by Katy Darby
A TV studio, set up for
an interview. The presenter, ANGIE, is talking
quietly into her earpiece.
ANGIE: Hang on hes here now? Hes
definitely here? Thank God for that. Whats
his excuse? Didnt say anything? Does he? I
thought he was in AA? Fallen off, huh? Well, if
hes already had a few, one more wont
make much difference. Better than him throwing a
Turns to director,
OK Bob, hes backstage, we can go.
ANGIE turns to the
audience and speaks as though to camera.
ANGIE: Good evening and
welcome to Bleeding Edge. My guest tonight
is a comedy legend in his own lifetime. Ever
since he burst onto the scene in 1991 with his
contentious one-man show Die Laughing, his
meteoric rise has been unstoppable. Despite being
dogged by controversy, including the break-up of
his marriage, drugs allegations and rumours of a
homosexual affair with the bad boy of black
comedy Chris Morris, each fresh crisis has seen
him emerge stronger and funnier
than ever. In 1994 the Sun newspaper launched an
appeal which raised £1.2 million from outraged
readers who were willing to pay him to leave the
country. His forthcoming autobiography Read It
And Weep is shrouded in secrecy and although
it hasnt even hit the shelves yet, it has
already pre-sold over 100,000 copies. Hes
been called sick, brilliant, an arsehole, and
Britains foremost satirist and thats
just by his agent. Please welcome Ben Woodrow!
Huge applause. BEN
enters, kissing ANGIE on both cheeks and
playfully smacking her on the arse. He has a
London (Streatham) accent.
ANGIE: Ben, thank you for
BEN: Pleasures all
indulgently) Absolutely. Now Ben, were
very lucky to have you tonight because youre
famously antagonistic, especially towards the
press. Do you think theyve given you a raw
deal over the years?
BEN: Well, I give as good
as I get, to be honest, Angie. Every performer
knows that the press is a many-headed beast that
demands human sacrifices and the juiciest morsels
are the people at the top.
ANGIE: But you havent
always been at the top, have you?
BEN: No, no, I started off
ANGIE: But it was in
Edinburgh that the drama critic of the Daily
Telegraph discovered you?
BEN: Yeah, Jamie Benson. We
still send each other hate mail.
ANGIE: (Dutiful chuckle)
But he famously dubbed you "the countrys
funniest man", so perhaps in a sense you owe
your success to media championing of your talent?
BEN: I think Ive got
what I deserved.
He takes quarter-bottle
of vodka out of his pocket and swigs. Angie
ignores it professionally.
ANGIE: Now, Id like to talk about your
debut, a comedy about a man who discovers he has
terminal cancer and decides to go on well,
I suppose youd call it a shooting spree.
BEN: (Gun fingers)
ANGIE: Since then youve
starred in four very successful series of your
own show on Channel 4. Youre famous for
pushing the envelope, but what made you want to
write that breakthrough hit?
BEN: I wanted to challenge
peoples perceptions of what could be funny.
And if they didnt laugh, I wanted to be
able to tell them to fuck off.
ANGIE: And you did.
BEN: Frequently. Jamie was
in the front row and I told him to fuck off
ANGIE: But he was enjoying
BEN: Oh yeah, he was
laughing his head off. I just didnt like
ANGIE: After Edinburgh you
toured the show
BEN: Yep, I took it to
hospitals up and down the country.
ANGIE: Specifically cancer
BEN: They say laughters
the best medicine.
ANGIE: In 92 Die
Laughing transferred to London where it won
an Olivier Award, and secured you a record-breaking
film deal did that assuage your anger
BEN: Not at all. I was
actually quite disgusted that so many people
would find someones descent into madness,
murder and eventually suicide amusing.
ANGIE: But not surprised?
BEN: People are bastards.
course became the title of your long-running
BEN: (Shrugs) Its
funny cos its true.
ANGIE: During the second
season of PAB your wife Sonia divorced
you, citing mental cruelty and infidelity with
your collaborator Melissa Banks.
