It was an experience I’ll never forget, but hope to forget.
It has never been my life’s ambition to audition for Britain’s Got Talent. I have always groaned at the format, the treatment of acts and choice of acts they put through.
So why did I do it? I really don’t know. And I still don’t. Occasionally I get these Fuck it! moments in life and, when the producer of BGT asked if I would do it, after a lot of persuading, I squirmed and said: “Er… OK then”.
My plastic bag act has always been a winner. It impresses quickly and can really win over an audience. Even Steve Bennett liked it in his 2-star scathing review on Chortle back in 2014. Harry Hill saw me do the act and, as a result, cast me in his TV pilot. The only time it flopped was in front of an audience of pensioners aged 65+ in Bristol, who stared at me blankly while I whizzed around the small stage joyously flinging plastic bags in the air.
“You do get the act, right?” I said to the producer. “Even though I am flinging those bags in the air as serious as I am… it’s supposed to be daft and silly, right? I don’t want you making me out to be a weirdo and edited to make out that I really believe I think my bag act is genuinely amazing… Please put across the irony?”
“Yes, yes, Jody. We totally get it. We love that act and think you’ll do great.”
Of course, I didn’t believe him.
I had my doubts.
I saw on Facebook that many comedians had been contacted but refused in fear they would be mocked on stage. It seems the producers were targeting the alternative acts. Really? So they can champion alternative comedian acts? Or to mock them for entertainment purposes? But maybe they really did want to find new talent other than the usual dog, dance, old folks rapping and 5-year-olds doing stand up.
Maybe – just maybe – the cards have turned.
“Do it, do it,” said blogger John Fleming. “It’s exposure. You never know who might see it.”
So I officially committed.
I arrived at the Dominion Theatre at 3:30pm, an hour late as I forgotten my passport.
I immediately got into costume and began tons of tons of non-stop interviews for BGT and BGT Extra – two different shows. There were your usual BGT wannabes there. The dance troupe featuring at least one guy with a huge Afro and also a young boy. A choir. An old couple in their 80s who do rap. A man in a lederhosen who plays an electronic accordion to rock music. An operatic transgender Filipino. And ME. Amongst others. What a bunch of oddballs we all were.
There were cameras everywhere. Hundreds of crew. I felt like I was in The Truman Show or something.
“Let’s film your entrance and exits,” said the production assistant. “Let’s have you walk in the theatre and you fall onto the BGT sign and it falls over… cos you do comedy.”
“Ah, yes. That’s comedy, of course, yes,” I said.
“Actually, let’s first film you walking up to the BGT sign there and wave ecstatically,” she said.
“Erm… That’s not really me. Can I do my own thing?”
So I settle for the ‘comedy fall’ on to the sign.
“Let’s not make it look set up,” I said. “You know, it will look cheesy otherwise?”
“Oh, we love set ups on BGT,” said the young Scottish camera girl.
So I enter the theatre, walk up the stairs and turn back and fall on the BGT sign. I actually lost control and crashed onto the sign and tumbled down the stairs, ripping my trousers, right in my crotch.
“Ahhhhh!” screamed a bunch of elderly ladies. “Help him! Help him!”
A paramedic runs over, who happens to be in the foyer.
I’m fine, I’m fine… but I need a new pair of trousers ASAP,” I groaned, covering the hole in my crotch, while the elderly ladies stood over me, concerned.
After finishing off my ‘set up’ entrances and exits, I’m whizzed up several flights of stairs to do an interview with Stephen Mulhern for BGT Extra for ITV2.
“BGT Extra is fun; we can have a laugh,” said a production assistant.
After a slightly awkward interview with Mulhern, messing about with my bags, I head to do my ‘pre-interview’.
“Is this the biggest gig of your life?” asked the presenter.
“No, it’s not. When you spend thousands of pounds and work year round on a solo show, then present it at the Edinburgh Fringe in front of critics, producers etc… That is the biggest gig,” I said.
“Oh no no, like um, the biggest crowd,” she replied.
“Well, yeah,” I said.
“Well say that you do small gigs to a tiny crowd and then here you are… the biggest gig of your life,” said the girl, goading me into saying what she wanted.
It was a long interview and strange in the way that they kinda manipulate your words into creating a story that they want. I didn’t bring any family or friends with me or give them a sob story which, as we all know, they love so much.
“Don’t say you’re a comedian; say your are going to do something amazing,” said the interviewer. “We don’t want to give it away.”
I got so bored of the interview and felt the girl wasn’t even listening as her gaze drifted to the left every time I spoke. I could have literally said I suck cows’ udders for a living and she would’ve nodded with her fixed grin. I started to entertain myself by being extremely confident – “I’m definitely going to win BGT”… “I’m going to get a golden buzzer”… “The judges will be blown away”… “It’s THE most original act ever seen.”
