Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Dom Joly interview

Back some time towards the end of 2009, October at a guess, I was watching a repeat of Trigger Happy TV on 4Music (a UK TV channel). This was a TV series that captured my imagination when it was first broadcast in the year 2000, I would have been around 16 at the time.
I envied the unfathomable confidence of the director, producer, writer and star of the programme. Actually, envy is the wrong word. I was in awe. How was he able to do what he did with strangers?

While watching the repeated broadcast, I made a remark on Twitter that "I'd love to interview @DomJoly."

I expected no reply, as is often the case when fruitlessly referencing celebrity Twitter accounts. Understandably then, I was surprised when he replied with, "Why don't you then?"

Working around Dom's many trips abroad, I finally arranged to meet him outside the Channel 4 HQ near Victoria in late November 2009. When I arrived, possibly a few minutes late, he had the hood of his coat fastened tightly around his face. To this day I still don't know if this was a joke or to hide his likeness from those passing by.

On the short walk from Channel 4 to a nearby pub, I chatted with him about his column in The Independent. I discovered that he wrote a sports column despite having no interest in sport. I think we bonded over this shared indifference to sport.

Despite calling around, it was surprisingly hard to find a pub open in the morning which was quiet and didn't mind accommodating a filmed interview. Upon making our presence known to the barman, we found seats upstairs and I hastily set up the recording equipment. I don't think I had ever held an interview where I could calmly and confidently put up the tripod or clip on the microphones, it was always frantic.

This was the first interview since my infamous encounter with Stephen Moyer. It marked a shift in my attitude towards the celebrities I was to question. This was in no small part helped by the fact that I respected Dom Joly a great deal; a concept I'm aware is lost on some people due to the legacy of Trigger Happy TV (THTV) and some other work.

Due to time constraints of other interviews, I've always had to pick questions from a prepared list. This meeting with Dom was different however, I was relaxed, had time to spare, and could pick his brains beyond what I had written on my pad.

I don't think this was a particularly Hecklerspray-esque interview by any means. I wasn't there to subvert, trick, undermine or ridicule. Even in my written introduction to the interview, I think I made reference to the fact that the conversation was more Radio 4 in content and style.

Having watched the interview back, what I thought were quite insightful and thoughtful questions at the time, really weren't. That said, I felt we got on really well; he even picked up the bar tab. It does make me feel guilty for repeating Mof Gimmers' question, "Are you Brit-Pop's 'Beadle's About'?"

It's the only interview I've done where the subject isn't plugging something, which is incredibly refreshing. I've really enjoyed some of them, but there's always an agenda. Here, Dom was honest, wasn't on the PR circuit and genuinely likeable.

Since he was/is clearly a very intelligent chap, it bothers me that since THTV, the most noticed stream of his career seems to stem from his unintentional catchphrase, "I'm on the phone!".

One could argue that some of his career choices, 'I'm a Celebrity...' being a prime example, haven't necessarily helped portray him as something more credible, and less clown-like. But, you play the hand you're dealt I suppose.

I never did get round to reading his book about unsavoury holiday locations (The Dark Tourist), or hear any more about his planned film, War of the Flea.

Still, whatever he's doing, I hope it's things like that, and for the right reasons.

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