Diary: Phoenix rises again

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The Independent Online

Clean-shaven and conversationally unimpaired, Joaquin Phoenix returned to The Late Show with David Letterman on Wednesday, 18 months after his famous bearded encounter with the talkshow host, during filming for his and Casey Affleck's "hoax" documentary, I'm Still Here. Explaining the thinking behind his faux-retirement and pursuit of a fictitious hip-hop career, Phoenix told Letterman: "We wanted to do a film that explored celebrity, and explored the relationship between the media and the consumer and the celebrities themselves... something that would feel really authentic." Unfortunately for Affleck, who went to the brink of bankruptcy self-funding the film, I'm Still Here has made just $259,000 at the US box office. Asked by Letterman whether he'd worried the stunt might jeopardise his own career, Phoenix replied: "I'm not sure I have much of a career now." Word is he's been cast in Clint Eastwood's hotly anticipated biopic of J Edgar Hoover, so presumably that was just another of his strange jokes.

* Whatever the outcome of the Labour leadership contest, the first biography of its winner will be called "Miliband", be published by Simon and Schuster, and be written by Lance Price, Tony Blair's former adviser. "It will concentrate on the new leader," Price told me. "But it's a family biography, so there'll be a lot about the other brother, their dad and so on." Price worked with Miliband (D) in Downing Street, but knew Miliband (E) as "the human face of the Brown camp". He hasn't backed either man publicly, though he voted Miliband-Miliband. "But if I'm going to be the biographer of the next leader, I don't think I should be his cheerleader." Price is writing the book with Allegra Stratton, The Guardian's political correspondent. What if Diane Abbott wins? "It gets pulped and we have to start all over again."

* The Northern Echo reports that members of UKIP's north-east branch were investigated by trading standards after "punking" a regional arm of the European Commission. Eurosceptic pranksters created a fake group, The Hartlepool and East Durham European Language and Culture Club, and applied for one of a number of £50 grants made available to community groups to help celebrate the non-fake European Day of Languages. The grant was approved, but the joke was rumbled before any cash changed hands.

"Through this hoax we have gained a modest victory over the EU machine," UKIPper Dave Pascoe declared, "and managed to kick the malevolent EU monster in the ankles." I called UKIP MEP Nigel Farage, presuming the party top brass would disapprove of childish stunts. Not a bit of it. "I think it's top stuff," he chuckled. "No doubt there are some po-faced types who wouldn't approve [moi?], but I think it's very funny. And it helps to expose the nonsense of some of where taxpayers' money tends to disappear."

* Stephen Pound MP made his stand-up debut on Wednesday at London's Backstage Comedy Club, accompanied by a BYO heckler – a member of his entourage known only as "Benny". Headliner Paul Foot, for instance, suffered the dread interruption: "Tell us a joke!" And, to the boos of the crowd, Benny approached the stage to argue a point with Foot, refusing to answer the comic's enquiry as to his occupation.

When Benny was eventually exposed as an off-duty policeman, who works the Westminster beat, Foot's deflatory response was: "Laws enforced by you by day protect you at night." Worst of all, Benny outed himself as a Jim Davidson fan. "Nothing wrong with Jim Davidson", he mused loudly at the mention of the not-exactly-right-on ex-Big Break presenter. Pound retorted in panto fashion, "Oh, yes there is", perhaps sensing an opportune moment to distance himself from the fellow.

* Ought one to remain loyal to a chum, even after an offensive outburst? Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand (Foot's erstwhile onstage partner) appear to think so. Dip your pens in the green ink-well, letter-writers of Tunbridge Wells, for Ross is to reunite with Brand on radio, the first time they've shared the air since Sachsgate.

The show is part of the promotional tour for Brand's new memoir My Booky Wook 2: This Time It's Personal.

highstreetken@independent.co.uk

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