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We haven’t been totally convinced that the ‘Olympic legacy’ has lived up to its promise, but one big advance has been the lasting lift to the media profile of Paralympic sport. That’s partly thanks to Channel 4’s sharp and non-patronising round-up show ‘The Last Leg’ and its presenters: comedians Adam Hills and Josh Widdicombe, and Alex Brooker.
Both Hills and Widdicombe have separate shows at the Hammersmith Apollo coming up later this month, so, as they’re both trained journalists, we decided to let them do our job for us and interview one another.
Josh Widdicombe ‘So, where shall we start… Adam, how did “The Last Leg” come about?’
Adam Hills ‘I was approached by Channel 4 to host a nightly highlights show on More 4. It was originally going to be a straight highlights show, with a slight bit of humour. At that point it didn’t even have a name. Then it started to morph into a primetime comedy show, and suddenly it became “The Last Leg”. What did you think of it when you were asked to get involved?’
JW ‘I was asked if I wanted to be a regular guest on a show about the Paralympics. And I thought: well, no one will watch that, but I’ll get free tickets to the Paras. I was wrong – though, not about the tickets. Are you surprised by what the show has become?’
AH ‘I’m amazed by it. I just hoped we would make a show that the Paralympians would get into. I guess there was no pressure to make something that would be recommissioned, so we just made the show we felt like making. When Channel 4 asked us to make more series, I remember the three of us sat down together and laughed so much over lunch that we decided to do it purely because we enjoyed each other’s company. It’s a fluke that we all get along so well. I met Alex [Brooker – “The Last Leg” co-host] at a press launch for the Paras, and only met you a few months before that at the Kilkenny Comedy Festival. It’s a good job I liked your act that night.’
JW ‘I just wish I felt the same about your act…’
AH ‘Ha! Who have been your favourite guests on the show so far?’
JW ‘My favourites have been the people who have just been up for it and said “of course” whatever we’ve asked them to do. Freddie Flintoff being judo thrown, Jack Dee doing the Harlem Shake or Jody Cundy showing us how to race in the Velodrome. We’ve got Boris Johnson on the show this week, are you excited about that?’
AH ‘Very. And a little intimidated. He’s smart, funny and loves beating Australia in sport – that’s a lethal combination. I’d love to ask him whether he really is that shambolic and blundering or if it’s all an act. I have a feeling he might be the political equivalent of Columbo. It’s no wonder he and Alex Brooker get along; they both hide a sharp mind with an innocent exterior. Is it fair to say we both love Alex to bits?’
JW ‘He’s OK, if you like that kind of thing. I suppose we have to pretend he isn’t really annoying as this is a public forum. Do you think it’s fair to say that you are the nicest man in comedy? This is what I’ve been told.’
AH ‘I don't think I’m in any position to answer that. I think I’m often a grumpy old shit. Either I’m wrong, or everyone else in comedy is even worse. That said, nothing about you or Alex has got on my nerves yet. Maybe that means I’ve finally found the one – or, in this case, two – that I will spend the rest of my comedy life with. You and I are even filming our DVDs at the Hammersmith Apollo in the same week. What’s your show going to be?’
JW ‘I am currently putting together what my agent would describe as a “best of” or what I would describe as “hopefully funny talking”. What about your show, “Happyism”; more of your downbeat outlook on the world?’
AH ‘Yeah, it’s the show I’ve just toured around Australia, and just finished up at the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s about Australia, the Muppets and using your microphone to say something worthwhile. I’m going to have Catherine, my sign interpreter, on stage with me as well, so it will partly be about making her sign rude phrases. Now, I don’t want to raise a sensitive topic, but a few comics on the circuit seem to have nailed a Josh Widdicombe impression. How does it feel to be the Jerry Seinfeld of the 2010s?’
JW ‘I’m told it’s a form of flattery and I’m running with that theory. Seann Walsh does the best one and can also improvise material that would work for me, so I might just set the tape recorder on him rather than write a new show. Final question from me: you’ve done comedy for almost all of your adult life, if it hadn’t come along, did you have a plan B?’
AH ‘I started doing stand-up when I was at University studying to be a journalist. I mean, I had loved comedy since I was a kid, and was fascinated by stand-up, but never thought I’d ever have a chance to do it. Once I started, there was no looking back. That said, I think if not comedy, I may have stuck with journalism. My original plan was sports journalism, but as I’ve aged and become a grumpy old man I think I would have ended up writing crotchety opinion pieces. What about you? What would you have done?’
JW ‘I’d had a variety of jobs – shop assistant, writer of children’s magazines – but had found myself, funnily enough, as quite an uninformed sports journalist so I might have stuck with that, but I would never have been very good at it. I wanted to write comedy but never thought I would have had the guts to perform so perhaps I’d have written jokes for others. Or gone back to writing Dora the Explorer. Thank you for your time Adam, it’s been good to get to know you.’
AH ‘Likewise, Josh. See you in the office tomorrow.’