How to survive award ceremonies

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The Independent Culture
Awards are a bit like strangulated hernias; sooner or later, everybody's bound to get one. Alas, a strangulated hernia is by far the more tasteful object to put on your sideboard. Still, awards can only be eschewed by those with a walk-in wardrobe full of them; the rest of us have to gnash our teeth and pray we can make it to the end of the dinner without blubbing too obviously.

So let's get down to the nitty-gritty. Three basic rules to remember about these things (in reverse order, of course): Joanna Lumley will win; Patsy Kensit will always be presenting an award; Michael Barrymore (right, with Spike Milligan) will win, and everyone will feel strangely pleased, even though nobody at the ceremony will have ever watched any of his programmes.

It is, of course, de rigueur to applaud Salman Rushdie and to hiss at David Mellor (or Marmaduke Hussey, if David Mellor isn't available).

One of the great unasked questions is: "Are you told in advance if you've won?" I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to reveal the answer. Suffice it to say that if you ring up the awards organisation two days before to ask what time you should be there, and the nice researcher can't find your name on the list, then whispers something out of earshot to a colleague, and then comes back on the line to say, "Oh, er, yes, not to worry, any time really, in fact, to be honest, I wouldn't cancel anything else you may have on that evening"... then you know where you stand. Right at the back, probably. In fact, table placing is a good indicator of your chances. If your table is in the kitchen by the bins, you've lost, buddy.

Now, suppose something weird happens; the entire judging panel has a collective hallucination, or Jupiter lands on the cusp of Dunfermline, and you win. I won't trouble you with the obvious, like basic sphincter control, but have a gander at these...

Be proud. Be it an Oscar, or merely the Azerbaijani Radiophonic Cat- Fondlers Society Award for Best Use of the Word "Twig" in a Shipping Forecast (Bronze), by God you've won it, and nobody's going to take it away from you. And having won it, you can never be stripped of it. In fact, you're lucky to work in an industry where accepting money for favours and having traces of drugs in your urine is actually obligatory.

Enjoy your colleagues' discomfiture. It was, I believe, Woody Allen, who once said that it's not enough for you to succeed, your friends have to fail. If the stages the mind goes through on hearing you've got an incurable disease are shock, denial, grief, anger and acceptance, then the equivalent stages on hearing you've won something are glee, malice, delirium, more malice and malice. My four-year-old son was allowed to stay up late to watch one ceremony, and the next day announced proudly that he'd seen me getting "my prize". Prize, not award. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, because, let's face it, if we were really honest, all acceptance speeches would be "Me! Yes, me! Specs Tyler of Class 4B! Yes, Captain Speccy Spaz the Verruca Kid has won an award".

Don't, in your euphoria, leave the award behind on the plinth. I did this once, and it started a tailback, resulting in the last award-winner (Best Czech Cartoon Where Anglepoise Lamps Come to Life) picking up 17 awards and a set of false teeth, abandoned in the excitement.

Don't try and make a funny speech. No producer has ever got a laugh in a speech. Remember, they've come to see Robbie Coltrane, not you.

Well, I must go. I hear I've just been nominated for "Best Finishing of a Newspaper Article with the word "Kajagoogoo".


David Tyler won a Bafta earlier this year for 'Three Fights, Two Weddings and a Funeral' and is co-producer of 'Coogan's Run'. 'The British Comedy Awards' will be broadcast on ITV this Sat 9pm