programme had just made it look like I had said it, it would have been weird and unhelpful to say, “I don’t know. I have only lived in one age so have nothing to compare it to.” Instead I had a go at making up an answer as if I agreed with the proposition. Which I did to a mild extent. I have been very unimpressed with our Prime Minister over the last two months.
But no sleep, a late night and a hangover, plus a post gig dip were no match for this tricky and unexpected question. I rambled on, inadvertently attempting to criticise Farage (due of course to my discomfort at having shared a room with him). Andrew Neill said that Farage was not here to defend himself and had I been on any kind of witty form I might have said, “Just my luck to be on the BBC for the five minutes he isn’t on.”
I was struggling a bit and perhaps a little rudely talked about how politics was showbiz mentioning the guests having been dressed as astronauts and Strictly Come Dancing. Portillo clearly took umbrage at me, possibly because I wasn’t being very eloquent, but also I am sure, at least a little bit because I had insulted him. He told me how fed up he was of people going for politicians who were an easy target. But given that is why the programme had booked me and where the questioning had led me it was a bit of a low blow. Also, you know, diddums, do politicians have a hard time. But I hadn’t been having a go at all politicians and said that I thought most of them did a good job, but the ones we had come to talk about weren’t doing as well. Portillo went in hard saying I was back pedalling and correctly pointing out some of the inconsistencies in my argument. Though again, I had thought I was on here to be comic relief and that we wouldn’t be taking my comments too seriously and that if anyone was going to be held up to journalistic vigour, it would be Farage. But his ride had been easy.
I wasn’t doing very well though, even if Portillo’s fury led me to more clearly explain my problem with Theresa May. It was partly tiredness and partly the goal posts having moved. But I was rambling and also rather surprised about the intensity of the attack that I was on the receiving end of. It didn’t feel good. I am not making excuses. I was weak. And I should never have gone on this show at all, let alone at such a difficult time.
But I didn’t really need to be able to argue very well, as the piece ended with the credits and all the guests playing musical instruments for an interminable length of time. Showing I was right about politics and show business having made embarrassing bedfellows. But I was guilty of show business and politics making uneasy bedfellows too.
I felt a bit ambushed, but I also felt embarrassed. But mostly I was annoyed that I’d missed out on about three or four hours of sleep in order to make a bit of a dick of myself.
I got lots of nasty tweets telling me how unfunny I was and how ironic it was that I had been so awkward in an interview about awkwardness (but it wasn’t actually ironic as that was the original reason I had been booked), mainly it has to be said from people who proclaimed their UKIP and Beleaver credentials in their twitter description (or even user name). Tellingly though I got next to no tweets from non-beleavers telling me I’d done well. Because I hadn’t.
You can’t win them all. More annoying, the creeping mortification meant I didn’t get to sleep for ages. And it’s all my own fault. I should have turned this down without a second’s thought. Luckily I won’t be asked back again. At least I have ensured that much.
Being 50 sucks!