I used to be the laziest, least ambitious person I knew.
Well, lazy in terms of work. Career success, if you will.
I had artistic ambition I guess, but being a working class Brit I believed it was better to never try, than to try, and run the risk of failing. Americans are brought up to believe they can be the president of the united states. British kids are told "don't be stupid. It wont happen for you"
I suppose I was cursed with some early success. I was smart. The smartest kid in my class. Then the smartest kid in the next class and so on. I actually used to pride myself on the fact that I didn't have to even try to pass exams. This is my greatest regret. It's a disgusting attitude and potentially a waste of a life.
Writing and directing The Office was the first thing I ever tried my hardest at. The reward was revelatory.
At 40. I was addicted. Not to success. I was addicted to trying my hardest. That's the reward in itself. It's what life's about. The struggle. It's the only way you can be proud. You can't be proud of luck.
Born clever? So what? What are you going to do with it.
Your best I hope, and no less.
I started late sure. But it really is never too late.
But now I seize the day. And I love that day much much more.
I'm a workaholic. But as Winston Churchill said "If you find a job you really love, you'll never work again"
Well, I feel like I'm working, but that's the bit i like. I'm not proud of earning a million times what a nurse earns. I can only be proud of working as hard. And even then I feel guilty about loving the hard work. My only hope is that nurses love their work too.
Then I'm just paid too much. That's another reason why I try my hardest now. It's the least I can do.
Sometimes I think I'm doing too much.
(Sometimes critics think I'm doing too much.)
But I can't help it. I'm an addict. There, i said it. And I started so late, I don't have enough time to do everything I need to do.
This poem by Keats continues to become more and more poignant.
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charactry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love; -- then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.
So at the moment I'm very busy.
And in the present economic climate, why would I ever complain about such a thing? I've also never understood why Brit's complain constantly about rain, or cold, or wind, or snow, and then, on the first decent day of the year, they complain that it's a bit hot. I don't. I make hay. I'm making lots and lots of hay at the moment. Ha ha.
Now I just have to sell it. So the next stage is press junkets and chat shows I guess. Not my favourite bit, but I consider it the "biz" part of showbiz. Not the "show" bit, ironically. I'm getting confused now. But my point is, I've written and directed a new show and now I'd like people to watch it.
The same few questions always seem to come up in interviews about life's too short.
The first one is, not surprisingly, "What's it about?"
"Life's Too Short" is a fake documentary about a showbiz dwarf who has agreed to let the cameras into his life to turn his fortunes around.
Warwick Davis plays a twisted version of himself. He has a massive tax bill, he is going through a messy divorce and the phone has stopped ringing with job offers.
It's not a sitcom about being short at all. It's a sitcom about a man with a small man complex. He is angry, arrogant, manipulative, selfish, and above all, fame hungry.
It was a thrill for me returning to the fake doc format because I find realism quite addictive. But if "The Office" reflected those quaint docu-soaps of the 1990s that followed ordinary people in ordinary jobs getting their 15 minutes in the limelight, "Life's Too Short" reflects the docs of today. Desperate, ruthless monsters living their lives like an open wound in search of another 15 minutes at any cost to dignity and decency.
After I've answered this first question they've usually only digested the fact that it's "about dwarves." The second question is usually, "Are you worried that people will be offended?"
I don't know why anyone would ask that question? Is it because the central character is a dwarf? Or is it because they buy into this myth that I am a shock comedian?
Anyway, I'll answer the question.
I always expect some people to be offended.
I know I ruffle feathers but some people's feathers need a little ruffling.
And remember: just because someone is offended doesn't mean they're in the right. Some people are offended by multi-culturalism, homosexuality, abortion, atheism... what should we do? Ban all those things?
You have the right to be offended, and I have the right to offend you. But no one has the right to never be offended.
I never actively try to offend though. That's churlish, pointless and frankly too easy. But I believe you should say what you mean. Be honest. No one should ever be offended by truth. That way you'll never have to apologise. I hate it when a comedian says "Sorry for what I said." You shouldn't have said it. You shouldn't say it if you didn't mean it and you should never regret anything you meant to do. As a comedian I think my job isn't just to make people laugh but also make them think. As a famous comedian I also want a strict door policy on my club. Not everyone will like what I say or find it funny. And I wouldn't have it any other way. There are enough comedians who try to please everyone as it is. Good luck to them, but that's not my game I'm afraid.
This is not a democracy. No art form is. I love the creative process and I love being a complete dictator when it comes to my work. It's my way or no way at all.
I'm quite Darwinian about it. I do my thing and I survive or I don't.
The next question is nearly always, ''So where do you draw the line in your comedy?'
I'm not one of those people who think that comedy is your conscience taking a day off. My conscience never takes a day off and I can justify every thing I do.
There's no line to be drawn in comedy in the sense that there are things you should never joke about. There's nothing that you should never joke about but it depends what that joke is.
Comedy comes from a good or a bad place. The subject of a joke isn't necessarily the target of the joke. You can make jokes about race without any race being the butt of the joke. Racism itself can be the butt for example. When dealing with a so-called taboo subject the angst and discomfort of the audience is what's under the microscope. Our own preconceptions and prejudices are often what are being challenged. It comes back to honesty again. I don't like racist jokes. But not because they are offensive. I don't like them because they're not funny. And they're not funny because they're not true.
They are almost always based on a falsehood somewhere along the way, which ruins the gag for me. Comedy is an intellectual pursuit. Not a platform.
Usually when someone says I crossed the line, they mean the line they drew, not me.
After this slightly antagonist start they sigh and say what was it like directing Warwick Davis.
The answer is always, "an absolute joy." If he's not the comedy sensation of next year I'll eat Johnny Depp's hat.
He relinquishes himself. There's nothing he can't or wont do. He's an amazing physical actor and he's fearless. Unbreakable. I want to bring out the Warwick Davis toy. You can throw it around, drop it, insult it, knock it down and it bounces back. He's also a remarkable man. Nothing has ever slowed him down or got in his way. The nicest, hardest working, thoughtful and trusting actor around. It's like I could download thoughts into his head and they came out perfectly rendered. He is honestly an inspiration. I don't think I've ever heard him complain once. Working with him reminded me of a poem by D.H. Lawrence:
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.
It fits perfectly. Except he's not wild obviously. Or dead. And we didn't actually freeze him. But you get the point.
I'm very proud of him.