Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Why are nice things are bad for you?

This week I am reminded of one of life's cruelest truths - nice things are bad for you. My favourite things are chocolate, alcohol, chips, curry, unprotected sex, auto-erotic asphyxiation and spending 4 month periods on the couch. All of those things are reducing my life expectancy. This seems unfair. The more you enjoy life, the less of it you are allowed to have. Why have we evolved to become so damaged by pleasure?

During the festive period, pleasure, damaging pleasure is in constant supply. A couple of weeks ago I ate the nicest mince pies I've ever had. Why were they so nice? They were made with puff pastry and had a lot more sugar on top. They were nicer because they were less healthy. It was only this year that I suddenly realised any dish can be made much tastier by adding shit loads of sugar, salt, butter or a combination of the three. Why does our body love what's bad for it so much? Our bodies are like insecure women with bastards.

Drugs are probably the best example of this. As I understand it the drugs that offer the most pleasure are heroin and crack cocaine. I, no matter how often my girlfriend offers them to me, have never tried either. I have enough trouble sustaining my Cadbury's Chocolate Trifle habit. I don't think I'm too far off the mark when I say that heroin and crack are, although not particularly calorific, massively bad for you. I honestly don't get it. Why are our bodies structured in such a way? Surely evolution should have brought us to a point where the nicer things are, the better for us they are.

There is probably someone reading this who feels we've already reached that place. Right now, she's nibbling away at a bag of seeds whilst in a yoga position. Tonight, she might 'treat' herself to some pumpkin soup before her nightly jog. She tells herself that carbs make her feel bloated and she actually much prefers a night out without a drink. Over the Christmas break she's thinking of reading Wild Swans for the 8th time. Well, if you are reading this - stereotypical girl who I've just made up - I think you're lying to yourself. When you do eventually die at the age of 106, I think you might wonder whether you really needed the extra 30 years that healthy lifestyle has given you. As we all know, by the year 2050 Earth will be a dystopian hell ran by Apple cyborgs. You, girl who I've made up, will spend you're twilight years under their titanium thumbs. I, meanwhile, will have had the memory of a thousand late night cream horns to keep me happy on my early death bed.

This is all obviously bullshit I tell myself to make me feel better about my subscription to the local Indian takeaway. That is why I don't jump headfirst into the hedonistic lifestyle. I am aware of the damage that pleasure can do and therefore ration my pleasure intake. Instead of drinking 6 times the recommended weekly alcohol limit, I just hang around daringly a bit above it. Instead of downing entire tubs of Ben and Jerry's I go through them in thirds. I have found a compromise. Neither slim nor obese - podgy. Neither a life brimming with pleasure nor a life lacking of it - content. So I may well live long enough to see the Apple cyborgs. I just won't be fit enough to fight them.

Monday, 19 December 2011

My appearance in Jonathan Creek and other abominations.

When I enter a room people often ask me if I'm cold. This is because I have the sort of posture that suggests that I am cold. I have the posture of a cold man. Those of you who saw me brilliantly deliver the single line 'How can you tell?' in a 2003 episode of Jonathan Creek will not be surprised to learn that I went to drama school. There my posture was somewhat of an issue for the faculty. A lot of time was spend trying to correct it. I think they feared I'd have a career of simply playing cold men. Upon arrival at drama school I was very skinny and so was not too worried. I was quite happy to play Gulag prisoners in big movies for the rest of my days. But then my diet of potato waffles, chicken burgers from Abduls and Guinness helped my waist to expand and my career in the Gulag seemed no longer guaranteed. I too, started to worry about my posture.

The thing is posture isn't a very easy thing to correct. Although I did seem to spend every morning doing Alexander technique (rolling around on the floor) it didn't seem to be changing for me at any noticeable rate. Other students waxed smugly about the wonders it was doing but it always looked to me like they had perfect posture in the first place. It grew into a massive annoyance for me. It's a weird thing to move to the other side of the country to learn your trade and to find that not being able to pull your shoulders back is your biggest obstacle.