BEN: Thats right. Were
still in touch, though.
ANGIE: In fact, you live
BEN: We agreed it would be
best for the kids. They come over every other
ANGIE: Yourself and Melissa
parted company in 98 after a protracted
legal battle that you turned into the hugely
popular satirical musical See You in Hell
do you include that episode in your book?
BEN: I do set the record
ANGIE: And youll also
be spilling the beans about the Chris Morris
BEN: (Grin) Unless
he comes across with the hush money, yeah.
ANGIE: I cant wait to
read it. People are suggesting itll knock
the thirteenth Harry Potter off the Christmas no.
BEN: I hope so, Ive
got a grand riding on it at William Hill.
ANGIE: Of course, your
gambling addictions been well-documented.
In interviews youve talked about your
upbringing in a childrens home, your time
living rough on the streets of Streatham
your involvement with hard drugs and of course
the spell in prison where you first read
Aristotles Poetics which
inspired you to try your hand at comedy. A lot of
critics claim that your extraordinary experiences
give you your unique and blackly comic
perspective on society.
BEN: Maybe, but thats
not the whole story
ANGIE: In fact some have
pointed out that your notorious private life has
contributed significantly to your iconic status.
BEN: I dont think
ANGIE: Comparisons have
been made to other troubled comedians: Sellers,
you must be sick of hearing
the phrase "tortured genius".
BEN: Oh, I never get tired
ANGIE: Would you say pain
is the inevitable price of fame? Do you think
theres always a catch in any prominent
There is a catch, yes.
Wow! And you talk about this in your book? There
are revelations the public has never heard
BEN: Theyll have read
a lot about me, but this will knock them sideways.
ANGIE: Whats the
that its all bollocks.
ANGIE: What is?
BEN: (Happily) The
whole tragic brilliance, tears of a clown thing.
Its all nonsense.
(Bens voice is
slowly becoming more RP as he speaks)
ANGIE: Your ex-wife might
BEN: Sonia? Dont be
silly, shes watching at home with the kids.
(Waves at the camera) Hello Frankie! Hi
BEN: Oh, its just the
one house now. We had it knocked through years
ago but we kept it quiet.
ANGIE: You reconciled?
BEN: We never split up! The
whole thing was a set-up. I love my wife very
ANGIE: But surely your
drinking problem must have divided you?
BEN: No, no, that was all
made up. Here, taste.
She tastes the vodka.
BEN: Volvic. Sorry, Im
a bit of a water snob. Im really a complete
lightweight, I just have the odd sherry at
Christmas. Which is a good thing, because you cant
drink on the Atkins diet.
ANGIE: And the affair with
BEN: Oh, shes a close
friend of ours. She babysits for us all the time.
And her tiramisu is to die for.
the what about the gay fling rumours?
BEN: Oh, I spread them.
Chris suggested it though. Hes such a
BEN: Parents are alive and
well and living in Richmond.
ANGIE: The prison diaries
seemed so authentic
BEN: Did a bit of TIE in
Brixton just after leaving RADA.
Are you saying that youve kept all this
secret from the British press for nearly fifteen
BEN: No, Im saying
they didnt want to find out. TVs
Woodrow Is Teetotal Nice Guy not much
of a headline, is it?
ANGIE: But why did you
spread vicious lies about yourself?
BEN: My agent suggested it.
He said the public are suckers for tortured comic
geniuses so Id better find something to be
tortured about. Its all in the book.
ANGIE: Is it?
BEN: Yep. I wanted to
change the title but my agent said Read it and
Laugh wasnt as catchy.
ANGIE: So the true price of
fame is marital bliss and a really nice house?
BEN: For me, anyway.
on that bombshell, let me thank my guest,
formerly controversial comedian and well-adjusted
family man Ben Woodrow.
BEN: Can I just say
ANGIE: Of course.
BEN: Thanks. (Turns to
camera, earnestly) Mum, if youre
watching sorry about the swearing.