This interview was first published in Attitude Issue 276, November 2016.
Words by David McGillivray
He didn’t exactly spring from nowhere. He served his apprenticeship on open-mic nights and at a corporate gig for the Abbey National where he was pelted with Cadbury Mini Eggs. Even so, funnyman Alan Carr seems to have been with us forever. He’s the chat show host to whom we’d like to chat because he’d ply us with drink, laugh at everything we said, and not put on an act like some other talk show hosts. You know who I mean.
Alan Carr deserves an Attitude Icon Award because he’s what he appears to be: an out and proud gay man who entertains the nation and gives homosexuality a good name. He’d be the last person to accept that he’s a role model, but that’s what he is. As a boy, he was put through the mill. When he minced down the street, his mother cried, “Alan! Stop that,” and his football manager father was even more aggressive, calling him a “fat fairy.” Alan, now 40, could have become a victim but he was determined to rise above it. Knowing he wanted to perform, he studied drama at Middlesex University. In his first autobiography, Look Who It Is! (2008), he declared, “I wanted a Lifetime Achievement BAFTA and I wanted it now.” It wasn’t long before he won the BBC New Stand-up Comedian of the Year, two National Television awards — and indeed a BAFTA. But that’s not all. He considered himself almost undateable. (His doctor thought an ailment he’d developed might have been caused by excessive masturbation).
But in his new book, Alanatomy: The Inside Story, which brings us bang up to date, he tells more about his life with his partner Paul Drayton. They seem very happy. But their lives continue to revolve around alcohol and Paul has suffered from it.
Alan’s career appears written in the stars. In his first TV hit, The Friday Night Project, he played second fiddle to his mate Justin Lee Collins. But suddenly, in 2011, Justin fell foul of the law. In the meantime, Alan coasted along to his next success Alan Carr: Chatty Man. There have also been sell-out tours, and having just finished another in Australia and New Zealand, Alan was on holiday with Paul in Bali when I Skyped him. Alan, it turns out, was a Skype virgin. “This is like witchcraft,” he told me from beside the pool of his villa.
When I first interviewed you in 2007, you told me you had real problems with your tough-talking Northern dad. But the following year you dedicated your first book to him. So what was going on there?
Alan: He’s mellowed. Actually, he totally changed as he got older and has chilled out. He did used to say, “Run, you fat fairy,” and all that. But he’s calmed down now. I turn up with Paul and my dad treats him like a second son. It would have been so much easier if I’d been good at football but then I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you now.
What is great about your books is your honesty. You’re even very forthright about losing your virginity.
Alan: Oh! So many years ago…
Paul: He told me he was a virgin. In fact, he still is as far as I’m aware.
Alan: You see, this is why we can’t do All Star Mr & Mrs. I would never work again. How can we ever go on prime-time telly?
Do you look back on losing your virginity with fondness?
Alan: No. You never do, do you? It’s a bit like going to Ikea on a bank holiday. It’s a lot of pushing and shoving and you think: why did I bother coming here in the first place? It gets better as you get older.
What do you remember about your debut as a stand-up comic?
It was terrifying. I woke up at 5am that day, hot sweats, panic, didn’t do a solid poo all day. The buzz, hearing everyone laugh, that was just amazing. But if I’d died on my arse, I would have just quit because it’s not worth it.
I read somewhere that you don’t find writing easy.
No, you open your notepad and then you hear the theme tune of Jeremy Kyle, then it’s Homes Under the Hammer, and then, before you know it, it’s The Sky at Night. But you know what? You ask any comedy writer: the jokes come when you’re walking the dog. When you’re sitting there staring at a piece of paper, nothing comes. It’s very weird.
I want to talk about some things you’ve done that maybe people have never seen. Apparently there’s footage of the Queen laughing at one of your jokes.
[Pause] Er…sorry, Paul was just giving me a vodka and tonic. Yes, she did. I mentioned about my Tesco Clubcard getting stolen and, ooh, think of the points I’ve lost. And she’s laughing her head off. How she even knew about Clubcard points, I have no idea. And she’s a tough crowd. Even when they had that concert up the Mall and Cheryl Cole started singing, she put those earplugs in. To get a laugh out of her is wonderful.
