off the telly

Catherine Tate sat next to me on the Victoria Line last night.

I didn’t realise it was her at first; I was just on my way to a gig, looking through my material, and I noticed that the person who had just sat next to me was also reading through a script-like document – except hers was called ‘CATHERINE TATE SHOW CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 2009’. I wondered how she had got hold of that, looked up at the face very briefly (as you do on the underground) and realised it was her.

For about three stops I sat there wondering if I should say hello. Then I didn’t. It was partly because I was too shy, and partly because even in a best-case scenario I would have had to admit sooner or later that I have only seen her show once or twice and it never actually made me laugh.

Either way she made me nervous, even though as a comic I probably had more in common with her than with about 99.9% of the other people on the underground.

So I put my own script away – in case she saw it – and read her script over her shoulder instead. (So if anyone who reads this knows her, please tell her the ‘Nan’ sketch in that script needs a LOT more swearing, Christmas Special or no Christmas Special.)

It’s a funny thing, contact with “famous” people. When I got to the gig (The Clinic in Hammersmith, which is a truly beautiful new material night) the other acts on the bill included Eric Lampaert, Rufus Hound and Henry Paker. Rufus and Eric have both done relatively prominent things on television (Eric has been in a commercial I think and Rufus is a panel show regular), but Henry was headlining. This seemed entirely proper to me because I don’t have a television license but I do think Henry is brilliant.

But I couldn’t help noticing that there was a different atmosphere around the night’s ‘TV personalities’; Eric and Rufus themselves, of course, were both lovely (and more importantly were both very, very funny); but when Eric came onstage someone shouted something like ‘he’s off the telly’, and during the interval some Australians who’d recognised him were came and talked to him. It was slightly odd because I don’t have a television licence and have never seen the advert that he’s in, so for me he’s just a really nice chap with some ace new material. Who members of the public seemed inexplicably keen to get their pictures taken with.

But I’ve seen Argumental (admittedly only once when I was at Loz’s house, but hey) and I couldn’t help but feel just a little TV-star-struck around Rufus. Every time I meet someone I’ve seen on television I always hate myself for feeling like that, and pretend that it’s not a thing. I told myself was because I’d like to book him for Scurvy Wednesdays but which, deep down, I know is probably just because talking to famous people is cool. Even Henry was keen to talk to Rufus and he was the fucking headline act.

All this is, of course, because of jealousy. I want people to want their pictures taken with me. I mean, I wouldn’t do an advert but I want the attention. The money would be nice, too.

And what I completely forgot is that Joel Dommett, who was compering (and who managed the night beautifully), is also on TV quite regularly but I never feel uncomfortable around him, partly because he’s just so charming but also because I’ve never actually seen him on there.

My welsh friends tell me that in Wales, the combination of S4C and the incredibly tiny population means that pretty much everybody you meet has been on television at some point. You’d have thought that doing stand-up, and the frequency with which it brings you into contact with TV folk, would be a bit like being Welsh: you’d be immunised against the weird psychological issues that come with meeting people off the TV and it wouldn’t be an issue. It’s cetainly true that we all pretend not to be star-struck and a lot of us like to namedrop and generally behave as if we’re best buddies with all the comedy celebs. Perhaps some of us genuinely have become immune to the weirdness.

I still haven’t.



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