By Stewart Lee.
The Johnny Vegas character has been thoughtfully and carefully drawn to embody blackly hilarious notions of desperation, loneliness and bewilderment. But it’s so convincingly portrayed that, when it encounters an increasingly superficial media, Johnny’s behaviour is portrayed as synonymous with Michael Pennington’s. “What you say on stage becomes a perception of your real life,” Vegas explains, “they won’t draw that line.” Last year some lads shouted out at Johnny on stage, “Why did your wife leave you?” Confronted with such a personal question any stand-up who chose to answer it seriously, or else get angry, would have thrown the gig. Johnny replied, “She didn’t share my belief in sea monsters. I’d be swimming around in the sea looking for them, and she’d get bored.”, brilliantly defusing the whole situation. The next day in the Daily Mirror, this comment was reported as evidence of Michael Pennington’s deteriorating mental state, as had been a previous gig where he had invited men in the audience to lick his nipples, and old Johnny Vegas trick for breaking the ice that fans will have seen him use on stage many times. In the Incredible Hulk film, Eric Bana rampages through the Mojave desert destroying thousands of US army tanks, but he has so far escaped personal censure for this in the pages of the Daily Mirror. That said, I once criticised some friends for saying they had seen Johnny do a shit on stage. I said this was ridiculous and that whilst he may have pretended to do a shit on stage, he wouldn’t actually do a shit on stage. He was a character comedian, an actor playing a role, not a psychopath. I subsequently related this story to Johnny as an example of people’s failure to view Johnny Vegas as a character, but he made a kind of doubtful face, and I decided not to pursue the issue.
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