Dom Joly: Read all about it
PUBLISHED: 11:42 02 June 2014 | UPDATED: 13:00 02 June 2014
Market traders were asked what they thought, politicians were wheeled out for comment and the letters page had missives from people using the obligatory ‘so-called comedian’ term
One of the many joys of living in the country as opposed to the city is reading local newspapers. In London these are pretty much non-existent. Sure there are local samizdats but they don’t provide the entertainment that proper local papers do. Since I moved down to the Cotswolds I have been the subject of several stories in these illustrious rags.
They used to read my weekly column in the Independent on Sunday (amazed they could find it down here) and pillage it for any local-related stories. I would make some throwaway comment about how my sat-nav would refuse to help me out in Swindon and would start crying and begging me to “turn around and get the hell out of here, I’m scared…” The next thing I would know, the local Swindon paper would have a headline along the lines of “Comedian slams ‘ugly’ town.” That particular story snowballed into me being taken on a laughably awful tour of Swindon by local councilors before appearing on a radio show to debate the matter.
There is nothing a local paper likes better than to create a storm in a teacup about someone “slamming” their town. It’s a set pattern. First you write the shock headline complete with a smug photograph of myself. Then you contact a local politician eager for publicity. He/she declares that I’m an idiot and that their town is more beautiful than Venice. Lastly a reporter is sent onto the streets to talk to a market trader who is urged to declare that I am not funny and a wanker. There must be a guidance book written somewhere that takes reporters through the process, step by step as it is always the same. I have been denounced by local papers in Weston-Super-Mare (and had my effigy burned), Hastings and most recently in Hatfield. I take these articles as a badge of honour but now, with Twitter being scanned, the local news industry has gone mental. (A reporter from the local Hatfield paper contacted my agent to see if I would apologise for using that word – for the record I don’t.)
The Gloucestershire Echo appears to employ someone full-time to monitor my Twitter feed and then run the stories in all their dull detail. I tweet that I’m having a boozy lunch in 131 The Promenade and this becomes big news. I jokingly tweet that I will meet all-comers for a fight by the statue in Imperial Square and this is published as gospel. I reply to a tweeter joking that he’ll fight me in Gloucester by announcing that I’m on my way and this become a drunk driver story… Here’s the thing Gloucestershire Echo – I’m a “comedian” and I “joke” about things. These are not statements of fact.
My favourite one was a tweet in which I expressed surprise that a new Patisserie Valerie, a posh establishment had opened up in the more undesirable area of the High Street. I described it, perhaps stupidly as the “Chav Zone.” I use the word chav as a generic term for criminal types but the Echo went big time on the story. Soon a reporter was being despatched to the “zone” to ask market traders what they thought while local politicians where wheeled out for comment. The letters page had missives from people using the obligatory “so-called comedian” term. It was business as usual. Then, two weeks later, the Echo ran with another story. The Patisserie Valerie in question had been burgled and had lost “thousands of pounds.” Apart from the fact that they missed the opportunity for so many jokes (surely “hundreds and thousands” of pounds? “Stealing the dough” etc…) there was no mention of this seemingly validating my surprise at the location of said patisserie? No matter. I have now taken to sending the Echo regular updates of my life complete with ideas for future stories.
“Comedian has breakfast.” “Dom Joly takes dogs for walk, rain blights progress.” “Local TV comedian drives to Istanbul and back for pleasure rather than charity.” I’m all about helping local news stay interesting. If nothing else they can always print that classic “Big cat on loose in Cheltenham” story when they print a photograph of a normal sized cat on a Zebra crossing. Local news – you can’t beat it.
This article by Dom Joly is from the June 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.
For more from Dom, follow him on Twitter: @domjoly