Alex Zane: My Life in Media

'I've been punched and knocked to the ground by a crazy Russian; I've seen a man bury himself alive; and - weirder than weird - I've interviewed Tom Cruise'
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The Independent Online

Alex Zane, 26, is the presenter of Popworld, Channel 4's whimsical Saturday morning music show. After several false career starts, he began concentrating on his stand-up and was spotted by MTV at the Edinburgh Festival, which led to his presenting work on film and entertainment shows. Zane and his co-presenter, Alexa Chung, took over from Popworld's fierce and irreverent duo Simon Amstell and Miquita Oliver last month.

So what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I grew up enthralled by The Word and TFI Friday. I loved the raucous atmosphere. I'm sure subconsciously I decidedI wanted to present a show like that.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

The Independent and The Guardian. I only read the television and movie reviews. You seldom find an honest and critical opinion on TV and I got great feedback for ScreenPlay from people who realised it actually had an opinion.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

Almost exclusively sitcoms at 15: Blackadder, Bottom, The Young Ones, Fawlty Towers, Friends, Seinfeld. About the only show I liked outside comedy was The Crystal Maze (the Richard O'Brien era).I've become a regular radio listener only in the past year.

Describe your job

At the most basic level it is about linking together games, stunts, clips, concepts or sketches and interviewing people. What it really entails, though, is having a conversation that involves someone saying: "So, the guy's going to lie on the bed of nails, then the 4x4 will drive over him with you inside." Or: "So, the three contestants think they're in orbit and our guest is an actor playing a former KGB secret agent." In our last Popworld meeting someone said: "As you're getting undressed in front of the band you're interviewing, do keep a straight face".

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

If I'm not working early, BBC News 24 and the Internet. If I am, it'll be whatever paper the cab driver hason my way in. Sometimes I'll ask him to stop so I can buy one; this happens rarely, though. I keep meaning to investigate getting a paper delivered...

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I'm always reading news websites, movie websites. If I'm in I watch the evening news on Channel 4.

What is the best thing about your job?

The variety. I've been a zombie in Dawn of the Dead; I've been screamed at by a man on a fake game show, who couldn't understand why I kept telling him his (correct) answers were wrong; I've been punched and knocked to the ground by a crazy Russian; I've watched a man bury himself alive; and - weirder than weird - I've interviewed Tom Cruise.

And the worst?

That I'm sure all this comes from some deep-seated insecurity and need to please people.

How do you feel you influence the media?

I'm not sure I do.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

I take pride in a lot of things I do. Obviously there are things I'm not proud of, and have asked that they never be mentioned to me again.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

The Independent on Sunday and The Observer. I buy most movie and music magazines - Empire, Total Film, Q and NME. I also buy the Fortean Times as I can't seem to shake my childlike interest in the supernatural.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

Attempting to use a urinal while Johnny Vaughan was washing his hands and chatting to me about the show we were presenting. Upon finishing washing his hands, I realised I wasn't going to be able to go - I had a kind of stage fright. So I pretended to use it, washed my hands, finished talking, did a circuit and ran back in. This time it was a success.

At home, what do you tune in to?

A lot of American sitcoms at the moment, like My Name is Earl and Scrubs. I watchChannel 4 News.Planet Earth was fantastic.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

It was meeting my childhood hero, Burt Reynolds, but I met him last year. Now I want to play "The Bandit" in the remake of Smokey and the Bandit which must be just around the corner.

If you didn't work in the media what would you do?

I'd be a shark conservationist. 600,000 to 700,000 sharks are killed around the Galapagos Islands every year for their fins alone.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Jon Snow - he has the best socks in the industry.

The CV

1998: Moves to London to attend medical school and starts doing stand-up

1999: Leaves medical school to pursue comedy career and works for Mind

2000: Begins media course at Goldsmiths College

2001: Joins Xfm, presenting Sunday's early morning show

2002: Spotted by MTV doing stand-up, leaves college to presentScreenPlay

2004: Presents MTV's TRL and Xfm's Saturday morning show

2005: Presents Balls of Steel for Channel 4 and Space Cadets for E4

2006: Presents E4's Death Wish Live! and Popworld