It’s my party, and I’ll lie if I want to...

Nobody ever gave me the showbiz rules for 'launch' events

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The Independent Online

I’ve never had much success with “launch” events. These are parties that you throw to supposedly celebrate the release of a TV show or a book. As nobody ever gave me a copy of showbiz rules, it took me some time to realise that the point is to invite as many famous people as possible so that journalists can write about the event and thus publicise whatever you’re launching. This is easy if you are Steve Hilton, former policy guru to David Cameron and now, judging by the look of him, a full-time guru. He returned from California and got Cameron and George Osborne to go to his book launch before appearing on every telly show in existence.

I’ve been less successful in the past. We had a party for Trigger Happy TV that was just a piss-up in a bar for our mates. Journalists wandered around despondently looking for anybody well known. Once I realised their disappointment I started to make up guests they’d just missed. “Half of the Clash just left …” I’d say looking gutted for them. “You did chat to Vic Reeves and Eddie Izzard … didn’t you?” I was trying my best but they knew I was lying and I eventually gave up.

At the BBC I tried to get it right. For the second series launch party of my BBC3 spoof chat-show This Is Dom Joly we invited every guest and band that had appeared in the first series. Nobody invited anybody else however. Thus, followed a very curious hour or so in which members of Suede, Curiosity Killed the Cat and Gomez wandered the cavernous, empty rooms wondering why David Dickinson and Eamonn Holmes were looking so depressed. My favourite moment was when Nicholas Parsons bonded with Robert Smith from the Cure over Just a Minute but that was about as social as it got. Eventually this random assortment of disappointed celebrities realised this was the worst party they had ever been to, and left. We followed soon after.

I pretty much gave up on launch parties after that. So when The Idler magazine suggested they host a launch party for my new book, I was initially not too keen. Then I found out that Joey Essex was releasing his tome on the same day as mine. A major battle for bookstore domination loomed, and I needed all the help I could muster.

The event was held in a small room in a church that was clearly normally used for AA meetings. Two minutes in, a man stood up and started shouting nonsense at me. I assumed The Idler had set this up. Everyone assumed this was my doing. The man carried on for some time then wandered out in search of a real AA meeting. We struggled on for a bit before hitting the gin in someone’s garden while a bearded man played a ukulele … Usain Bolt, Prince and the King Of Belgium all wrote to say how they enjoyed the evening. 

Here Comes the Clown, by Dom Joly, is available in all good bookshops

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