Never mind the integrity, feel the pay packet...


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The Independent Online

I am, I must admit, available for Bar Mitzvahs, birthdays and weddings. There is a thriving underworld in which comedians and entertainers make a pact with the devil and perform at corporate events and shindigs to keep the ever-present wolf from their rickety door. I remember when I first did one – for Vodafone. My agents were contacted and asked whether I'd be prepared to introduce the then chief executive of the company on stage at their annual meeting by screaming into my giant mobile. Full of youthful integrity, I laughed down the line at my agents and told them that this was really not the sort of thing that I did. Then they told me how much had been offered and I asked what date the event was on.

I remember joking around when they asked whether I had a "rider" request. I asked for a copy of the national railway timetable, six soft-boiled quail's eggs and a can of Coke pre-opened three days earlier. I arrived at my trailer to find everything as requested.

It was craziness – the money being spent at this shindig could have financed two series of Fool Britannia (my new series, airs next Saturday at 7.30pm on ITV – plug, plug). Next door to my trailer I could hear Kid Creole and all his Coconuts getting ready for their performance, and the girl group All Saints popped in to say hello.

This week, with school bills looming, I accepted a prestigious gig to host the Body Shop Awards in Birmingham. I was told the evening was disco themed and so I set off for Brum in black flares, platform boots, a vivid purple shirt, a tight Afro wig and a huge pair of Elton John spectacles that had the word "c-O-O-l" on them.

What should have been an hour's drive up the motorway from home took three-and-a-half as all of mid-England ground to yet another traffic standstill. I tried to ignore my new neighbours in the traffic jam as they hooted with laughter at my outfit, but three-and-a-half hours is a long time.

I got to the event just in time and was soon being introduced on stage. As I walked through the middle of a ballroom packed with well-oiled gentlemen in black-tie, I realised that I might have misread the dress code. By the time I got to the stage, I was certain of this. I decided to plough on regardless, as I had rather a good series of jokes about pomegranate shampoo and the strong smell that smothered every town the Body Shop sets up in. It was about three minutes in that I realised something was amiss. It turned out that I was talking to a crowd there for the Body Shop Magazine Awards – that's body shop as in panel beating and general automotive restoration … very much not a personal hygiene bunch.

I fought on and tried to instigate damage limitation. It actually went quite well … until it finished and I found myself outside with no sign of my car. It had been towed, and I was forced to trudge through Birmingham dressed like a corpulent John Travolta, while the passing Brummies hurled abuse at me from their kit-cars.

Nobody said that showbusiness was easy, but things can only get better.