The day James Corden chased after me (non romantically)

James+Corden+Dominic+Cooper+Vogue+Bvlgari+jNKrH_QThozl

Because James Corden has got really big in the last day or so – having done Carpool Karaoke with Michelle Obama – I thought I’d tell my own shameless story of James Corden. Because I love name-dropping. And James Corden.

Actually, that’s a lie. He’s not my cup of tea. Often I lie in bed at night and think: “How did you do that, James Corden? How did you make everyone love you in the US? And everywhere?” Carpool Karaoke does not tickle me. But probably goes down well with the Americans, no offence, because Americans love assured English men (see: Simon Cowell, John Oliver).

Anyway, you’re probably thinking: get on with it, girl.

Let me take you back to 2006, when I was 17 and at my most pretentious level ever. At 17, I thought I was going to be a famous actress – the Penelope Cruz of Kent, I dreamed – before I realised I wasn’t good at pretending to be someone else.

I did drama at school and loved it. Not least because my class got taken on loads of trips to see plays that probably cost our parents a million pounds. Once I even saw Darcy Bussell doing a pirouette on a school outing and thought: “Oh my days. Is this even a GCSE?”

On one sunny afternoon – because it has to be sunny when you go to Southbank – my teachers took us on a tour of The National Theatre.

In 2006, The History Boys was on – starring James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Stephen Campbell Moore. This, if you didn’t know, became quite a big deal in TheatreLand. It was written by Alan Bennett and it’s a decent play (and since then, film) if a little pleased with itself.

On this amazing tour of The National Theatre, we got to watch The History Boys (Corden, particularly) rehearse a scene about blow jobs. I can’t remember what happens in this scene, but it was a bit rude.

Afterwards I was so excited that I ran into The National Theatre shop and bought myself the script of The History Boys to read on the coach back (no Pokemon Go in those days, kids).

As I came of the shop, I suddenly saw The History Boys in the foyer. Corden, Cooper and Campbell Moore.

No one even knows who Campbell Moore is now, but let me tell you: in 2006 he set my pants on fire. I remember staring at him loads, and he stared back. At the time I thought, “wow, maybe he loves me.” But in retrospect maybe he was thinking: “please don’t kill me”.

Feeling plucky, I went over to The History Boys and told them how I had enjoyed watching their rehearsal and had even bought the play. I think they liked the attention, because none of them was that famous at this point. They probably felt like The Beatles.

I told them that I’d seen the scene about blow jobs and enjoyed it. I meant this totally innocently. James Corden replied: “Maybe you should practice it with your friend.” He meant this totally innocently too, and – being of an innocent mind – I thought, “what a lovely suggestion, young man.”

I walked off, feeling extremely happy to have met them.

Then as I was leaving The National Theatre, I heard a voice behind me:
“WAIIIIIIT!” It cried. “Wait!” James Corden was racing towards me, out of breathe and running through the people in the exit. He looked ever so embarrassed. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but then I realised. Over and over again he apologised. I said not to worry at all, and he seemed relieved, and went off again to be with The History Boys.

Little did I know in that moment how huge Corden would become over the next few years, going from more theatre to become America’s sweetheart. It does baffle me a bit because I find his type of comedy a bit too overbearing. 

But then I do often remember this moment in The National Theatre, and – though it was brief – it always makes me feel quite fondly about him. I do think it takes a gent to make such effort to ensure you didn’t offend someone.

People say that famous stars have to be careful in the way that they treat fans, but it’s also on the way up that you have to be mindful of your interactions. Because people do remember experiences. And I will never forget James Corden, for being so considerate of my adolescent feelings. (And also rather good in The History Boys rehearsal).

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Bore off, Bake Off

bake off

AS IF we’re on season six of this mind-numbingly dull show 

The Great British Bake Off is back, and I want to celebrate.

But I’m feeling as deflated as Victoria Sponge that didn’t rise. I find this one of the dullest television shows ever, and it’s got me all worried about my fellow species. I’m asking serious questions, like: ‘when did the British public become so hypnotised by baking?’

