In the early Eighties I toured Europe with a comedy theatre group called the Joeys. It was almost five years of solid travelling, with 290 shows in one year alone. I also spent many months in America, initially as a runaway depressive. My life in the UK was going wrong and I travelled to San Francisco to escape. I remember sitting on Venice beach virtually in tears. It was the realisation that if you're miserable in England, you can travel all the way round the world and it's not going to make you any happier.
In 1992 I went back to the US to work on a pilot of Red Dwarf. I got a working visa and even went as far as looking for houses to buy. For various reasons I didn't stay, but I'm quite glad really, as I think that I would've gone completely insane. Most of the cast were from New York, so they were normal, but I'm sure I would have acquired mad Californian friends with false breasts, penis enlargements and fantastic drug-habits, all on 24-hour therapy. Not that everyone in LA is mad, but there is an element of insanity in that city.
I can understand a city like Seattle far better. I've been there many times for Red Dwarf conventions. The show has been running in Seattle as long as it has in the UK. Even though for my character, Kryten, I wear a full facial prosthetic mask, I get recognised a lot in the States, far more than I do here. Once Craig Charles [Lister] and I were walking across a street in Seattle and this huge policeman, festooned with firearms, yelled "hey, you guys!" We both froze (Craig more than me) in the middle of the highway. All he wanted to do was tell us how much he liked the show.
I got the idea for my latest book by chance, in New York. It's about physical abuse, respect and men and women's different attitudes to sexual issues. I went to a dance rehearsal studio and this avant-garde class was taking place in the next room. I thought it was a rehearsal for an off-Broadway show but it was really a self-defence class. There was this guy in a science fiction-style suit getting the living daylights kicked out of him by a tiny woman. It offers a very physical way for abused women to get through the terror and the fear of assault. I'm quite convinced that it works. Sadly, there is nothing like it in the UK yet.
I have always travelled a great deal for work but have only recently managed to lose my passport. I think I threw it out with the rubbish. It was a real pain as it was almost 10 years old and chock-a-block with glamorous stamps and visas. My son is six and he's been around the world four times and now has more stamps than me. My wife is Australian so we travel back and forth a lot. He is a discerning traveller and fussy about what airline he flies with - which has the right computer games etc. He even chooses which hotel we stay in when we transfer in Singapore.
Robert Llewellyn's current novel is `Punchbag' (Hodder & Stoughton), pounds 10.00. He will be presenting the second series of `Scrap Heap' on Channel 4, starting in September.Reuse content