As much as I feel humbled (and not a little belittled) by the two days I’m about to spend up in Manchester, there are other times when I realise how unique it is to be me. Last night’s show, for instance, was an absolute screamer. One for the archives. It was the sort of show that Judy tapes to VHS, wraps in ribbons, and then stuffs at the back of her sock drawer. By the time we’d finished recording, I felt about ten years younger and a fluid ounce lighter. An hour spent in the company of John Cleese is like a year with any other man. He’s a riot and an absolute hero of mine. He also had me laughing so hard that I don’t mind admitting that I wet myself. And I don’t mean just a little bit wet. I mean wet enough for two grown men.
‘Is that it?’ asked John as the camera’s red light dimmed and we went off air.
‘That’s it,’ I said, wiping away the few remaining tears from my ankles. ‘Listen, that was one of the best interviews we’ve ever done. It’s not often that we do these shows live but you were an absolute pro.’
‘So what do I do now?’
‘Now you go home, John,’ I said.
‘Must I? Can’t I come home with you and Judy? I can make a fantastic omelette.’
‘You want to come home with us?’
‘Couldn’t I? I’d be no trouble. And what’s more, I’ll be just as funny as I was on air. But if you let me out of here now, I’ll be totally irresponsible. I guarantee I’ll be married again before midnight unless you save me from myself.’
I looked at Judy and Judy looked at me. Invisible signs were passed between us that only bats would have picked up.
‘Oh, okay,’ I said, ‘come home with us, John. But before we go, we just have to check the tape.’
For every show that we do live, we always go to the side of the stage where all the monitors are located and have a quick look to see how the show appeared to our viewers. Last night, with John in tow, everything was looking fine until the first ad break. That's when Judy noticed the mistake.
On the show’s credits some goon had written ‘Wednessday 16th July’. It was just the sort of mistake that Judy finds unforgivable. She just went berserk. She began cursing and screaming and lashing out. She tore a monitor from the stand and sent it crashing into a cameraman. John was rigid with shock while I could only strip off my jacket and try to calm down my wife, who I knew wouldn’t rest until the guilty person was found and punished.
‘Come on, love,’ I said. ‘Nobody will have noticed. It’s been proved that 92% of the British public can’t even spell “Wednesday”.’
It was slightly deceitful of me, I know, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I’ve been employing my old PA Dennis to work on the show’s graphics. The man has suffered enough and I feared for his remaining arm should Judy have discovered that he was to blame for the typo.
‘That’s not the point if most people are too dim to spot it,’ screamed Judy. ‘It made us look like rank bloody amateurs. It is most unprofe...’
At which point she tripped over John’s abnormally large feet.
For the first two steps, she looked like she would recover but on the third she completely lost balance and went stumbling into Rob the Zookeeper who, as you probably know, had been on the show to help John demonstrate how a lemur eats grapes and generally do his little bit to Help Save the Lemur.
I needn’t tell you that it’s generally not a good idea to go stumbling into a zoo keeper, especially when the zoo keeper is trying to coax a male lemur into its cage. Judy hit him around the ribs and Rob fell forward. What followed was a matter of angles. The way he’d been holding the animal and the direction he was falling... It’s probably easier and more polite to say that he goosed the lemur. Unfortunately, the lemur happened to be called Colin and like 82% of males called Colin, he didn’t like where the zoo keeper put his thumb. This made the lemur quite mad but he didn’t turn on Rob but turned on Judy.
Judy tried to bat Colin away but the lemur had his tail around her throat before she could deploy her highly trained fists to fend it away. John, in the meantime, being much closer, leapt straight into the fight and tried to pull the lemur off Judy’s face. Having claimed live on air that they are a very docile creature, he was clearly not prepared for the snarling teeth of a prosimian who have been violated by a zoo keeper's thumb.
‘Bloody things are supposed to be docile,’ shouted John as he examined his finger.
I had no thought for John’s finger or the zoo keeper’s thumb. Judy was turning a deeper shade of purple as the lemur tightened its grip on her throat.
‘Docile?’ I cried. ‘I’ll show you docile!’ And with that I cracked Colin across the snout with a copy of my forthcoming book, ‘Fathers and Sons’, which I just happened to have on my person and will be available at all good bookshops in the Autumn.
‘Gosh,’ said John. ‘I haven’t seen a man kill a lemur with a three hundred page hardback in years. You see. That’s why I miss the UK. You don’t get this in Santa Barbara. What else can you kill? Can we get a squirrel in here? I’ve always wanted to stun a squirrel. I could use my shoe if you’re all out of books.’
I let John witter way. With Judy now able to breathe, the four of us stood over the body of Colin.
‘I think you’ve killed him,’ said Rob the zoo keeper.
‘No,’ said John. ‘I think it’s still breathing.’ He moved to slip off his loafer. ‘Do you want me to finish him, Dick? Want me to give him the coup de grace?’
I was in no mood for John's sarcasm. I could see that the animal was indeed taking small gasps.
‘Perhaps mouth to mouth,’ suggested Judy whose had recovered enough composure to be back to her caring self.
Rob didn’t hesitate. He knelt down and began to administer artificial respiration, which, I can assure you, isn’t easy with an animal with a narrow snout.
‘I can’t do it,’ he said after a couple of attempts. ‘My mouth is still dry from the studio lights. I’m not getting an airtight seal.’
‘Look here,’ I said, ‘why don’t you let me have a go? I’ve probably got the healthiest lungs here and I’ve got more than enough saliva.’
‘Yes,’ said John. ‘Let Dick have a go. After all, he’s the one that nearly killed Colin.’
John may be a comic genius but he can be so distracting in situations involving lemurs battling for their lives. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to giving the kiss of life to a lemur. Rather filthy looking animals, if I’m to be honest. I closed my eyes and steeled myself as I took a couple of deep breaths before I grabbed Colin and quickly gave him as much air as I could manage in one go.
This, I suppose, was the moment when it all became too much for Judy. She gave a scream and then fainted.
‘Looks like you’re blowing into the wrong end, old boy,’ said John in that rather know-it-all way he has. ‘I’d say that if Colin does ever recover from the mortal touch of your forthcoming bestseller, then he’s going to be an extremely flatulent lemur for the next few days. What on earth possessed you to blow there?’
Naturally, I had no answer except to say that I didn’t know one end of a lemur from the other. I don’t suppose many men do. There certainly aren’t many TV talk show hosts who can claim to have give artificial respiration to the wrong end of a half-dead primate in the company of one of the nation’s most well respected funny men.
But then again: that was just the thing about yesterday. It was just so unique being me.