I work for Rory Bremner
Liz Pape is PA to the comedian
Wednesday 07 January 1998
I met Rory at Teddington studios where I was working looking after artists and clients. We didn't talk much but I couldn't help noticing that Rory was bringing his bags of laundry into the studio to use the washing machines. I offered to help him, and from then on we had an unspoken agreement that I would regularly do his laundry.
It struck me that he would be a lovely man to work for, so when a mutual friend said that Rory needed a PA I sent him my CV. A month and a half later I hadn't heard anything back so I presumed that it was a no-goer. Then I bumped into him at a party and we chatted about the job. He asked me if I could use a computer, I said yes, he asked me if I was any good at gardening, and I said that I was hopeless at it, to which he replied, "Call me Monday after I've spoken with my accountant." Several calls later he offered me a job on a part-time basis.
My first impression was of a complex and private character but who was also affectionate and caring. Rory broke me into the job gently, which was important because it meant we could earn each other's trust. It must be the hardest thing to let a stranger into the centre of your life. It was strange for me, too; I felt intrusive when I went to work in his flat. But I began acclimatising myself by trying to gauge his likes and dislikes.
I'm a very private person and initially I battled for control over what Rory knew about me, but I had to give up because he's just too good at reading me. He is a perceptive man. He constantly watches and studies people around him and he can pick up a conversation at the other end of a room.
He also has a very quick mind, and throws himself into work, whether he is writing or performing. Trying to get him to plan in advance is difficult, particularly since he has a clever knack of distracting me from getting an answer from him. At six foot two Rory is tall, whereas I am only five foot, which leaves me toddling behind him trying to keep up. He does everything at top speed and is hard to pin down, which means it would be easy to make decisions for him in his absence. But I believe it's important to let people have control of their own lives, and I take a back seat if I can.
A girl in Rory's office calls me Rory's shadow, which is very true because I always like him to know that I am there. Part of my mind is always reserved for Rory and can't switch off, much to the irritation of my friends, who do impressions of me having six conversations at once.
I try to fight becoming indispensable because it wouldn't be good for either of us. Nevertheless, a PA is there to create a safety zone for her boss, particularly if he has become a television icon. I try not to show it, but I do worry about Rory. He overworks constantly and gets very tired. If I think he is overdoing it I will say to him, "Rory, slow down!" He once asked me, "Liz, when you were little, did you use to say `When I grow up I want to want to be nice to people'?"
He has a wonderful sense of humour, which is actually quite different from his professional act. When he's relating a story he tends to do impressions of the people involved. He hasn't taken me off, to my knowledge, but he does mimic some of my phrases, like "bits and bobs" and "tickety boo". He often makes me laugh to the point of hysterics, both as a result of what he says and how he behaves. He is absent-minded and loses his props regularly, I tell him he is lucky to have his own teeth because of the number of times he's lost the false ones he uses for his characters.
It takes between an hour and a half to three hours for make-up to get him into character. He has been known to go to sleep in his chair, waking up as someone else. I was recently looking for Rory at the studio when an unfamiliar man beamed at me in the corridor. I walked past him, but was called to a halt when I heard the man say "It's me, you twit." It was Rory, fresh from being made up as Blair.
Before a show I like to visit him and then join the audience. I still get quite nervous for him. He's a perfectionist - when he wasn't happy with his Blair I'm sure he went off and practised for hours. After the election, he said to me, "Well, that's half my act gone." Although his friends include politicians across the political spectrum, I still don't know what his own politics are.
It is difficult for me to juggle my two jobs. I always make sure that I do my full 40 hours for Teddington, but it can mean working until two in the morning. When I am with Rory I am based at one of three different offices, working on anything and everything. I organise his travel, sort out his office stuff, make sure that he is in the right place at the right time, listen to his scripts and answer requests. Rory often does things at the last minute, which can be a bit of a pain. Mind you, last year I got to drive his car out to Italy after he had decided he needed it with him. I had never driven in a convertible before, and I insisted on keeping the roof down throughout the journey, although I froze.
Such commitment does curb your life to a certain extent, but I have what I call "active laziness" - I can't sit still and address my inner self, and a window in my diary can become a chasm. Perhaps active laziness is a trait that lends itself to a job that requires so much loyalty. But I think the world of Rory, and regardless of whether or not I am working for him I will always be there as a friend.
Interview by Katie Sampson
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