Lament the lyricist's dreams of glory, and don't put your hopes on the stage

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The Independent Online
It's always difficult getting into showbiz and the media, especially if you have to learn the ropes as you go along, so today we're going to bypass a lot of the dreary preliminary stuff by giving you a lot of inside track information! More precisely, we're going to get all your showbiz queries answered by that grand old man of showbusiness, Nat West!

All yours, Nat.

Dear Nat, How do I set about being the next Rik Mayall?

Nat West writes: You don't. Nobody ever set out to be the next anybody, or if they did, they haven't been heard of since. Do you think Rik Mayall set out to be the next Rik Mayall? Or anybody else? What he wanted to be was the first Rik Mayall - and he succeeded all too well, I'm afraid.

Dear Nat, I would like to set about being the next Stephen Fry, but I don't know whether to write a novel first, or star in a play, or rewrite a musical so as to make myself rich for life.

Nat West writes: Don't you listen to anything I say? You can't be the next Stephen Fry, for heaven's sake, because there can only be one Stephen Fry. Sometimes there isn't even one Stephen Fry.

Dear Nat, Couldn't I be the next Stephen Fry for the time when Stephen Fry isn't around, or goes Awol or something? Then they could just send for me and I'd step into his shoes.

Nat West writes: No.

Dear Nat, I would like to be a screenwriter. I already have a screenplay written, but I don't know who to show it to.

Nat West writes: Whatever you are going to be, don't be a screenwriter. You will either have your screenplay rewritten by someone else, or find yourself rewriting someone else's. For some reason never quite established, everything that goes wrong with a film is blamed on the screenwriter, so he is always replaced halfway through a film. This never happens to any of the actors, however bad they are, or the director, or special effects man. Screenwriters always end up embittered and not as rich as they thought they would be.

Dear Nat, I have always enjoyed the show Loose Ends which Ned Sherrin presents on Radio 4 and would like to become one of the group whose job it is to laugh at what he and the guests say.

Nat West writes: I'm afraid you can't. All the laughter is pre-recorded by the guests themselves before the show.

Dear Nat, My great ambition is to get a knighthood, and I wonder if you could advise me in which branch of showbiz it would be easiest to get knighted.

Nat West writes: I can tell you which branch of showbiz not to go into, and that is lyric-writing. For some reason, the lyric-writers never get the titles - it is the composers who do. Gilbert and Sullivan were a team, but it was Sir Arthur who got the title, not William Schwenk. Tim Rice did get a knighthood, but not till two years after Andrew Lloyd Webber did. Sir Elton John did, but not Bernie Taupin.

Dear Nat, I read somewhere that Disney is thinking of filming the story of Aida, but insisting on changing the name because they say that the American public won't be able to pronounce the name Aida. How on earth did the American public ever manage to go to the opera called Aida? Presumably they had to pronounce the same name in the same way ?

Nat West writes: Of course. But the reason that Disney wants to change the name Aida to "The Little Egyptian Slave Girl" or something like that, is not the reason they give. The real reason is that at first glance "Aida" looks very like "Aids" and they think graffiti-writers will have a field day changing the name from one to the other.

Dear Nat, If Disney changes the name, will the well-known three-woman singing group Fascinating Aida then have to change its name to Fascinating Little Egyptian Slave Girl?

Nat West writes: Of course.

Dear Mat ...

Nat West writes: Nat.

Sorry. Dear Nat, You don't seem to offer much hope for anyone trying to get into showbusiness. Is it difficult?

Nat West writes: Difficult? It's hopeless! It's heart-breaking! You slave away at it all your life and then you end up writing a dead-end showbiz advice column in a newspaper when you should be lolling on your yacht at Antibes. Want my advice? Forget the whole thing!

This column was sponsored by the Equity "Keep Out Of The Profession, for God's Sake, Boys And Girls!" Campaign.