John Thomson: You Ask The Questions

(Such as: what was Zoë Ball's most annoying habit when you were flatmates? And how would Cold Feet have ended if you'd written it?)
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The Independent Online

John Thomson, 34, was born in Salford, Manchester. Adopted as a baby, he grew up in the Lancashire village of New Longton. In 1986, he began a drama degree at Manchester Polytechnic where he met fellow student Steve Coogan. Coogan helped him get his first job on Spitting Image and Thomson appeared with him in Knowing Me, Knowing You and Coogan's Run before becoming a regular in The Fast Show with Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. He achieved star status playing Pete in the ITV drama Cold Feet, and became a target of the downmarket press. He lives in Manchester with his partner, Sam, and their one-year-old daughter Olivia.

What would you like to give Tony Blair for Christmas?
Jon Brodick, Leeds

A pacemaker. I wasn't happy about the Iraq war, but I think he is basically a decent guy. I'd give him some Grecian 2000 as well. He's aged so much in the past six years. I wouldn't wish that job on anyone. It's easy to knock him, but he has massive responsibilities and he's not really that well paid. Compared with what the top actors get, his salary is a pittance.

How long does it take to write a really good comedy sketch?
Sam Driver, Cambridge

If I'm writing with Steve Coogan, it can take a good while because I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I don't like lazy writing. If someone puts a Skoda in a sketch, I'm not very impressed. A Skoda or a Robin Reliant is the obvious choice for a car in a comedy sketch. If Steve and I were writing, we would specify that the car was a brown Austin Maxi 1100 with one yellow door. Details are so important. Sometimes the idea for a sketch will just come to me - like the Silky Bra Kid, which I did on The Fast Show. He was the Milky Bar Kid selling lingerie. That idea just came from a malapropism.

In Cold Feet there was a lot of mushy stuff about the joys of new fatherhood. How mushy do you feel now that you've become a father yourself?
Bea Stuart, Edinburgh

I don't feel mushy, I just feel great. I have to pinch myself. I love it. I think I probably would do those scenes in Cold Feet differently now. When Pete became a father, I had to use a lot of imagination.

I'm guessing you were the class joker at school. What were your best gags?
Gary Warne, Dublin

Yes, I was. One time, I remember my teacher saying: "I demand to know who is throwing pieces of paper at me." And I put my hand up and said: "It's not me sir. I'm flicking bits of rubber at you." I used to impersonate the teachers all the time and I did badly at school - I got only three O-levels. It was a very strict Catholic school. On hot days, they used to announce when we were allowed to take our blazers off. It was a bit of a dictatorship and I didn't respond well to it. But my sixth-form college was much more relaxed: I got four A-levels and two more O-levels there.

Your old mate Steve Coogan is about to appear on BBC2 playing Samuel Pepys. What historical figure would you most like to get your teeth into?
Lynne Shannon, Belfast

Henry VIII. What would I bring to him? A Northern accent.

What was Zoë Ball's most annoying habit when you shared a flat with her?
Liz Reeve, Aberdeen

She was very good; she did a lot of the cleaning. I was the terrible one - I never did anything in the house. But neither of us ever did any cooking. We were like ships that passed in the night. But now I cook loads and I'm dead tidy, too. I can cook anything. Because I'm creative, I can just look in the cupboard and throw something together.

If you were the editor of a tabloid newspaper for a day, what would your message to your staff be?
Sandra Friel, by e-mail

There would be two: "Leave John Thomson alone" and "You're all sacked". Ideally there would be no such thing as downmarket tabloids. I don't put money in their pockets any more. Of course, I have to read them if there's something in there about me, but I don't necessarily buy the paper - I might just look at it in the shop.

I hear you've taken up yoga. Can you get your legs behind your ears yet?
Georgie Smith, London

I did do yoga, but it was a daytime class with a lot of old ladies and no men, so I've stopped going. However, I held my own against the old ladies. I could do the prayer position behind the back, which I thought was quite impressive. Also, it wasn't getting me fit. It was making me supple, but I was still lardy. Now I do kick-boxing.

If you had been allowed to write the ending of Cold Feet, how would you have done it?
Owen Lowe, Preston

I think it would have been good to have a coach going off a cliff with all of us in it - just for the sheer devilment of it. We did all come up with alternative endings for ourselves, as a joke. James Nesbitt's was being gassed while dressed as a clown. Mine was becoming a monk who tended bees. Robert Bathurst decided he would go off to fight in the Gulf. Hermione Norris's was to run off with her nanny, Ramona, and Kimberley Joseph's was to return to Australia to become Rolf Harris's PA.

I enjoyed your appearance on Essential Poems for Britain. Do you have a favourite poem?
Tara Martin, by e-mail

Yes. When I was a child, I loved this one: "As I was going up the stairs/ I met a man who wasn't there/ He wasn't there again today/ Oh, how I wish he'd go away." I don't know the author. I also liked Spike Milligan, Edward Lear and Hilaire Belloc's work. I like nonsense stuff. However, I don't have time to read any books at the moment because my baby's a year old.

What's the best heckle you've received while doing stand-up?
Tom Garner, Littlehampton

One time I was doing "Cheeky Monkey", an act from Alan Partridge's show. I was supposed to be a really bad ventriloquist who always dies on the stage. I'd been told there were loads of fans of the show in who were waiting to see it, so I just came on and ad-libbed a lot of rubbish. Halfway through someone shouted out, "Where's this going?" Well, you can't argue with that. I was totally thrown. I just left the stage.

What is your message for all those female fans out there who want to mother you?
Mel Stephenson, Isle of Wight

Thanks for your desire and please continue to want to. I do need mothering sometimes. I do need cuddles.

What gives you cold feet?
Jo Learmouth, Brighton

Not wearing shoes.

Since becoming a sex symbol, do you feel any pressure to live up to the hype? Do you cleanse and moisturise? Do you go to the gym at the crack of dawn?
Fiona Meaney, Guildford

Well, I don't know about "sex symbol". That happened when I was in Cold Feet and then I went and put a lot of weight on. Now I've lost two stone of that and I want to lose another one. Being overweight alters your casting potential and I'm getting a bit sick of playing chubby losers. It'd be nice to play an action hero: I can see myself in a vest.

'John Thomson Stands Up For Comedy' is on the Bravo Channel on Tues, Wed and Thurs at 9.30pm.