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Wednesday 19th July 2006

So the TV four weeks between Monday and this coming Saturday progressed this morning, with my second stunt with the second of my two best men. So every day and a half is a week in terms of this production. So that's a week then.
It's the last time I will see him before the wedding in three weeks time (Saturday), so you'd think they would have me pouring over his script with him, offering ways to improve it. But no, instead I was in a taxi somewhere in Kingston taking him to a secret location where he was going to have to perform some jokes. Not some jokes from his speech, but some hastily cobbled together gags that everyone has heard before, like the one with the horse at the bar with the long face and the one with Holmes and Watson in the tent (not the brilliant lemon entry one - the best joke of all time- the other one). I knew who he was going to be doing these jokes to, but he didn't. I even blindfolded him - not for any kinky purpose, just to make sure he didn't see. I didn't get off on it and anyone who says I did is lying.
We were going to an old folks' home. Not a bad idea as a wedding speech must be performed to all generations, so it's good to show you can charm old ladies. But why not get him doing some of his speech, to ensure that it was suitable material? Any use in him doing old jokes to old people? Well maybe. I thought that the broken arm thing would be a waste of time.
The best man is a smart guy and he worked out that the audience would be either old or young, deducing that having to do these old chestnuts to normal grown ups would be a strange and unproductive thing to do. And when we arrived at the home there was a fire engine in the drive. "Maybe one of the old dears has caught on fire in the sun," quipped the director, rather giving away the locale to an already suspicious best man.
I like this fella a lot. As the producer came into the cab to give us some water before the stunt, the considerate young man said, "If we're where I suspect we are, do you think it's a good idea to do the joke about the doctor saying you only have 24 hours to live" ("I should have told you yesterday", as I am sure I don't need to tell you today), "Or might that be seen as rather bad taste?"
The production team decided it would be OK to do it and the best man gamely agreed to go ahead with it.
After some waiting for everything to be sorted and the fire engine to depart (false alarm I am guessing), we were on our way. I led our game victim up the stairs, into a room where maybe nine or ten very old people were excitedly waiting. I was actually quite shocked by how decrepit most of them were. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised - it was after all a home, but I had expected a room full of jolly elderly folk with ruddy cheeks, offering round Werther's Originals. But some of these people were looked skeletal and vacant and on the edge of death. It was a nightmare crowd, in that many of them would not look out of place haunting you in a nightmare. I don't know if the production team had had my preconceptions or whether they knew that this poor lad would be doing these rubbish jokes in these slightly horrific circumstances. But bless him, he went ahead with it all, even though he was visibly shocked when the blindfold came off (and remember he had worked out where he was and he was still surprised by the physical state of the people in front of him).
Many might have crumbled, but he remained his charming self and did his best. The Holmes and Watson joke got a laugh from one of the more compos mentis audience members, but the feedline to the "only 24 hours to live" gag got an audible "oooh" from someone who had possibly genuinely had this news themselves this morning.
The whole thing was quite funny in a hollow and dark way, but I had a huge amount of sympathy and respect for this man who battled through this cringeworthy four or five minutes and maintained his dignity and calm.
Did it help him become a better best man? Is it possible to be better than the best anyway?
I can't really see that it did, but we had filled some unforgiving minutes of the show(which in terms of this production are actually days long - we are living the time frame of dogs here).
I had to make a hasty exit as I had a long drive to Liverpool for an early evening show. It went really well so thanks for coming along if you made it. Even if it was somewhat surreal to drive for four hours, do a show and then drive for another three or four hours home. It's full on at the moment and I am trying to get so much done, but I work better under pressure. And it's interesting how much the show is coming together through performance without me really having to sit down and write and shape it. That will come, but the Channel 4 script has to be the priority. When I am not pretending to help best men in an artificial time frame.

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