David Hockney wants to tell you a joke. A man goes to a doctor and informs him that he wants to live the longest life possible – what should he do? The doctor asks the man to list his vices and then he says: “Right, I want you to give up smoking, I want you to give up drinking, I want you to give up rich food, I want you to give up sex.” The man is shocked and mumbles: “OK. Will I live longer?” The doctor replies: “No, but it’ll certainly seem that way.”
As he delivers the punchline, the 77-year-old Hockney howls like he’s heard it for the first time: a throaty roar that culminates in a hard-earned smoker’s wheeze. We are sitting in a pair of paint-spattered armchairs in the studio annexe of his house high in the Hollywood Hills. He spends most of his days in here. It has everything he needs, not least a few gallons of mineral water and a stash of 2,000 Camel Wides cigarettes, just in case Los Angeles is hit by an earthquake.