John Bishop wearing Musto
‘”This is my one stab at heroism - Stand-up comic du jour John Bishop tells Judith Woods that the Sport Relief ‘Week of Hell’ he faces is an opportunity to prove himself – and change lives”
Who would be a comedian in today’s world of high-pressure celebrity charity challenges? It’s no longer enough to be funny, these days we expect our stand-ups to be a little dashing too. Come Sport Relief weekend (March 23-25) it has become positively de rigeur for them to take to the open road or the high seas in order to raise money, and laughs, of course.
By any standards it’s a gig tougher than Glasgow Empires after Rangers have called in the receivers; there’s a good reason why the craft is called stand-up. Quick minds, more often than not, are encased in slow bodies, making exponents of badinage better suited to feats of verbal rather than physical dexterity.
Which, of course, makes it all the hilarious to see David Walliams swimming the Thames or Eddie Izzard running farther than Forrest Gump.
So just how many sheets to the proverbial wind was John Bishop when he gamely volunteered to cycle from Paris to the coast (185 miles/ 300km), then – French bureaucrats permitting – row across the Channel (at least 21 miles/ 34km) and finish up with a marathon? Actually, that sounds a bit lame; let’s say two marathons. Oh all right then, you’ve twisted his arm, make it three marathons and maybe he’ll rob himself a new pair of trainers specially (a joke, John).
“I wasn’t drunk, it was more of a tipsy conversation and it wasn’t a bet so much as an arm-twisting,” says Bishop, long-faced and laconic as ever. “James Corden was supposed to be doing it, but he had to go to Broadway to do One Man, Two Guvnors, so there was a vacancy to fill and I ended up volunteering. It’s only putting one foot in front of the other; it can’t be that difficult, can it?”
I’m not entirely sure if it’s a rhetorical question or not. Call it machismo, call it naivety (although not within hearing distance, obviously) but Bishop, 45, a professional Scouser who makes the term “deadpan” seem hyperbolic, is entirely sanguine about the ordeal that lies before him – apart, perhaps, from the rowing.
“I get horribly, ridiculously seasick,” he says. “Years ago when I played for a football team, I’d arranged to go out to a fairground with a few of the players and their wives and girlfriends, with my then new girlfriend who is now my wife,” he recalls. “Earlier in the day I got sent off the pitch for fighting, so I was no pushover. But when we got on the Waltzer, I was so sick I had to get them to stop the ride so I could get off and lie on the ground.”
The intrepid crossing should be over in six hours in good weather, but could take a queasy 12 if the elements are against him. But his mind will be concentrated on raising funds to pay for, among other things, 250,000 pentavalent vaccines, which protect children in the developing world against five life-threatening diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and haemophilus.
Joining him on various legs of the crossing will be Davina McCall, Denise Lewis, Dermot O’Leary and Freddie Flintoff.’
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