This afternoon I was appearing on the Simon Mayo show on 5 Live to publicise my London run and tour (limited tickets still available for the Arts Theatre
- only 3000 or so left to sell, so don't leave it til the last minute). Even though I was having to do PR I was in quite a good mood as I'd just seen the latest edit of "You Can Choose Your Friends" and it's almost done and it's dead good and somehow the director and editor have managed to make me look like I am a proper actor who doesn't look into the camera or look at people before they speak or start mouthing their lines along with them. My manager said "You acting's really good in it", with such surprise in his voice that I hope this isn't a tactic he employs when in discussion with people who want to give me work. Teh film looks proper classy too. I am allowing myself to be unusually optomistic about its progress. No doubt something will go wrong and my dreams will be stamped into the mud as usual. But for the moment, let's allow the seed of hope to germinate in the soft soil, before some faceless executive pisses all over it with their vinegary wee, which kills all it touches apart from Justin Lee Collins who seems to thrive on the vinegar wee.
So I was shown up to the studio at TV Centre and told I would be on just after 2.30, once Mayo had finished his interview with John Simm.
My jaw dropped a little.
Was I about to be in the same room as the star of "Life on Mars"
. Was I going to be breathing the same air molecules as the man who (rumour has it) will be the Master in Dr Who? Was I about to make a complete babbling fool of myself in front of the man who I consider to be possibly the greatest actor of his generation? (I also like James McAvoy and David Tennant and would be similarly overwhelmed if I met them)
I love John Simm. So much so that I am resisting my natural inclination to call him John Simms. That's true love, Andrew Collings, if you are reading.
For the first time in quite some time I was completely starstruck. When I got to the studio I actually looked in through the window to see him and felt a bit giddy. And I don't feel giddy that often. To prove it, let me tell you that Lizo from Newsround
was also milling around with a cameraman and breathing the same air molecules as him didn't excite me at all. So I think you can see that John Simm is in a different stratosphere of celebrity.
Avalon always like to send someone along to needlessly accompany me on this PR opportunities. In the lift the 5 Live woman had gushed about how nice John Simm was and how he had come alone for the interview. Making me look like an idiot with my entourage of one. Then when we were waiting outside the studio, Lizo said to my PR girl, "Are you with John Simm?"
"Yes," she said, even though this wasn't true. Perhaps she felt that if she wished it hard enough it would magically become the case. But who would you rather be doing the PR for? For sheer practicality it must be a lot easier to publicise someone who everyone knows about already and who everyone likes. And if I have a manager who is surprised that I am capable of doing the job he represents me for, then it seems proper that I have a PR person who is ashamed to have to publicise me.
She realised the mistake she made, "I mean, no," before looking slightly shame-faced and admitting, "I am here with Richard Herring."
Lizo from Newsround, obviously similarly overexcited about being in the proximity of the Simmster (no it's wrong to call him that - Mr Simm is who I mean), noticed me for the first time, "Oh, of course," he said, "I went to the same school as Stewart Lee." I felt a little bit excited that Lizo from Newsround knew who I was. I was trying to pretend to be cool earlier when I affected indifference to being near him.
Lizo was waiting for John Simm in the hope of interviewing him and I was concerned that the public school educated broadcaster might steal my thunder and prevent me making a fool of myself in front of my hero.
The guest after me then arrived. She was a novelist and had an entourage of two people. The 5 Live lady introduced us, but unusually the novelist recognised me too. "Richard Herring, what are you doing here?" she said.
"Ah, do you two know each other?" asked the 5 Live lady, which left a slightly eggy moment as the novelist said not really and her male companion said, "No, no, he used to be on the telly, ages ago." Like most of the population the woman at 5Live had no idea who I was, obviously.
But the novelist revealed that her friend was quite a big fan of my blog.
"I'm the one who reads your New Statesman articles," he said, "You know, the only person who ever comments on them."
"Oh right," I replied, knowing who he was immediately, "You're the one who just dobbed me in for reusing a Warming Up entry in my latest one
"Yes, I am," he said proudly, "I said lots of nice things too."
Which is true.
Though it was slightly surreal to have suddenly found myself in the prescence of a fan, when I myself was just having my own fanboy moment.
Usually I am recognised about once a month, so to have been recognised twice in such quick succession by as people as diverse as a novelist, an internerd and a camp children's television presenter was quite strange. Just as I was letting this sink in, the woman who reads the news on the Simon Mayo show went by and said, "I saw you gigging in Chiswick. You're really funny. Where are your potatoes?"
No doubt the 5Live lady was confused by all the interest going on around me and I wondered if I had found the one place in the country where I am properly famous. I might just hang around on the sofa outside the 5 Live studio for the rest of my life and bask in the sunlight of shallow notoriety.
Then John Simm came out of the studio. As predicted, Lizo homed in on him immediately, with some kind of interview request, but John Simm turned him down in the most polite and charming way possible. He didn't feel comfortable doing a soundbite there and then. Fair enough.
I wanted to say hello or something, but didn't want to intrude and nearly let the opportunity pass. But as the 5Live lady was told that they were ready for Richard Herring in the studio I leant forward and said, "Hello John, I just wanted to say I'm a big fan of your work."
John Simm smiled and said, "Thank you Richard," at least giving the impression that he knew who I was, although it was possible he had just heard the name-check.
I might never meet John Simm again and it seemed a shame that this was the only thing I would end up saying to him, so I added, "So the Van Gogh thing is tonight then?" which was a bit dumb as that is what he was in to promote.
"Yes it is," he told me.
"Great, I'll Sky Plus it," I needlessly told him. I would have blathered on about having to go out to do a gig, to explain why I wasn't watching it live, but luckily there wasn't time.
"It's quite serious though, not many laughs in it!" said John Simm, perhaps proving that he was aware of who I was after all. Which pathetically makes me happy. Luckily I had to go before I could tell him I loved him.
I hope that one day I might write something that he would act in.
But that probably won't happen if he ever googles himself and finds this.
But unlike most of the celebrities I have made that comment about before, I think that there is a good chance that he doesn't do that kind of thing. He seems like the kind of solid, down-to-earth guy who doesn't care about all that shit. It made me think how nice it must be being him. Everywhere he goes are people who are delighted to have met him. I can't imagine that anyone doesn't like him. And I bet he doesn't get too many idiots shouting out "Oi hoi - Life on Mars!" or "Hey! You! Lakes bloke" at him in the street. He's like a kind of Jesus figure, without the unpleasantness of pontificating and throwing over tables and only getting where he was because of his dad.
I was really glad to have met him and not to have made a dick of myself in the process.
Talking to Simon Mayo seemed anti-climactic in comparison. Once upon a time that would have been the most exciting thing that could have ever happened to me. I talked rather seriously about my show, made it sound entirely unamusing and I am sure sold no tickets.
The novelist and her friend said they were going to come and see me in Birmingham, but as she works at the Midland Arts Centre, she'll get free tickets anyway. So that hasn't helped anything.