My theory is that it happened during the recession. No one had any money to do anything exciting like buy a car or house or Burberry handbag. So instead we all purchased flour, and cookbooks, and revelled in food porn, jizzing ourselves to sleep over people using a frying pan.

Slowly the Bake Off came into the public’s consciousness, and we met the dream team that is Mary the sexy skeleton and Paul the blue-eyed perve. Six series later – six series later! – they’re here again in a show that has acquired legendary status among the Brits.

It’s nice that GBBO has bound us together as a nation, but I also think its cult appeal is a legacy of the 2008 financial crisis and our subsequent watered-down aspirations. So tricky has it become to be anything these days that we have had to collectively reduce our ambitions. So much so that we now get emotionally involved in the creation of an apple crumble.

On Wednesday night 12 new hopefuls tried their luck at specialities including chocolate gateau and Madeira cakes. Some of these participants were doctors and nurses; people who had invested hours, days, weeks and perhaps years of their leisure time – and intelligence – into understanding the chemistry of something that could be gobbled in no less than five minutes. It seems like such a waste of human productivity when we have Greggs, and even the M&S cake section.

At points in the show Paul and Mary enlighten audiences on the exact science of the bakes, and I’ve never seen such trivial entities so heavily intellectualised. If we spent half as much energy learning about science, arts or law as we did about cutting up walnuts who knows what mankind could have achieved.

In one scene, one contestant had a minor breakdown when her chocolate gateau ended up looking like what I saw down the loo at Reading Festival circa 2007. Sue Perkins reassured her “it’s just a cake”, to which the contestant dramatically replied: “it’s not just a cake.”

Had I been there, I would have chucked the cake on the floor (or probably eaten it). And then I would have said, “look, you – choose life, not cakes”. Baking was never meant to be a channel for aspirations – it is a functional profession, and GBBO has only served to put it on a ridiculous pedestal.

As the economy improves I hope we’ll be getting back to proper inspiring TV, where people do stuff that is actually challenging, mentally and physically. I can understand why in this day and age people want to turn to the kitchen. Baking is an attainable dream; we can win when we’re battling against cakes, and so we find it easy to invest in GBBO. But there are far more tastier things to achieve in life than the perfect pie. This piece of recession tele is setting the nation’s sights too short.

Dear Hollywood, please stop trying to make me fancy Simon Pegg

Simon-simon-pegg-35510641-1280-943If aesthetic standards for women are so high in the film industry, isn’t it time men measured up too?

The ubiquity of Simon Pegg has bothered me recently.

I mean, I didn’t mind when he was doing comedy and all that lark. Cause he has one of those weird, adorable (being generous here) faces that will has the ability to make some people laugh (not me). But then this weird thing happened.

A Hollywood producer was casting parts for a romantic comedy called Man Up. And they decided the male lead who would be doing all this love, and sex, and kissy stuff would be Simon Pegg.

This surprised me, anyway. I have eyes – and a stomach – and there was something that made me feel a bit nauseous about said decision. Just like I felt queasy in 2008, when I watched the gorgeous Kirsten Dunst have to snog Pegg’s rodent-like face in How to Lose Friends & Alienate People.

Soz, Simon.

I’m sure you’re a nice guy – although you have been getting a bit cocky in interviews recently – but you’re not what women want. On screen, at least.

That’s why today I was perturbed to see Pegg back across my Netflix homepage, in an advert for his brand new show.

Netflix has never quite got it right with its algorithms. It thinks I am both a lesbian and gay man – all because I once selected that I liked Blue is the Warmest Colour and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. You just can’t win.

But it got it spectacularly wrong in suggesting to me I would want to watch Hector and the Search for Happiness.

After all, I know how to find happiness (at least when it comes to watching TV and films). And it starts with a hot bloke on my screen.

Goodness knows, as a woman I’ve earned the right to be critical of the calibre of men that grace my tele. Hollywood is incredibly tough on femkind when it comes to our appearance, and I don’t think it’s ever going to change. In fact, I think we should celebrate it. Beautiful people should be in art. And we should demand more from our male subjects.

At the moment, we’re getting a rough deal.

