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9 June 2010

Why awards ceremonies make me shudder

The tuxedos, the thank you speeches, the host with his in-jokes. I can’t stand it.

By Mark Watson

My bleating last night about the cancelled-show-and-resulting-stress business produced such a crop of warm-hearted replies that I’m tempted to devote at least three blogs a week to pity-seeking (admittedly, I’m always tempted to do that, being an attention-seeker by disposition, but even more so now).

As well as several dozen nice messages, I received an estimated total of seven hugs — and it could have been even more, as a couple of people confused the issue by posting multiple hugs. There were also a couple of decorous folks who expressed a wish to hug me, but felt it wasn’t appropriate as we didn’t know each other all that well.

All in all, I came away from last night’s blog well and truly mauled. Thank you, it’s as appreciated as ever (very). One of the two disappointed people has already written back to me, accepting the apology. The other has kept a frosty silence, so far. But we’re getting there. Now let us never speak of the phantom Ashford show again.

Before being waylaid, I was talking about how desperate I am for people to come to my tour (which starts in Edinburgh, in August, and then goes nationwide in October blah blah). I realised after writing the first half of this little sales pitch that I’m preaching to the converted, in a sense: most of the people who loyally plod through the daily nonsense of this blog are the same people who’ve already bought tickets — the “market” I have to try and “target” is, well, everyone else in the country.

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But I still think it’s worth saying how grateful I am to those people — and also (on a less poignant, more TYSIC-optimistic note) how confident I am that it will be the best show I’ve done yet. I’ve been working on it for ages, and am becoming bolder in my choice of subject matter, and also James Corden is making a guest appearance. (Of course, not true.) So, yes, do come.

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And if you’re one of the students or other transients who said things like ‘I’ll book tickets when I know where I’m going to live next year”, hurry up and sort your life out so it can fit around mine, will you? Thanks. That’s the last mention of the tour for, ooh, I reckon five days.

Something else that’s touring the country is the MP3 player that we sent on its way some week ago. The brave little music-maker visits London this evening after having gone all the way to the Scottish Highlands. I’m not entirely clear on who will end up with it, but a full report will follow tomorrow.

Last chance to suggest what Chris Pollington — featured in the blog this time last week — should do with his life. We’ll review the plan later in the week.

I wanted to end with a quick opinion, the way I sometimes do. This opinion is a rather awkward one, but, in short, I hate the Baftas. I saw about six seconds of it last night and it was enough to make me feel very irritable, even by my standards.

It’s hard for someone like me, who’s in the industry that the Baftas celebrate, to express this opinion without automatically seeming bitter — I avoided putting anything on Twitter, knowing that there would be a rush of replies saying things like: “LOL pissed off u were not nominated?”

But I don’t really do anything that would qualify me for such an award and, also, I have been shortlisted for the odd thing in the past (much smaller fry than the Baftas, but still), so I’m not one of these unfortunate types who are always muttering about how it’s “Who you know, not what you know” and comedy is biased against people like me, and so on.

I think, therefore, I can honestly say it’s got nothing to do with jealousy of the successful people; some of them, indeed, were people I’ve worked with, or even know personally. Not that that stops you from getting jealous, of course — quite the reverse. (As Morrissey once sang: “We hate it when our friends became successful.”) But the few winners I heard about, like The Thick of It, seemed like very good choices to me and there was no hatred involved at all. Of course, some of the other winners will have been complete shit, but that’s how it goes — you can’t like everything. So I can’t really wrap my objection up in any high-minded artistic points.

All I can say is that all these things — the Baftas, the Oscars, the British Television Awards, the Movie Awards, the Awards Awards — make me shudder somehow. The tuxedos, the peculiar, 50-years-behind way the women’s dresses dominate the reports (“WHO WORE WHAT? AND WHO WON WHAT?”), the thank you speeches, the host with his in-jokes and the same people endlessly getting slapped on the back.

I think part of the problem is that the world of entertainment is pretty much perpetually congratulating itself and taking itself out to dinner as it is; there’s already so much in-crowding and champagne-drinking that a massive award ceremony just seems like the final, bow-tie-sporting insult.

So, if I were nominated for an award, I’d boycott the whole thing, right? Of course I wouldn’t. I’d go, because it would be fun. And that’s really all there is to these things. I should really just get over it.

My last attempt to justify my strong distaste for movie/TV/comedy award ceremonies is that, much as I’ve talked in the past about how much I love competition, I’m uneasy with the idea of the movie industry being a competition. I hate the fact when a film is great, it’s not allowed to just be great, it has to have an “Oscar buzz”; a great performance automatically becomes “a real Oscar contender”, and so now we’re at the stage where Hollywood quite often seems to make films specifically with winning an Oscar in mind (we’ve all seen the ingredients: massive running time, worthy theme about Africa or something, Meryl Streep, etc).

It’s the same in Edinburgh where, if you do a good show, people don’t say “That was a good show” but “You must be in with a shout for the award . . .” (Although I’m not eligible for it any more.)

I think it makes me feel uneasy in the same way as if I’d said something funny over dinner and someone said: “That anecdote must be in with a shout of getting you on Jonathan Ross!” Or, for that matter, if I wore a nice shirt and someone said: “Wow, people should be talking about that shirt.”

I feel like excellence should speak for itself and be its own quest. We should think more of ourselves than to wait for a lady in fake tan to give us a little statue before we believe we’ve done well. We should just get on with stuff and not have to have a party about it.

Nope, maybe I am just miserable that people other than me ever get to be congratulated on anything. I hope it’s not that. I hope I’ve got a valid point somewhere here. If you spot it, let me know.

This post originally appeared on Mark Watson’s blog.

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