After a weird week – that’s a wrap


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The Independent Online

It’s been the final week of filming for Fool Britannia (part deux) and I can’t remember having had a stranger one for a long time.

The week kicked of with me having to go on stage in north London before a Scandinavian folk-metal band, dressed as a kind of Timmy Mallet on acid, and play a medley of Euro-pop tunes to a crowd of longhaired die-hards. As predicted, it didn’t go down very well. The sea of confused and puzzled faces was matched by a torrent of boos and raised index fingers.

The venue was unbelievably hot – hotter than the sun. As I ran on to the stage I was physically assaulted by a solid wall of humidity and body odour. The smell of man was strong here. I managed to escape the venue without being savagely beaten, but it took me about two days to fully wash the stench out of my skin. I shall always be more of a New Romantic kind of fellow.

Next up was a trip to Essex where we were filming a “neighbours from hell” sketch. We had two neighbouring houses with a low fence connecting the two gardens. The idea was that people would be looking round one house with an estate agent and, when they got to the garden, they would come face to face with some very peculiar neighbours. The first shoot involved a 12ft wickerman, an enormous turkey, two goats, and a bunch of pagan worshippers. Suffice to say that no offer was made on the neighbouring house while we were there.

I ended the week, and the series, in Harlow. A place very suited to ending things. We were at Harlow dog track to see if I could outrun a greyhound in a race watched by hundreds of confused punters. I won’t ruin the result for you but I can confirm that it was a very tight thing and I passed my post-race drugs test.

Principal cinematography has now finished on the series and I am now preparing myself for the usual post-filming crash. Doing hidden camera shows is a little like being on a constant bank raid. Your nerves are on edge, the adrenaline is always pumping, as you have very little idea of what is about to happen in any given scene. My body goes into a kind of emergency auto-pilot that keeps me going but, the moment we finish filming, I collapse and can barely do anything for a couple of weeks.

I have been doing this for so long that I now recognise the symptoms, but they used to be quite frightening. I could feel it coming on as I negotiated my final way home in a six-and-half-hour traffic jam on the M25. To try to combat it, I listened to Test Match Special on the radio, only to hear poor Michael Macintyre be rather badly treated by Jonathan Agnew who, having invited the poor boy on, then insisted he dance and do jokes like some performing monkey when all the guy wanted to do was just talk about the cricket.

I don’t know why comedians are always expected to be “on” and funny at the drop of a hat. It’s one of the downsides of the trade. When Lily Allen went on Test Match Special, nobody asked her to sing a song, did they?

Grumble, grumble, I’m off on holiday – back soon.