Interview With An Inbetweener
Simon Bird is the best thing to ever happen to you. Probably you haven’t realised that yet, probably the name rings only slight bells of recognition – not the clanging “Oh, god, I love him!” Big-Ben-gongs that it should. That’s OK, your time will come, and you will recognise that he is a comedy god amongst witty men, not just Will off ‘The Inbetweeners’ or Adam off ‘Friday Night Dinner’.
After meeting Bird in Edinburgh a few years ago we became GREAT friends with him – securing both phone number AND email. So it was only a matter of time before he was perched on our concrete stoop, in his shorts and red canvas kicks, discussing corduroy, Russell Grant, and Revels. Apologies for the frenetic interview technique – we have a serious comedy crush on the Birdmeister.
The kids love you.
They do don’t they.
Almost to the point of obsession [coughs and puts on serious interview voice] So Simon, when you won best newcomer at the British Comedy Awards…
Are we starting now?
Oh. Yes. This is it. So did you go through many drafts of your speech?
No. I never had it written down. I didn’t really think about it until I got there. Then I went to the toilet and thought, “I should probably think of something to say”. So I thought of a line.
Was it while peeing?
No. I would assume after.
Did you practise in the mirror, psyching yourself up like Eminem in 8 mile?
No, I did it all in the cubicle.
You pee in the cubicle?
Yeah. I can’t do it in public.
Oh really? That’s interesting. Bit of an exclusive there.
And that stands even if there’s no one else using the facilities.
[In a quiet and sensitive, “I want to understand you, I care about you” voice] Why is that Simon?
Don’t know. Stage fright.
Right. Where did the term “clunge” originate? Is that a solely an Inbetweeners term?
None of us in the cast had ever heard it before, but when it’s said in context it’s pretty obvious what it means. The writers swear it is a word, but they are quite old.
Did you write any episodes for the last series series?
No. We haven’t been allowed to write any.
Is that because you’re a bit of a loose cannon?
Absolutely. I am a total maverick. You never know what you’re going to get.
Well. They would probably be able to read it before they filmed it, so they would know what they were going to get…
They might not be able to read it – that’s how I write. In code. In French.
In the 2007 Revels Chortle award, you were disqualified for talking about sweets. Did you know you were playing with such dangerous confectionary fire?
Yeeeeah. I knew I would get disqualified, that’s why I did it. It was a ridiculous rule – they said we weren’t allowed to talk about Revels, or any other confectionary products. And not only during the actual competition, but also for three months afterwards, in our normal lives.
That would make buying a snickers pretty tricky in newsagents
Yeah – you’d have to say, “I’ll take that” and just point at it. It was a bit weird and quasi-fascist so I thought I’d better do something – the whole thing smacks of unhealthy paranoia.
Revels obviously think they are very important.
Literally nobody cares. And the thing is – it was comedy – no one was going to talk about revels, it’s not funny. But as soon as someone says you’re not allowed to, you feel compelled to talk sweet.
So since you’re such an excellent stand up
Oh really? Thank you
No it’s ok. I will take it. I will have that. That’s out there now – that’s a quote.
What would be your five stand-up tips?
Five is a lot! I will give you as many as I can think of. Err…bit boring, but be yourself. Don’t copy anyone else’s style – do what you think is funny. Along the same lines, I guess don’t…err no – I was literally going to say the exact same thing I just said. As far as content goes, don’t feel that you’ve got to tick any boxes, or do the classic joke set up. If you’re a Jimmy Carr fan don’t think you have to do one-liners. There are other options.
Are you more of an anecdotalist?
Yes. I haven’t done stand up for over a year, I don’t really do it that much. I am writing some at the moment and I plan on doing a lot in the future, but you’ve got to wait for the moment to hit you. You can’t force it out – you have to wait till you’ve got something to say. That’s another one! Have something to say. Don’t just do it because, “oh I want to do stand up”.
When I saw you in Edinburgh last year you were really into wearing corduroy. Have you branched out into other materials since then? Velour?
Well. The passion is still there, the fire still burns. But because of The Inbetweeners I have to do a few TV appearances, and my girlfriend will now not allow me to do them unless I buy new clothes. So I have quite a new wardrobe.
