I played the Albert Hall last week. I was on stage for all of 30 seconds but still... box ticked. It all started with a call from Dave Arnold, the overly talented film-score composer. He was organising a concert for Care, a charity he is passionate about. The idea was for a night of some of the greatest film music ever composed, all played live with full orchestra – all bells and whistles. In between the music some light relief was wanted and Dave asked if I could do something. I agreed – after all, unless you're Eric Clapton, it's not often you get the chance to play the Albert Hall. The problem was, what to do? I am not a stand-up comedian, so don't have 10 minutes of lighthearted patter to do before moving on to my next three gigs of the evening: "Good evening ladies and gentlemen and can I say how exciting it is to be at the West London Photocopying Awards.... Sorry I'm late, but I've just been playing the Albert Hall."
Different options were discussed. I could introduce somebody or – the elephant in the room was about to be acknowledged – "Maybe you could do the big mobile?" Curiously, since it is the thing that I'm best known for, I've only done the big mobile live twice in my life – about eight years ago at the Brits and then at the Secret Policeman's Ball at Wembley Arena. The phone itself sits in my downstairs loo and the antenna is used to hold my loo roll.
I got a courier company to send it up to London. It got there before me, and apparently a little whisper went round the production office: "The phone is in the building." On arrival, I was ushered into the green room where various musical luminaries, such as Ricky from Kaiser Chiefs and Paloma Faith, were chatting away to Michael Nyman (Larry David's doppelganger) and Jonny Greenwood.
I sat in a corner, trying to hide my big mobile from view. It felt like the time I arrived at the Brits. I got to the artists' entrance just behind Lou Reed who was carrying a guitar. I was carrying my big mobile. Lou and I looked at each other for a moment and never have I been more aware of my lowly position on the talent meter.
So, I'm sitting there waiting for my turn to go onstage and I start having anxiety issues. What if, when I leave the Albert Hall after the gig, I get run over by a car? I'd be found, splayed all over the tarmac with the big mobile by my side. It would be assumed that I spent my entire life wandering about with it on me, like some mad version of Rod Hull and Emu. I decided not to risk it, and booked a car to pick me up straight after the "performance".
The time came. I slipped on stage in the half-darkness and sat in the middle of the orchestra and waited for them to stop tuning up. A cellist seated next to me stared at me nervously. Then the musicians went silent and the conductor tapped his baton. At that very moment my mobile ringtone boomed through the hall and I stood up and bellowed into it. An elderly violinist in front of me nearly had a heart attack, but I strode to the front of stage and shouted something about thinking I was at a Robbie Williams concert and that it was all rubbish.
I felt slightly trapped in some curious timewarp, but I climbed some stairs and exited through a door held open by a smiling Imogen Heap. She gave me the same look that Lou Reed had given me back at the Brits. I clutched my big mobile tight to my body and tried to leave the Albert Hall with a modicum of dignity. Outside, a car awaited with my name spelt wrongly on the windscreen.