It’s a perfect interview, with lots of amusing stories, but also wisdom, sadness and poignancy, as Bob talks about the death of his father and his own brush with heart surgery. He is definitely top 3 and possibly top 1 of my RHLSTP guests, but this was a much better interview than I got out of him. What was surprising was how he was very lonely at University - though seemed to cope with it. He didn’t feel he fitted in with the other law students and withdrew to his room. You’d think someone as gregarious and hilarious as him would never be short of company, but maybe we all go through this.
I certainly spent a lot of weekends in my 20s sat in my flat alone, playing Civilisation, too stunned by shyness and embarrassment to ring my friends and see what they were up to, constantly worried about imposing my company on people who might not wish to have it. I still don’t know if that assessment was right or not. I suspected so at the time, as they never called me, but then again, maybe they were overwhelmed with mortified shame too. Or maybe everyone was going out and having a fine time and it was only me.
I wish I could have overcome this at the time (though it still haunts me a little even in my fifties) and I wish I had taken more chances to make friends and lovers. The fear of rejection meant that I didn’t even try many times, which is strange because rejection isn’t as bad as loneliness and you’re in the same position if you ask and fail as if you don’t ask….
I was working too hard (but maybe that was a way to fight against the blankness of loneliness too) and though Stew and I had been friendly, it was too much to socialise together (I envy people like Bob and Dawn French the fact that their double act partner was their best friend - our relationship became strained and there was unpleasantness and resentments on both sides. It made for good comedy in the short term, but we were never going to have a lifelong career or friendship together) and his friends were the stand up comedians who I viewed with hurt and suspicion because of what happened to me in Edinburgh. He, in turn, I think, thought I would embarrass him in front of his cool friends. And he was right. I would have. Cool people are fucking idiots.
This DID and the Jon Ronson podcasts have made me look back at my childhood and youth to wonder why things went a little awry. I was happy for much of the time and the truth is that I had plenty of friends and some girlfriends and got to hang around on the periphery of celebrity. But I couldn’t take any of it seriously and felt the need to cock a snoop at pretension and phoniness. And I was also a bit of a dick.
I have had a ludicrously blessed and fortunate life, but I do wonder where my refusal to grow up really came from. I tried to tackle it a little bit in How Not To Grow Up, but maybe was scared to reach too far inside myself to work out where it all came from. In yet to be released podcasts I discuss my fear of drinking tea and coffee - viewing that as somehow selling out to adulthood, even in my late teens. What was pushing me to retard my progress in this way? Maybe I just liked being a kid. I don’t think there was any massive trauma (though that Edinburgh Fringe where I was bullied by the stand ups has undoubtedly had a massive affect on my personality and confidence and again was a source of friction with Stew, who joined the ranks of those that had hurt me), but maybe I’ve pushed it down and forgotten it.
In a lot of ways the past doesn’t matter, even it its echoes still haunt you and Bob is someone who shows how we should deal with it all. He was certainly in the right place at the right time and had a degree of good fortune to set him on the path of his life, but he definitely has the talent and the drive too. He was once upset that Reeves and Mortimer weren’t the huge stars that some of his contemporaries were (though I would have said they were), but feels fortunate now.
Ah just listen to it, it’s beautiful. And take your dog for a walk through the countryside so you can contemplate your own life. I too feel incredibly lucky with the way things have gone for me. Starting the day with a long contemplative walk up a hill, even in a light drizzle, is a beautiful thing. Without all the bad bits I went through, I wouldn’t be here and ultimately contentment is the prize we should all be searching for. Everything else is just cobwebs in the morning sunshine.
Obviously stone clearing works for that too.
Hopefully I will be getting Bob back on my podcast fairly soon too. I hope so. But we all should all bathe in the warmth and the wisdom of his words. Also he’s the Cockroach King and you can’t beat that