Updated: Jan 22
I’ve been thinking about all the fame that’s likely to come my way if my book really takes off. I am not an extrovert, by any means, but I know that to be successful with publicity, I need to put myself into uncomfortable situations by talking to people, or to groups of people. This is what might happen if I was lucky enough to scale the heights and get a Saturday evening chat show slot on national TV.
‘Right, Ian, this is the Green Room. If you stand at this angle, you can just about see all the guests through the window in the door. There... see them?’
‘Yes, I see them.’
‘Now, before we go in, I just want to say this: don’t balls this up. This is the chance of a lifetime. An unknown, self-published author appearing on prime-time TV with an opportunity to plug his first book... well, that never happens. It’s pure luck that your name was pulled out at random from all the other entrants. If the big-wigs at the BBC weren’t under pressure to tick the diversity box, that competition to find Antiques Roadshow’s Cookbook Ghost Writer of the Year would never have run.’
‘I don’t really know how I won. I’m white, middle-aged and from a middle-class background. And I watch Antiques Roadshow. I’m not very diverse.’
‘Diverse, as in they’re looking at the full range of authors from best-sellers down to... down to...’
‘Down to what?’
‘Down to less... better... sellers. Anyway, that’s not the point. You’re here now, by some fluke, with an amazing chance. And you have me to thank for that.’
‘You to thank? Why? I’ve only just met you.’
‘Ah, yes, but you need an agent to help who has a bit of nouse. And I’m your man.’
‘Do you normally hang around TV studios?’
‘Yes... I mean... no. I'm a busy man. Look, I’ve got tons of experience in this business. I can guide you through the interview. Now, you need to get the audience on your side quickly. Sing an impromptu song or do something funny. It’s in the host’s interests to help you with that so that it’s a good show.’
‘Well, I thought, for a laugh, I could suggest that he and I could do a Monty Python sketch together. Not all of it, of course. I’ve brought some lines. Look... he’d do the part of Pilate. I’d do the other parts. What do you think?
‘What is this?’
‘You know... “Welease Woderick. Welease Bwian.” He won’t mind if I poke a little bit of fun at the way he talks, will he? I know it’s a bit bold but he’ll find it funny. He must have a sense of humour to do this job. The audience will like it.’
‘What are you talking about? He doesn’t speak like that.’
‘Yes he does. People are always taking the mickey out of him. He can't say his 'r's.’
‘No, no, no! This is why you need me as your agent. It’s not that chat show host. It’s the Irish one. You know, the smallish guy who says, “Oh, oh, oh” a lot.’
‘Says, “Oh, oh, oh” a lot?... Ohhh... that one. Well, that idea won’t work, then.’
‘No. Have you got anything else?’
‘Well, I thought I could gently tease that guest sitting in the corner of the green room.’
‘Which one? Point.’
‘What, the scruffy, short one, unshaven, smoking a cigar? Arrogant-looking, wearing the Argentina football shirt?’
‘Yes. As I sit down, I could say, “Madonna: you’ve let yourself go a bit,” and give a nudge in the ribs. Do you get it? Maradona... with a cigar, football shirt... Sounds like 'Madonna'... You know... Madonna, you've let yourself go a bit. Get it?’
'But that is Madonna.'
'Really? Blimey. She's let herself go a bit.'
'Yes. Any other ideas?’
‘Lots. They love impressions on these shows. As soon as the guy in the glasses launches into some story from the 1950s , I will stand up, point and say: “You were only supposed to blow the bloody candles out.”’
‘Yes. “You were only supposed to blow the bloody candles out.” It’s a famous quote of his from Alfie or some other film he did.’
‘You don’t sound anything like Michael Caine. Or look like him. And, anyway, he didn’t say blow the candles out.’
‘He didn’t? Are you sure?’
‘Yes. he said: Blow the bloody doors off. It was a heist, not a birthday party. Look forget the impressions and games. Have you got an anecdote?’
‘Loads. I can tell them about how I broke my ankle once.’
‘With Tom Cruise on? You must be joking! Did you do it jumping from one building to another?'
'No, I fell off the kerb.'
'Hardly the same. If you’re going to tell an anecdote, it’s got to be exciting or funny. Or have someone famous in it. Preferably all three.’
‘Someone famous? Oh, I could talk about Tony Scase.’
‘Tony Scase? Who is he?’
‘He used to be a sports presenter on Look East. I saw him at a football match once.’
‘Is he famous?'
'A legend, if you were born before 1974 and lived in East Anglia,'
'Was it exciting or funny?’
‘Well, it wasn’t funny but I found it exciting. Very. Tony Scase - come on!’
‘Maybe not an anecdote then. Can you do a trick? Good guests have always got a trick.’
‘I used to be able to nearly stand on my head but I can’t do that anymore.’
‘You can no longer do something you didn’t used to be able to do?’
‘Yes. I can also play God Save our Queen by slapping my cheeks.’
‘Actually, that’s a possibility. Better than most the other tricks these celebrities come on and perform. Can you think of anything else?’
‘So this is the show with the guy who does the red chair at the end? Well, I’ve got a quip to say as he grabs the lever.’
‘Is that a big lever or are you just pleased to see me?’
‘You do know that guy there is the explorer who was castrated on his last trip to the Amazonian jungle, right?’
‘I wondered what he was doing with that ice bucket. Look, if you’re so good at being an agent, why don’t you help?’
‘You need to have an angle. A gesture, a move, something that people will remember you by.’
‘A forward roll as he comes forward to shake my hand?’
‘Can you do one?’
‘If someone supports my neck as I go over. What about my wacky tie, then?’
‘It’s grey. Why is that wacky?’
‘Because rather than a full Windsor knot, I've done a half Windsor.'
'I could tell them about my book.’
‘Best not. I’ve seen the one review you got on Amazon.'
'Was it awful?'
'That was from my mum.'
‘I’ve got a video clip on my phone of a parrot falling off a table.’
‘Who hasn’t? No, it’s got to be something original, something never seen before on T.V. so that when you show them your book cover, they will associate it with you and buy it.’
‘I’ve got a big puppet.’
‘Yes. It’s an ostrich. It attacks people.’
‘Perfect! Now, let’s meet the other guests. After you...’