After the interview, I started to have cold feet. I had this intense feeling come over me – like a warning sign or something. They are going to make a mockery of me, I know they are. They are not going to get it. I considered just walking out. I rang my wife, concerned, and she recommended I call my best buddy who is ‘in the business’.
After a pep talk from Andy and the fact that his friend ‘Keith Teeth’ auditioned once and didn’t get shown, I got my confidence back, knowing full well this could go either way. FUCK IT. I am going to do it. And do it with full confidence!
Down I went to the backstage area for… yes… more interviews.
They filmed me ‘warming up’ – I was playing up to it but warming up like I meant business, doing cheesy poses, dancing, boxing – like I was about to have a bout with Tyson. I had my final interview with Ant and Dec who were lovely. And off I went….
The stage was huge – 3,000 people in the audience. A family audience. Like an audience you might see at a panto.
“Hello!” I yelled.
“Hello,” says Amanda Holden.
“What’s your name?” says Cowell.
“What’s your day job? Says Amanda.
“I work part time at the Royal Academy of Art.”
“Whoooooooooooo!” whooped the audience, assuming I was some hot shot impressionist or the next Damien Hirst.
“No, no I’m not an artist… I just charm affluent people into signing up to their membership scheme, where they get to see unlimited exhibitions,” I said in a cheesy ‘salesman’ voice. The audience laughed. The judges didn’t.
“What are ya gonna do?” asked Aysha Dixon.
“Something amazing and unique,” I said.
I said this because the producers told me to beforehand.
“Don’t say you’re a comedian, otherwise it will give it away,” said a producer, moments before I went on.
Alarm bells rang but I trusted them. Ah, I thought, the judges will get the irony and stupidity of the act and will get that I’m obviously taking the piss.
The music kicks in.
I run to the left and right waving my arms to get the audience to cheer. They did. 3,000. The sound was electric. Cowell looked at Amanda with a Look at this prick! expression.
I pulled out a bag.
I threw it in the air.
I could see Cowell in the corner of my eye looking at the judges unimpressed.
Cowell had buzzed. No surprise there.
5 seconds later
1 second later
5 seconds later
I lasted 25 secs, if that! I was shocked. I couldn’t believe they didn’t let me at least do one minute! I walked off stage thinking that’s what I had to do. Ant and Dec were waving at me saying “No, no” and pointing. I thought that they meant I should exit stage right, not stage left… So I did. I walked over to stage right, straight into cables and a tight corner.
“Fuck!” I muttered.
“Not that way” barked the sound guy.
I walked out from stage right and went upper stage right to another exit.
“No, no, no!” cried a production assistant. “Go back to the centre on the cross. The judges want to talk to you!”
“Ohhh… OK. Shit.”
The audience started to boo me a little bit but stopped.
Cowell was shaking his head with a Who is this idiot? expression. Even David Walliams looked unimpressed. I was surprised as I actually thought David would like my act.
“Jody, are you serious?” said Cowell.
“Nooooo!” I cried. “It’s meant to be daft. It’s meant to be so serious, it’s funny!”
All the judges faces had dropped. They ACTUALLY believed I genuinely thought that my act WAS amazing with NO irony.
“But I fought ya went to Academy Royal.. Art or summink,” said Alesha Dixon.
“That’s just a job. I’m a comedian. I’ve performed many times at the Edinburgh Fringe.”
David Walliams shuffled.
“It’s not good, Jody,” barked Cowell in way that reminded me of doing a clown workshop where the teacher would say you are awful.
“How can you not like it? Floating bags are amazing,” I said sarcastically. “Look…”
I floated a bag. The audience cheered. I pulled another bag out of my pocket. The audience roared. I pulled another out. They roared loudly. And another. And Another. The audience were going nuts, cheering me. The judges looked stony faced.
“You see,” I said, “the audience like it!”
“Well I don’t,” said Cowell. “It’s a No.”
The rest followed suit. Four Nos. I left the stage to big applause.
I was gutted. I wasn’t given the chance to do the full act but was pissed off that I was told not to say I was a comedian. I felt set up. I believe the producers knew the judges would smash me down. If I had said I was a comedian, it might have been different.
I was rushed up stairs for more interviews. I sat down in a bit of a daze.
“What’s your name?” said the presenter.
I had repeatedly said my name and occupation, where I lived so many times… I’d had enough.
“Sorry, but I have had enough now. I’m leaving. I am fed up. I’m so tired. I’m done.”
I packed up and left, being chased by the crew, trying to persuade me to have my ‘final say’ so that I could say: “The judges were wrong.”
“No no no…” I said in a huff, “cos it will only mean I would criticise the producers for building me for up for the judges to bash me down… and you’ll edit it the way you want.”
And off I went… crew still trying everything they could to get my ‘final reaction’.
I was so happy to leave.
It was a bizarre experience.
It wasn’t me at all.
I did chuckle to myself on the way home though.