Money: A soft touch on the fringe

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The Independent Online
"MY trouble is, I've been a mug for letting myself get talked into putting money into very dodgy fringe plays, usually when I've had drunken actors blagging me into it late at night.

They give you all these figures and say, 'If it sells so many tickets, if it does this, if it does that, you'll make a lot of money.'

They're always skint and they badger you so much and prey on the fact that you're supposed to be in favour of the arts.

They just keep on turning the screw until, eventually, you let slip that you could probably afford to put a grand into it.

Then they put it on in some half-assed theatre and it snows, and no one turns up. It gets one bad review in the Big Issue and that's the last you ever see of your money.

I've done that three or four times now and, although I'm not quite such a soft touch as I have been in the past, I wouldn't completely rule out doing it again - I'm certainly not immune to it. Let's just hope they don't read The Independent, or at least not the Money pages.

The last time I did it, I knew I was just giving them money, basically. I haven't been really skint since I was in my late twenties, and I'm 42 now.

Even before An Evening With Gary Lineker came out in 1991, I'd done a fair bit of telly and some fairly lucrative stand-up stuff.

But I was on the breadline at one point. I've still got a fair few friends who are on the breadline and you can't really blame them for wanting to get their hands on some of my bread. Occasionally, I get letters from drama students too, saying 'I'm a drama student, give me some money'.

At moments of weakness, I've also been known to commission starving artists to do paintings for me. Then they turn up ages later with their masterpieces, looking for the money. I've got a whole roomful of the most ridiculous paintings.

Doing benefit gigs for charity is another thing I have a known weakness for. It often turns out at the end of it that the money finishes up going to someone who wants to buy a Land Rover and drive round Africa on holiday for a month. The benefit doesn't seem to amount to much more than that, you suddenly notice.

The thing is, I have absolutely no interest in money at all. I've got an accountant and I've had a succession of financial advisers of various types. I went to see one of them in his office once and he had pictures of cowboys all over the walls.

I laughed and laughed and he didn't know what I was laughing at - apparently, this bloke really was genuinely interested in cowboys.

Because I'm a bit vague with money myself, I tend to just find someone I can trust and put it all in their hands. I do trust my accountant. I started with him through personal recommendation and anyone he suggests, I trust as well. In fact, he recommended the financial bloke I've got now.

What happened was, I got churned by one of my old financial advisers. Obviously, I didn't notice it, but my accountant picked up on it and now I've got a new financial adviser.

It's like Sting's accountant setting up all those bank accounts that Sting knew nothing about.

I don't want to put ideas in his head, but my financial planner could do that with me quite easily if he wanted to - he might have done it already, for all I know.

I don't suppose many people are as lackadaisical about money in all its forms as I am but I really haven't got the interest or the inclination. I've got an endowment mortgage and whenever they try to talk to me about it, after about 30 seconds my eyes glaze over and I'm thinking about something else.

I've got a certain amount of money in - I think it's PEPs or unit trusts, somewhere like that.

I may not remember exactly where it all is but if I rang this bloke, I'm sure he could tell me all about it.

In the end, providing I'm not skint, that's all I'm really concerned about. Providing I've got enough for the next few weeks worth of beer, books and fags, I'm just not that interested in money - it's more boring to me even than cars.

Just you wait, now I'll get 20 people banging on my door saying, 'Oh, I've got this brilliant idea for you...'."

Arthur Smith was talking to Paul Slade.

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