Classic Interview: Bafta Nominee Alan Carr

alan carr

In today's Bafta nominee interview Alan Carr talks about his love of being in the limelight and the challenge of trying to get better guests than Graham Norton. The friendly rivalry with Norton continues with the Bafta TV Awards – they are both up for Best Entertainment Performance. This interview first appeared in The Times in 2010. The results are announced on May 12.


Next time you watch Alan Carr on his talk show Chatty Man look out for his wandering right hand: “I’ve developed a tic so that when I haven’t enjoyed a book or film my hand goes over my mouth while I’m saying how wonderful it is.” The body language is a classic giveaway, but Carr is learning to curb it as he returns for a fifth series. And there is always a voice in his earpiece telling him to hide his hand if he lapses.

In the flesh, drinking tea in his manager’s London boardroom Carr, 34, is pretty much the same as he is on the television. Naturally funny, a little more thoughtful. “What you see is what you get,” he chuckles.

The campery is slightly low-volume off-screen, but he is an honest, friendly interviewee, frustrated by broadcasting duplicity, but eternally grateful that it has made him a star. Carr broke through with the mix of celebrities and post-pub mayhem that was Channel 4’s The Friday Night Project. He had great chemistry with his co-host Justin Lee Collins, but he doesn’t see much of Collins these days. Because he is usually on Channel 5? “How dare you! It’s because he lives in Bristol.”

Competing for the best guests against Graham Norton and Paul O’Grady is tough and it is the backroom deals that really bug Carr. “People say ‘why don’t you get Beyoncé and Lady Gaga on?’ as if I can do it just like that. It is far more complicated.” First the bookers have to butter up the publicists. And then there are the conditions. “You are told you mustn’t ask about their facelift or the divorce. I had one where I was told I mustn’t mention their hair, so of course you can’t stop looking at it.”

Young Americans are the worst guests. “They are too media trained. It’s all ‘everyone’s great, I’m in bed by 9pm.’ And they say they love burgers and doughnuts. If they really ate burgers and doughnuts they would be my size, not the size of my finger. The best guests are the older ones like Bette Midler or Courtney Love who are up for anything. Kylie Minogue talked about her cancer, but I’m not very good at being serious. If it gets too traumatic I go for a laugh.”

He is happiest with guests who like a natter. “Mickey Rourke is great. We’ve already filmed the Christmas interview with him. You mention his bad facelift and he’ll go ‘yeah, I picked the wrong surgeon’. If anything, Rourke can be too open: “He told me this great story about saving a dog from death row. Except he ended by saying ‘we couldn’t get the f****** c*** out of the kennel’ so I don’t know if we can use it . . .”

Carr’s explanation for the reason why TV’s three top chat shows are fronted by gay comedians is less complicated. “Maybe it’s because we all like a good gossip and a chat show is like a gossip over the garden wall.”

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