Sunday 20th January 2013
Tonight I braved the slightly slushy streets of London to host the the London Film Critics’ Circle Awards at the swanky Mayfair hotel. It's a film awards chosen by my favourite people in the world - critics with an audience full of critics and I wondered idly if I might become some kind of hero if I released poisoned gas into the room. At least amongst my fellow writers and performers.
As with most jobs I get I was slightly confused as to why I had been asked to do this (I suspect because I was happy to do it for free - the night was in aid of the worthy charity Missing People, but I hate to talk about all my charity work so let's move on) - I've not really done anything like this before. And I was nervous beforehand about what tone I should adopt - my inclination was to be rude to the critics, but what if they stared back at me, with withering indifference and then all started sharpening their quills. I had jotted down a few ideas for opening gags, but didn't want to finalise a script in case it turned into a nightmare gig.
But it actually turned out to be a lot of fun and in a brief rehearsal beforehand I saw how nervous all the journalists presenting the awards were and seeing them in the flesh almost humanised them. Like they were just people or something. I suddenly felt a bit less worried though. Standing up in a room full of strangers with no real idea of what I am about to say, but having to make them laugh is now second nature to me. And I've sat in the audience of enough boring awards nights to know that the trick to these things is to keep it going as fast as possible, chip in some funny comments occasionally to keep it ticking along and have a small enough ego to know that this isn't about the host.
And somehow it worked out pretty well. I opened by being impressed with the fact that we were at the Mayfair hotel, because that is the most expensive square in Monopoly and it was a hotel too. I then suggested that Universal would be bringing out a film based on the board game later in the year with Rhianna playing the Top Hat (I would have gone for dog on, but this was a classy occasion).
I then addressed my concern about facing the critics saying I felt like Harry Potter facing Voldermort's hoard or Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes (that's right I was calling the critics apes in the first two minutes), though admitted that most likely I'd end up like Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris.
I mocked the critics more saying that as they were all so lah-di-dah I assumed that most of the awards would be going to subtitled films and that we wouldn't be seeing any nominations for Expendables 2 (which I then explained was the best film of the year - which could probably do with some subtitles).
I was getting some good laughs and relaxed a bit and realised that this was going to be fine after all. If anything I was slightly in my element and not having a stilted script of prepared gags worked in my favour. When a producer came up to accept an award on behalf of Anne Hathaway she read a text from Anne thanking the critics for the award. I was standing behind her and when she went I started writing on my hand and said, "Great, now I've got Anne Hathaway's phone number".
Many of the critics were middle-aged or older, so I was surprised when a very fresh-faced young man came up to present an award. "Could your dad not make it?" I asked. After he left I remarked, "Have a good night, you'll probably get the day off school tomorrow because of the snow." I managed to (mainly) walk the line between cheeky and offensive, though there's always the danger when I am ad-libbing that I will head into dangerous territory. I was always a heartbeat away from saying something wildly inappropriate and ruining everything, but I got away with it.
On top of all this I got to stand very near to people Toby Jones, Rafe Spall, Mike Newell and Helena Bonham-Carter and to say jokes in front of Tim Burton, who will doubtless now cast me in his next film. Everyone seemed happy and I was glad I'd agreed to do this (even if on the way in I'd been hoping that the snow might lead to it all being cancelled).
I drank wine with the critics afterwards. But this was just like playing football with the German army on Christmas Day. From tomorrow we're back to being enemies. For today I saw them as the fragile human beings they are, who just want to be loved and wish that they had some talent of their own.
I'm kidding. Oh come on, let's be friends. Don't have a go at me in the paper. Oh dear. The war is back on.
You can see all the results here. Nothing for Expendables 2. It's an outrage.
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