Does she lay outfits out on the bed for you?
I wish. Maybe I should instruct her to do that. The corduroy is definitely still there, but it’s summer now.
Well it was summer in Edinburgh Simon.
Yeah. Can I stress that it wasn’t corduroy all over. It was just the trousers. Not a corduroy shirt and cap.
Not to mention the corduroy pants.
Tell everyone about House of Windsor.
That is a sketch group with Joe, Jonny Sweet, and me. Jonny actually had a cameo in The Inbetweeners, as ‘Dean’ in the nightclub. Now when we do gigs, where I assume people only book us on the basis of The Inbetweeners, people say, “Oh wow, there’s Will, and Simon from Inbetweeners…and is that…Dean? From episode 4 series 2?”
And are you writing together now?
We are. We’re trying to write stuff for telly, which is going well. At the moment I would give our progress a seven out of ten. We’ve got a few ideas we like, and the next step is to get them on the old goggle box. Is that what they call it?
Did you ever go to Thorpe Park before you filmed there?
No. I’ve never been a big rollercoaster man, so I’d never been to Thorpe Park before, and hopefully I will never go back. When we drove out after filming, I made a dramatic vow to all the other Inbetweeners that I would never pass under the entrance gates again…then I had to go back the next week because they hadn’t got the shot they wanted – I’d looked too ill on the rollercoaster.
I am very weak. I am like a Victorian child. So we returned, I acted better, and made the exit vow again. So far it has been kept.
So..tell me about your greatest celebrity encounter so far.
Ricky Gervais was a good one. He wouldn’t remember meeting me – we weren’t introduced, I was just in a room that he was in. I’ll tell you what he was – incredibly modest. Everyone was fussing around him, asking if they could get him stuff, and he just said, “no, it’s fine, I can look after myself”. I shook his hand and said hello.
Was it a David Brent style “helloooo”?
Yeah – “as I live and breathe”. We didn’t have a long conversation. Actually, we didn’t have a conversation at all, but it was very moving for me. And less impressive but equally nice – Richard and Judy. They were really lovely. And Ant and Dec – Dec is a big fan of the show.
Which one is better?
Dec. I went to the final of Britain’s Got Talent, and they are so good at what they do. They have such a, dare I say it, talent.
How was it doing the sex scene?
Well, you can’t complain can you? It was fine. Everyone always asks if it was sexy, and the answer is no. What they don’t understand is that while they see us in bed, we see 11 or 12 really sweaty hairy 45-year-old sound engineers, holding loads of equipment. So you’re not really thinking about the sexy element.
Were you wearing pants?
Everyone was very concerned about her – covering up her breasts with tape and fabric. But for me they were like, “take it all off”.
Did your girlfriend mind that?
She was fine with it. She didn’t have a problem at all actually.
Was she so fine with it, you almost found it insulting? Like, “Why don’t you care?”
Well, maybe a little bit. I think it’s more insulting for her, actually, to be going out with someone who’s now widely known as “that geek on television”, and a famous virgin.
Do you get a lot of girls throwing themselves at you now?
Err…Yes. I am always amazed at how people are so won over by a little bit of fame. I am no different to how I was two years ago, when they wouldn’t touch me with a fucking barge pole.
Do you say that to them?
Haha, yeah, then slap them and walk away.
Do you think you’ll go to Hollywood like Russell Brand?
Oh. Yeah. Big time. I’ve already turned down Terminator, Indiana Jones, and Transformers. I have to work on my American accent.
No you don’t. Russell never did. Neither did Hugh Grant. Maybe you could become the cross between those two – Russell Grant?
Why has he never made it in Hollywood?
I have no idea.
It must not be written in the stars.
Would you ever do a Sacha Baron Cohen character comedy piece and have you got any characters that you’d do?
Umm…no. Why, have you got any up your sleeve for me?
I have actually written two down – The Birdman of Alcatraz, where you’d be a wizened old ex-con. Or just some guy who works at the bird bit of London zoo…
Haha, both bird based.
Yeah I think I got a bit carried away with the fact your second name is Bird. Oh dear. I wrote these quite late one night.
Wow. I think that’s everything. Thank you. Oh shit didn’t record. JOKING.
Don’t – we’ve had that happen before.