Alan Carr is not a sporty person. He admits that himself. The comedian does of course have tenuous links to Newcastle United through his father Graham, the club’s chief scout, but his eponymous chat show is normally about as related to sport as darts.
But last week was different. As part of Channel 4’s week-long attempts to get more people to watch – and presumably gamble on – the Grand National, he hosted a special edition of Alan Carr: Chatty Man.
And what better way to shoehorn racing into an irreverent late-night chat show than to have Frankie Dettori as a guest?
The jockey is well known outside racing circles – for his drugs ban as well as his appearances on A Question of Sport and Celebrity Big Brother – so sounds the perfect guest. Shame his career has been almost exclusively on the flat. He is probably as qualified to discuss the dangers of riding Aintree as Zara Phillips.
He admitted as much when he came on for a six-minute spell right at the end of the show. Carr asked him why he had never ridden the National, illustrating the tone of his question by doing a “cluck-cluck” chicken sound to suggest Dettori did not have the stomach for it.
“You could be right,” Dettori said. “I’d rather play Russian roulette than ride the Grand National. It is very dangerous.”
The fact the show was a Grand National special gave Carr the opportunity for gags about studs and coming up on the inside (oo-er) when introducing Enrique Iglesias, the first guest, but the rest of it was the usual routine of the host plying the guest with drinks while asking about their new song, gadget or TV show.
And Dettori’s presence was hardly worth it. He wasn’t even on long enough to be offered a drink. Iglesias, by the way, was the best sport, swigging a massive hit of cheap vodka, which may have had some influence in him taking on Carr in a World Cup bet. If Spain win again, he pledged to ride the blue rooster statue (of course Carr referred to it as “a big blue cock”) in Trafalgar Square naked. The host then single-handedly eased the pressure on Roy Hodgson by saying he’d do the same if England win.
If we follow the rules of chat shows, where the biggest name goes last, we could infer that Dettori has more clout than Iglesias, the Gavin and Stacey actress Ruth Jones, and will.i.am, the ubiquitous musician and judge of The Voice.
So, if he is the marquee signing on a show that is supposedly promoting the best-known horse race of the year, you would think Carr would have given him an opportunity to talk.
No chance. The best we got on why the race is so popular was “there are spectacular crashes and horses going everywhere and all that”.
On that performance, it’s a fairly safe odds-on bet that he will not be invited back for Channel 4’s build-up to the race next year. But then again, if he hadn’t been in Carr’s hands (oo-er) he might have been a little more enlightening.