It’s not just Pegg. In 2013 we got that rom com – About Time – where poor Rachel McAdams was forced to cuddle up to Domhnall Gleeson. We’ve also had Steve Buscemi play a serial womaniser in Boardwalk Empire, whom I find about as sexy as a trip to Morrisons.

And don’t get me started on the rusty balls contingent. Tom Cruise, Gary Oldman, Johnny Deep, and – yes, even you – Jude Law, are still very much alive and kicking in Hollywood. And we’re still meant to believe some of the best looking women on the planet desire their wrinkly faces.

No one wants us when we’re wrinkly. Maggie Gyllenhaal recently discussed in the press how she was deemed – at thirty-seven years of age – too old to play the romantic love interest of a fifty-five year old. And I feel for her, truly.

But I also feel for me, and my eyes and my stomach when this picture comes out. I don’t want to watch a film about the underpant activity of a middle-aged man.

Just like I don’t want to watch films about smoochy Simon Pegg, or anyone else with a Picasso painting face in my rom com selection. He might give some form of hope that the ‘ordinary man’ can pull Kirsten Dunst. But it’s not true, and – anyway – films are about the extraordinary.

As women we are always demanding equal pay across the film industry. I think it’s time we also demanded equal aesthetics too. We’ve got a pulse – please get it racing, Hollywood.

Amy Who-mer? Just another recruit from the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ school of marketing

LOOK INTO MY EYYYYES. YOU WILL FIND MY COMEDY FUNNNY
LOOK INTO MY EYYYYES. YOU WILL FIND MY COMEDY FUNNNY

For me, Facebook isn’t just about frendzzz, it’s what I use to consume newspapers and magazines. I follow a load of them on my feed.

I thought everyone did this. But they don’t, and I’m not sure I can recommend it -partly because it can be slightly immersive at times. Occasionally I feel like I’m in a terrorist war zone when I’m actually just eating nuts at my desk.

Recently my wall has been blocked up with stories about ONE PERSON. They’re always there like an ant in the kitchen you can’t exterminate.

I’m talking about Amy Schumer.

Aside from being a comedian, with a vaguely amusing repertoire, Schumer is potentially the neediest person on the planet.

But may she need no more attention because pretty much all the world’s media outlets (worst offender: Mashable), have been heavily promoting this loltastic woman – for reasons that totally elude me.

Reading articles about Amy Schumer, you would think that Jesus Christ had been resurrected, with all the idolatry and hyperbolic rhetoric.

Take these headlines, for example: ‘7 reasons Amy Schumer would be the best Bachelorette ever’ or ‘Amy Schumer TOTALLY Shuts Down Hater Who Called Her ‘Sexually-Aggressive’ During Trainwreck Q & A!’

OMGGGG.

There are so many Amy Schumer articles that I’m almost becoming paranoid, continually asking ‘who’s plugging this woman’? Perhaps she’s an evil dictator masquerading as a thirty-something New Yorker. I might even create my own ‘Schumer’ conspiracy theory to explain the sudden influx of promotional material about her.

I’ve seen this sort of plugging before. At the Olympic Games in 2012, in what I like to call: ‘SandéGATE’.

Forget ‘Here’s Johnny’, if there was one person there was no escape from at the ceremonies it was Emeli Sandé.

Quite apart from being the star of the Olympics for no obvious reason (come on, she’s an alrighhhht singer with alrighhhht looks), she was so heavily marketed in the press that it felt like there was no real choice but to embrace her.

It’s not always press who push ‘talent’. Sometimes talent can push itself. Characters like Paloma Faith and James Cordon are shameless in their desire to force themselves onto our screens. They’re basically like having a skin condition you’re forced to live with, but eventually learn to embrace and accept (James Cordon being the slightly more itchy one).

The point of all these people is that they trap us into liking them, in a way that I find surprisingly sinister.

It sort of reminds me of Stockholm syndrome, the psychological phenomenon in which a kidnapped person eventually comes to identify, like and defend their captors, without being able to see that they’re actually a bit shit.

