Going through the pockets of your warm clothes for the first time this year is a voyage of discovery

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Indy Lifestyle Online
So the cold weather has arrived at last and it's time to dig out those winter clothes and put your summer duds back in the walk-in wardrobe. It's a ritual I rather like, putting on your winter gear that maybe hasn't been worn for nine months or so.

What gives me a kick is that going through the pockets of your warm clothes for the first time this year is a voyage of discovery - all kinds of things that you'd completely forgotten about and thought lost are turned up: in my big overcoat alone I found a spare pair of glasses, two half-smoked Cuban cigars, a ticket to Maxwell - the Musical and the missing racehorse Shergar.

The cold weather, of course, also heralds the coming of Xmas (when our lord Mr X was crucified), as does the flurry of even-crappier-than-usual records in the charts. At the moment, the chart-topping single is sung by those two actors out of the ITV series Soldier, Soldier, Robson and Jerome. They are singing the old Bachelors' hit "I Believe (that the public are tone-deaf)". It must drive serious musicians absolutely bonkers to see a record do so well purely on the basis of TV ratings rather than any musical content, but I can let you in on the secret - it is no accident but the outcome of a carefully laid plan.

The success of Robson and Jerome is the result of a long-term scheme called "Operation Dune" laid down at an Actors' Equity meeting in the mid-Eighties. At that point, more and more films were being made featuring pop stars in the lead roles - David Bowie in Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, Sting in Plenty and The Bride, Phil Collins in Buster and Tina Turner in Mad Max 3. It was felt that the acting profession needed to respond in some way to this phenomenon, to warn the musos off our turf. As it happened, all the films featuring pop stars were so awful that the trend died out, but by then Operation Dune was rolling and was impossible to stop. A levy was placed on all fees earned by every member of the acting profession, every advertising voice-over, every RSC walk-on, every wacky neighbour in a sitcom - they all contributed to the fund. Then, when the bank account was bursting, record-pluggers were hired, PR consultants were consulted, club DJs were bribed and two anodyne thespians in a hit series became the toppermost of the poppermost.

It has, of course, got totally out of control. We performers have created a monster that is supposed to protect mankind, rather like the computer in Terminator, but instead takes on a life of its own and turns on its creators. Or like those committees set up to administer disaster funds who then refuse to hand out any of the funds to the victims because to do so would diminish their power. In a similar way, the controllers of Operation Dune, now that they have huge funds at their disposal, are refusing to disband even though the threat that called them into being has gone. Indeed, far from disbanding, they continue to spread their sinister web wider and wider.

Perhaps the most obvious example of the malign influence of "The Controllers" is the ubiquity of comedians. Bemused commentator after commentator has remarked on the fact that every documentary, every travel show, every TV quiz show is presented by a comedian; every book available at Christmas is written by a comedian and most newspaper columns are written by comedians - this paper, for example, has three working for it. This obviously cannot possibly be because anybody is interested in reading what we've got to say or what we've been up to during our "week" - no, again it is the work of "The Controllers".

I have to say in our defence that writers and journalists have only themselves to blame. Comedians were only responding to a threat to their livelihoods when the wordsmiths all started doing stand-up comedy routines. In 1991, the Booker prize-winner AS Byatt could often be found down the Jongleurs comedy club doing a 10-minute spot on her student days and the Times columnist Sir William Rees-Mogg in the preceding year had been on tour opening for Wet Wet Wet with 20 minutes of hilarious observations on stuff like what happens when your pedal-bin is full. Well, us comedians showed them. Politicians had better not start doing stand-up, or Jack Dee could be President of Europe by the millennium.

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