Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

I Don't Need to Go to Rehab, I Just Need Cheering Up

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

I Don't Need to Go to Rehab, I Just Need Cheering Up

Article excerpt

I emerge from five days without alcohol with a glossy coat, shining eyes and a tail thumping the floor with excitement and good, rude health.

No, I don't. Everything is exactly the same, apart from this: I am a bit grumpier. Or should that be a lot grumpier? Either way, I realise that this is a direct result of watching QI, the popular television series starring Stephen Fry. With a glass in my hand, I'm not bothered by him. Oh, look, I would say, on the rare occasions that I turn the telly on, it's Stephen Fry, the self-pitying man with the monstrous ego who was funny 20 years ago and almost good when he played Jeeves. What's he up to now? Nor am I, in the normal course of events, bothered by one of the guests on the show, Clive Anderson.

I worked out Anderson's shtick the second he first appeared in public life: I get it, he's the completely unfunny comedian. Amazing how he flourishes. (I suppose he's popular with other comedians because they all know that they're funnier than him) Anaesthetised yet made convivial by Shiraz, I can happily rub along in a world where these people and their jolly friends make huge sums of money by entertaining the unfussy. All I have to do is not turn on the television.

Ill tidings

However, in a world where I have to abrade myself raw against experience without any palliative and turn on the television out of sheer boredom, I find myself getting into a bit of a strop. My daughter, who has a wise head on young shoulders, maintains that QI stands for "quite irritating", but as I lie on the chaise longue in the Hovel, nailed to it, as it were, watching the show, stupefied with exasperation, I begin to wonder whether it should instead be called FI. I even start to find Alan Davies a royal pain the neck -and thinking Alan Davies a pain in the neck is, I gather, a thought crime that can get you a custodial sentence if you have the misfortune to run up against a stern-minded magistrate.

So, television, opiate of the masses, is ruled out. I try Radio 3, opiate of the elite. This is even worse. Although still nominally under the control of the charming Roger Wright, its programming seems now to be almost wholly determined by morons who think that the musical output of Classic FM is a little challenging.

Every time I turn the radio on, I have to snap it off again after a few seconds in disbelief at the easy-listening bilge that's coming out of it. When I was a radio critic, I could have nipped this kind of thing in the bud with a few well-chosen words. Now, one just listens, impotent, aghast.

So the clock ticks on, the evening proceeds at a crawl and deserts of vast eternity spread out before me. Not even smoking helps. As the Guardian columnist Zoe Williams once memorably remarked, smoking without drinking is too dry, just as drinking without smoking is too wet. …

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