I'd like to think that my posture is moderately improved although if a former teacher was to see me they'd no doubt tell me it's still shit. It's almost certainly had an effect on the type of roles I've been given. I seem to have played a remarkable number of children, freakish virgins and mentally handicapped people. Perhaps if my shoulders would simply move an inch or two back I'd be competing with Ryan Gosling.

That reminds me of a story. Years ago I changed agents. My new agent was contacted by a casting director from The Bill who had been trying to track me down for a few days. They were very keen to see me for a role they thought I was perfect for. I awaited the script with excitement. The Bill, back then, was a rite of passage it seemed and it looked like I was about to make my mark. What was the role that I was so perfect for? A new bad boy PC? A local villain?I'll tell you what it was. A 15 year old with special needs. At the audition I gave it my best. Then the casting director told me I didn't need to do 'the voice'. Here's the thing. I wasn't doing a voice. I wasn't doing a voice! This means, ladies and gentlemen, that my voice to that casting director sounded like a bad actor attempting the voice of a teenager with special needs.

Whilst I'm in the mood to tell you grim stories from my chequered career I'd like to briefly bring you back to my appearance on Jonathan Creek. I did in fact have three lines in that episode but two of them were cut. Why? Because I shit. It was my first TV job and I had no idea what the frig I was doing. In the unlikely event that anyone reading this runs a drama school (I know I have a big readership in the Eastern European absurdist theatre world) then do by all means try and coax your students shoulders into optimum position. I do, however, suggest that you spend at least a modicum of time teaching them how the fuck a TV shoot works. The thing is that's where they are likely to find the bulk of their income and if they walk onto their first set utterly clueless then they are going to look like a giant twat. I was and I did.

It's hard to describe just how useless I was that day. Without knowing any of the technical jargon and being riddled with nerves I must have looked like a 6th century Native American who'd been transported and forced to walk around the Ideal Homes show in Earls Court. I distinctly remember hearing the director and the writer debating as to whether they could cut my part and still make the scene work. The answer was in the edit. They kept the one line and then quickly cut to Colin McFarlane who would later appear in The Dark Knight. Well done, Colin. Nice to see you've done so well. How come you don't keep in touch anymore? It's me! Fergus! I played the paramedic in Jonathan... Colin?... Colin?

It occurs to me that in the current climate in which there is less and less work for actors talking about how shit I can be may not be wise. If any casting directors are reading this I should point out that I am in fact amazing. I have moved on a lot for my Jonathan Creek appearance which is about 5 mins 30 into this clip...

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Massive house in Hampstead.

On Monday I spent most of the day filming in a four storey house in Hampstead. I haven't spent much time in rich people's houses in the past as all of my friends are scum and during my seven year affair with Princess Anne we usually spent the night at my gaff. The Hampstead mansion was in one sense very impressive. For the price of a one bedroomed flat in Hampstead you could pay the wages of Canada's civil service for 5 years so with a four storey house you could probably get China's navy. I regularly checked in cupboards for gold bullion.

In another sense it was a bit of a shit hole. Well, not a shit hole, but if it was on MTV Cribs I don't think I'd like the person. All the walls were white and adorned with modern, no doubt expensive art that looked like it had actually come from Ikea. There were plenty of book shelves impressively stocked with hard back copies of every single book that has been recommended by a broad sheet newspaper in the last ten years. There wasn't one book that could be described in any way as embarrassing. That to me is suspicious and embarrassing in itself. I have to say the books looked remarkably untouched. Perhaps there was a draw somewhere filled with well thumbed autobiographies and Coleen Nolan's novel.

The bedroom was where, for me, the dream house properly crumbled. It was, of course, massive and en suite. There were two sinks in the same area as the bed. Fine. There is nothing wrong with seeing someone brush their teeth. Then there was a bath hidden by a little wall that didn't extend across the whole room. Fine. I don't mind hearing someone slosh about whilst I pretend to read a hard back on Russian gulags. But then there was a toilet. Not fine. You couldn't see the toilet but there was nothing to stop you hearing or smelling everything that was done there. I'm no prude. I like water sports as much as the next perv but I do not want to wake up to the smell of shit. How must it feel to have spent £8 million on the house of your dreams only to wake up to the smell of your partner's morning dump?

This is the problem. The wrong people have all the money. Give it to me please. Give it to me.