You don’t think they cut that shot in and she was laughing at someone else?
Why would you say that? That is so mean, David.
I’m trying to wind you up.
Do you reckon she was reacting to someone from Cirque du Soleil? I hope she laughed at me. It would be a shame if they cut and pasted it from Hale & Pace or Jimmy Carr or something. I would be gutted.
I love your story about an unscreened pilot with you and Lionel Blair.
Whenever I’m down I always think about that. Lionel had to unzip my gimp mask and stick a Cumberland sausage through. Thirty-two takes! I wouldn’t mind but I didn’t even have any lines. I was shaking with laughter. He has got the dirtiest mind going. I had the best time with him. He’s like a ray of sunshine.
And what about the time you snogged Harrison Ford?
I’ve actually got that video. Oh my God! It was a Sliding Doors moment. I was gonna leave to go home and then they brought in a vodka luge in the shape of my face. Someone said, “Come on, Alan, have one shot,” and you know what it’s like, the next thing I knew it was three in the morning, I’m on the floor of my dressing room, and people were saying: “Ooh, you and Harrison Ford hit it off.” I’m like: pardon? I can’t even remember.
The Friday Night Project looked like such a laugh. But what was the hardest part?
The Coat of Cash because I was nearly garotted. I was pulled down the stairs and I had the wire from the camera wrapped round my neck and I was slowly being strangled. The cameraman came over, I thought he was giving me his hand to pick me up, and he snatched a fiver off the coat!
You’ve talked to so many famous people. Do you get blasé?
I get surprised. Some of these stars, they don’t have any X factor. It’s a real shock. You assume these people are going to be mesmerising and sometimes they’re a bit disappointing. Then there are people you’ve taken a dislike to and when you meet them in the flesh they are totally different.
One of the most surprising things you wrote is that the most homophobia you’ve got is from the gay community.
I think camp people on the gay social scene can be persona non grata. I feel sometimes that it’s seen as if we let the side down. I would love to be a soldier or a rugby player. As soon as they come out, it’s: how brave they are. But people have to remember that there are camp boys and butch lesbians going to school and the playground might as well be a battleground for the amount of shit they’re getting and the bullying. And it’s getting worse now that we’ve got cyber-bullies. I don’t want to be this camp, I’m not putting this on. I don’t have a wife and kids. I’d love to click my fingers and be Bradley Cooper. Other communities pull together and I don’t think we do that. I think with some of the atrocities in the world, especially the rise of religious extremism, we’ve got genuine enemies. Camp men aren’t the enemy here. Paul’s welling up here.
Is that the alcohol?
Paul: You can shut the fuck up. Cut this interview off now!
Alan: You’ve touched a nerve, David.
I had to. I was going to finish on your relationship with booze.
I know. I thought: do I put it in the book, Paul’s battle with it? Because obviously the book’s not about him. But I’ve got this reputation because of the drinks on the show, that I’m some boozer. I just thought: if anyone’s reading this and their partner’s dealing with alcoholism, it’s a bit like jet lag, nobody has any sympathy for you. People think you’re living with Patsy from Ab Fab. But it was grim. I’m always in the Top 10 of people you’d like to go and have a drink with and I just found myself in such a weird situation. There’s me on the show telling Lindsay Lohan and Lady Gaga, “Have a drink! Let your hair down!” and at home the whole world was falling apart and I was telling Paul, “Don’t have a drink, stop it!” I think people will be surprised when they read that the party has to stop sometimes.
How do you feel about being an icon?
It’s not every day you can speak to an icon over Skype is it? Oh, it’s ridiculous. It’s lovely to be called an icon, but what does that mean? What do I do?
You don’t have to do anything. You just have to be you.
I can do that, I suppose.
Words: David McGillivray
Photography: Leigh Keily
Fashion: Joseph Kocahrian