I’ve ended up doing a huge amount of very odd stuff over the years, when I haven’t been doing the thing I am supposed to be doing. We need to tick over in the gaps, and I am willing. When someone asks “what’s the weirdest job you’ve ever done,” I have to think, as it’s hard to work out the answer. Perhaps dressing as a giant elephant, knocking over a shelf full of Kotex products to reveal the new tampax jumbo pack. Perhaps one of the many times at parties where I have been Robin Hood or Henry Viii or Phileas Fogg or a paparazzi, sometimes loving it, sometimes just thinking of the paycheck and hoping nobody recognises me. Last summer I was Doctor Frankenstein with his monster in rush hour in Southwark. One time I had to improvise a scene about how salesmen persuade supermarkets to give more shelf space. Someone had just bought some “actors” for a few hundred quid. It came through my agent and we showed up on the day and the guy said “So you’ll do your scene at 2.15”. We said “What Scene?”. He said “Oh, you know, just something about sales technique and our brand values.” We made something in two hours with a silent comedy soundtrack that involved a salesman giving ever larger bags of money to a reluctant buyer. It was awful, but the delegates laughed.
About three years ago I was frequently going to Amsterdam to hold bottles of Sol lager and say “Espiritu Libre”. I ended up doubling the job with playing Oberon for The Dutch Factory on an island off the coast, which made it worthwhile. I’ve sold all sorts of things, including fine leather sofas and advertising space in a black men’s lifestyle magazine. I’ve ridden unwieldy bicycles with advertising hoardings around run down areas of middle England, announcing a new Tesco. I’ve driven hideous slow three wheel scooters on the streets of London, also advertising as people honked and swore and undertook. I’ve been a Santa hologram projected into a booth on Oxford Street and seen genuine wonder in people’s faces when they’ve realised I can actually see them. I’ve been Santa in many other bizarre contexts. I’ve been sweating buckets, cooking, weeping with exhaustion as beaming children have shouted “Pudsey” and hugged me. Pudsey is silent. He cannot beg for help. He can just wave. You sign a form saying you understand that Pudsey is silent before you wear his head. If your spotter isn’t paying attention you could easily bake your own head. I almost did. For some years I worked on speedboats on the Thames. At this time of year I often think about that job. Of all of the day jobs I used to do, it was my favourite. But you can’t get too attached to your dayjob if your priority is elsewhere. As I learnt.
Today I went into a school and tried to help a load of kids to be more employable. It’s lovely work, and thankfully pretty sporadic as it’s exhausting. But at the end of the day they gave me this, which hasn’t happened before. My beard is looking dope. I could be a farmer.