One of the many perks of being a stand-up comedian – apart from the fact
that you can play golf in outrageously-patterned trousers and pastel-pink
Pringle sweaters without anyone questioning your sexuality- is that once
you start getting a reputation as someone who can be relied on to “deliver
the goods‟ and keep an audience happy for an hour or so, the quality of the
work offered to you improves. Well, so they tell me. It’s never actually happened to me. I’m joking!
Look, I’m a comedian. What do you expect?
I don’t mean that after a mere six or seven months of proving yourself
competent at amusing an audience you can expect to be asked to play The
London Palladium or embark on a sixty-date tour of British theatres
supporting Michael McIntyre or Steve Coogan. No, that sort of job only comes along after at least eight months of proving yourself.
But once you start being asked to work at more prestigious events, as a
stand-up comedian, after-dinner speaker or perhaps the master of
ceremonies for the evening’s entertainment, keeping the audience informed
and jollied along, you may well find yourself working alongside, and
possibly socialising with, that most fabulous of creations – ‟ The Celebrity”.
And the world of celebrities and what can change someone from a mere
person into a celebrity, is what I’m going to be talking about in this and
several future blogs. Now call me old-fashioned…
“Oi! Phil! You’re old-fashioned!”…but to my mind, people who have been on “Big Brother ” or got voted off “The X Factor” or maybe appeared on any and all daytime television shows that involve household improvements, ancient artefacts hidden in your attic, digging-up vegetables from your garden or just being followed by a camera crew while they carry out their normal everyday duties as a traffic warden, white-line-in-the-middle-of-the-road-painter or demon possessed, axe-wielding, serial killer, are not celebrities.
Let’s paint a thick white line under that one right now. Without a camera crew following us.
They might think they’re celebs, and often, egged-on by get-rich-quick
managers who want to cash-in on their fleetingly flimsy fame, they are led
to believe they’re “stars”. But the truth is….and I know this isn’t
grammatical, so don’t write in….stars, they ain’t and never will be.
A real star is someone who can walk into a room and without deliberately
bringing attention to his or herself, the very nature of their presence can
create an atmosphere of excitement. Even though, nine times out of ten, they’re fully clothed.
This frisson of excitement could be caused by that person’s impressive body
of work in film or television or theatre or sport, making them instantly
recognisable. On a different level the excitement could be created because that person is the current Number One in the pop charts and is “hot‟! Six months later, when the follow-up song fails to chart, they’ll be all but forgotten. But, “for one brief shining moment” they’re the centre of the universe.
Here’s an example of how someone can create that sort of excitement and
what it took to change him from an actor to a superstar. In fact one of the
first true superstars from the era when that (now over-used) superlative
was first heard.
Robert Redford was a familiar face in films like “Barefoot In the Park”
and “ The Chase” in the mid 1960’s. He was a likeable, blandly blond but
good-looking guy and could have gone on playing likeable, blandly blond
good-looking roles into his forties.
Then Dame Fortune came knocking on his front door with the script for
“Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid”. Actually she may well have rung
his door bell, left the script on his front step and run away. She does love a practical joke does Dame Fortune.
That’s why you and me have never won a million quid on the Lottery, yet
we still keep buying tickets every week. And every time we pick the
numbers we feel sure will win and hand over our hard-earned cash to pay
for them, old Dame Fortune is standing in a corner somewhere, doubled-up, wiping away the copious tears of laughter that roll down her puffy, overly-rouged cheeks.
Where the hell was I? Oh yes, Robert Redford. Likeable. Blandly blond
etc. etc. Then he made “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid” and his life
changed forever. For reasons that defy explanation ( if it could be explained, every film released would be just as popular and make a similar fortune ) this 1969 western became an instant classic, causing people around the world to queue around the block to get into their cinemas ( no multiplexes then ) to see it.
So what point am I trying to make? Simply this…
William Goldman, the screenwriter who penned “Butch and Sundance”
made this insightful comment about Redford.
„Before the film was released, rooms did not hush when he entered them„.
Inferring that once the entire movie-going world fell in love with the film,
thereafter, everywhere that Redford went, rooms did hush when he entered
Thanks to a forty-year career that includes Hollywood classics like “The
Sting”, “The Natural”, “All The President’s Men” and “Indecent
Proposal”, I would guess that rooms will always hush when he enters
To get to these Olympian heights, he didn’t re-build someone’s patio within
24 hours or auction off their family heirlooms or find them a dream home
in the sun. No, all he had to do was to become a great film actor, producer and director. And stay in the public eye for almost half a century. Simples!
And that, my friends, is what makes him a real celebrity. Which leads me, neatly, into a little movie-style teaser trailer for my next blog in which I’ll be telling you about some of the celebrities I’ve encountered in my job.
Coming Soon To This Blog! An epic tale of one man against an audience.