And that’s how it feels with Amy Schumer – like Stockholm syndrome. She is locking us into liking her.

She smiles, and tells jokes, and has a round face like the sun, but she’s monopolising the comedy market – in the same way that sinister corporations cut out smaller businesses.

We shouldn’t have to like Amy Schumer. But when she’s being shoved down our throats in the same way that a baby is fed something new, I want to puke up.

Bad Blood: this star must stop Taylor-ing herself to the world’s needs

Taylor has made a swift departure from country to pop music
Taylor has made a swift departure from country to pop music

I never used to like Taylor Swift. Mostly because she’s a country music star, and that makes me think of toothless rednecks dancing to Cotton Eye Joe in a barn.

Anyway, I was happily going about my business not liking Taylor Swift until she released Shake It Off, and I have to admit – though I tried to disguise it – as I was listening I did feel my foot start to do things of its own volition. I was hooked.

I’m sure a lot of people felt the same way when they heard the song. Taylor Swift had marked an end to an era and made herself more accessible to the masses, kissing goodbye to country music and all other things that perplex Europeans.

I’m a bit late to the boat here but over the weekend I finally got around to seeing the video for her latest song Bad Blood – which I thought might be about an angry gang on a Hackney estate, but is actually about (I think) a naughty boyfriend.

Even thought it’s quite electrifying, it made me feel a bit sad. It’s the first track from her 1989 album that has really hit it home to me how much Taylor Swift has sold out.

I know, I know. Why am I having a pop at poor Swift? She’s fun and a feminist and has a sexy catface.

But I think I preferred her when she was more Jolene than Charlene, with her curly hair, acoustic guitar and summery dresses. She pranced around flowery fields singing songs about boys and hanging around with farm animals. That’s until some record producer jumped in and said: ‘Taylor, goats aren’t sexy’.

At least, that’s how I imagine it.

In Bad Blood, gone is the ‘girl next door’; born is the new Taylor Swift. She looks in desperate need of a KFC family bucket, and her face is stiff like one of those lifelike sex dolls on My Strange Addiction.

Anyone who’s seen the shoot will also have seen cameos from Taylor Swift’s new celebrity pals. Stars such as Cara Delevagina, Jessica Alba and Lena Dunham feature, as well as a host of other beautiful A-listers. The desperado squad: saddos, who look at Swift and say, ‘wow, you’re doing rather well. Can we have a slice of that too?’

I’m not sure what the concept of the video is: there’s fire and strutting women. They’re pissed off, and bloody hell are they going to put on some leather and do something about it. In addition to these appearances we have Cindy Crawford and Kendrick Lamar as token old person and rapper, respectively.

Watching Tay Tay, I can’t help feeling Bad Blood and the rest of her songs could have been reserved for more authentic pop princesses – like Ariana Grande and Jessie J – not someone who realised that their original image of country star wasn’t really the zeitgeist of the 21st century.

Just like when Charlotte Church tried to dress like Bat-for-Lashes (ok, I can’t think of any better example) or Marina and the Diamonds went blonde, Taylor Swift is trying to be something she’s not. It’s no surprise: she is getting a lot of positive reinforcement for it. Everyone loves her now she’s like everyone else.

We always say as a society ‘be yourself’. But the message of the Taylor Swift story seems to be ‘well, you can kind of be yourself… if you straighten your hair, and put on this mini skirt, and throw your acoustic guitar in the closet.’

You get the picture.

It really makes Taylor Swift devoid of the things that made her Taylor Swift. We have to remember that this is someone who for pretty much her whole life wanted to sing and make up country songs.

The Swift ‘evolution’ kinda reminds me a bit of the scene in She’s All That where Laney gets a makeover – going from slightly-messy artist (she actually looks like an East London hipster now I think of it) to mega chav. The moral of the story is: be a chav.

But what if Laney could have been an artist? And what if Taylor could have remained singing country?

Sure, country star Shania Twain isn’t the coolest person in the world, but Dolly Parton’s done a good job of staying popular. And there’s Nashville which people like (for some reason). Even if she loses masses of world fans, surely Taylor can remind herself that ‘Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.’