Getting in the zone for my grilling by David Mitchell
Posted on 27 January 2011 | 10:01am
After Question Time a week ago, Loose Ends at the weekend, and a few random Newsnights, Skys and LBCs in between, tonight it’s the Big One.
I know I have been a bit media-active in recent days, but mainly that has been news-driven, rather than book-driven, with TB back at the Iraq Inquiry, and the phone-hacking story unravelling as I warned it would many months ago in interviews from a Lancashire hilltop on the day Burnley chairman Barry Kilby got married to Sonia.
I remember it well, not least for the amazing view, the lovely wedding party in a nice country hotel, and also for the rather menacing messages from News International after I had said my piece, and suggested the cops, the newspaper group and David Cameron get to the bottom of this before it engulfed them.
In truth I had agreed to very few interviews to promote the book, but one was for the new Channel 4 show, 10 O’clock Live, in which I am to be ‘grilled’ by David Mitchell. Horror of horrors, apparently it really is live too. Why can’t they fake it like everyone else does?
It has had a big build-up, with posters all over town, lots of trailing, and plenty of comparisons with Jon Stewart’s Daily Show (I felt similar anxiety when I did that one, three years ago, but in the end I think it went fine – nice guy, razor sharp, Mitchell has a lot to live up to.)
The reviews for 10 O’clock Live were very mixed, and some were downright bad, but as ever I thought it best to rely on my own judgement rather than that of self-important couch potatoes and watched the first one on Play It Again Sam TV yesterday.
I know that the cynics among you will say this is just me trying to butter them up and get in their good books, so that instead of grilling me, David Mitchell asks me about how much our dog loves me, (a lot) what did I get Fiona for her birthday, (a lot) how much have I done for charity this week, (a bit) and maybe a Crimewatch-style Appeal to get my stolen bikes back … but I LIKED IT.
Of course I couldn’t watch it go out live, because I was travelling back from Burnley where Question Time was recorded (industry secret … it is recorded an hour or two before it goes out which is why David Dimbleby wouldn’t let me tweet live!) Indeed, to show I am not totally creeping to Mitch and Co, I thought you might like to see this story – for those who can’t be bothered to click on it, it basically says Question Time trounced 10 O’Clock Live in the ratings. I guess that’s why they want me on, he added modestly.
As to why I liked it, well it WAS live and it FELT live. Some of Jimmy Carr’s news clips were top drawer, Charlie Brooker’s take on Sarah Palin was predictable but superb, and I enjoyed the spoof/real discussion slot on bankers’ bonuses. I also thought that as a quartet, (the fourth is Lauren Laverne), they sort of gelled, which is about the best you can do first time out. I mean some of the early Beatles clips are as much Tranmere as Liverpool (or should that be the other way round these days?)
As for the Mitchell interview slot it was with with David Willetts – and fair play to him doing the first one. Willetts is not a bad bloke, because he is one of the few Tories who admits that school selection at 11 is a bad bad thing and bad bad bad for social mobility (which is why he lost the education portfolio to Michael ‘I was crap at sport so let’s ban school sport and I was jolly good at reciting Kings and Queens so let’s put that in the curriculum ahead of anything that might help kids in the real world’ Gove.)
Willetts decided to play Ernie Wise to Mitchell’s Eric Morecambe (I know the programme is aimed at youth but I have to set my own comedy bearings here). It sort of worked. Mitchell had a couple too many claplines dressed up as questions, but I liked the way Willetts just absorbed the applause against him, then went back to his serious point. I might do that. Then again I might go into Tucker mode and batter him … oops, sorry, temporary lapse, normal service will now be resumed … Gosh he is clever isn’t he? … Anyway, any advice from anyone under 35 is welcome.
I’ve been asked a lot this week how, given I have a bit of a temper (albeit mellowing with age – 53 is the new 53), I managed not to lose it with George Galloway when he was spraying around a few accusations, not least comparisons with Goebbels on afore-mentioned Question Time.
As luck would have it, the night before I was at a Labour fundraiser and among others Sir Ian McKellen, Richard Wilson and David Tennent were there. We chatted about acting techniques to appear calm when (stage fright was discussed) you are not that calm. The best tip was to imagine that if someone was having a go at you, the words were not coming from that person – in this case not-so-gorgeous George – but from a little old lady with white hair having an argument with you at a bus stop.
It worked. I am now off to google images of David Mitchell, or Basil Brush as he may be by the time I have decided my tactics for the evening.
Meanwhile my anxiety levels have gone up, as two of my children have asked if they can come to the show. That usually means either that we are meeting celebs that I have never heard of (Miley Cyrus was the last example of this) .. or that they intend to have a good laugh at my expense and remind me of it for several years to come.
Either way, today is a day for rest, recuperation, and getting inside Mitchell’s head. Cue theme from Rocky … jab, jab, cross, jab, uppercut, hook, cross, jab, cross, jab … time for a rubdown … see you later. Don’t put my kids where I can see them laughing at Mitchell’s jokes …