Alan Carr: Chatting his way to success
Dec 14 2009 By Polly Weeks
Alan Carr is one of the UK’s leading comedians. He talks about his current series Alan Carr: Chatty Man on Channel 4, and explains what separates his programme from other chat shows.
The sometimes raunchy, sometimes mumsy comedian has already welcomed A-listers Mariah Carey, Kate Hudson and Sharon Osbourne to his sofa, with Bette Midler and JLS still come.
As his second series of Alan Carr: Chatty Man, gets under way, Alan is rapidly becoming the next big thing in camp chat-show comedy.
Already established as one of the UK’s most well-loved comedians, the host’s friendly and personable approach has diva-like superstars such as Mariah Carey opening up to the crowd.
“So what was your wedding like love? Was it nice?” he giggles, as she starts to spill the beans.
What is the secret to Carr’s success, which helped him pull in 1.5 million viewers the first week the show started back in November?
“On Chatty Man once I’d started talking and I realised people want to talk, it was fine,” he explains.
“You worry and think, ‘What if they don’t say anything? What if they don’t like me?’ But as soon as they realise you’re not trying to catch them out, and you just want to have fun, and you’ll mention their book/film/equestrian range, they’re happy to have fun.
“I think one of the good things about Chatty Man is it’s just chat. I don’t want to see anyone crying, I don’t want to hear about how they were abused as a child, we just want a laugh and a bit of fun, as if they’re a friend and they’ve just come round and sat at my table and we’re having tea and cake or whatever.”
Once Carr has made his guests feel welcome, the results can be be extraordinary.
The usually guarded Mariah Carey ended up having pretend phone sex with him.
“I did warm-up for Jonathan Ross for three years, so I watched the master at work from the studio floor. That was a real treat, as you can imagine,” the host reveals about how he learned his trade.
“I get good guests, but he gets the Hollywood A-listers who are media-trained within an inch of their lives, and he still manages to get something good out of them. He just keeps going and going and going. I watched him, and I thought, ‘Oh Alan, just don’t give up. Keep on going’. He gets so much out of them.”
One of Carr’s tricks is to offer his guests food and drink.
“I think you can interview a guest for an hour and not know about them, but by seeing if they accept a Tia Maria, it says so much more about their personality than any autobiography can do.”
But while Carr says he’s not keen on intruding into his guests’ private lives, he does feels it’s hugely important to do his research.
“That’s the one thing I definitely do. Even if it’s someone like Kerry Katona or Katie Price, and they haven’t read their own book, I’ll read it for them,” he says naughtily.
“I just think it’s a mark of respect really. I’ve gone on shows where someone’s just gone on Wikipedia, and halfway through the interview they’ll ask me, ‘What’s it like having Lionel Blair as your dad?’ And you have to explain that’s not true. So it’s just respectful.
“I will listen to the CD, and I’ll make sure I go and see the film, and it just makes a better interview, I think. Unless the film’s s**t.”
Even when Carr doesn’t have anything good to say about the product the celebrity guest is promoting, the comedian says he’s never tempted to insult them.
“I just say something like, ‘Ooh, look at you! Look at you in a film!’ I try not to mention if it’s any good. The only problem I have is when the soap stars come on. Because you can’t wing it. I don’t watch the soaps, and there’s so much background to catch up on. The researcher comes in and says, ‘Well, Peter married Jilly, but Jilly was really seeing Tom. Tom owns the pharmacy up the road that burned down after the fight.’ And you’re like ‘What?’ I can’t keep up. Soaps are the ones that get me.”
Carr’s approach to interviews stems from his own experience as a chat show guest.
“Because I’ve been on enough chat shows myself, I’m not one of those who will pounce on guests with a nasty surprise. I think I get away with a lot anyway, because I’m quite cheeky, so I do try and push the envelope a little bit.
“If they’ve been in something a bit c**p, I’ll sort of mention it, but there’s a way of doing things, isn’t there? I don’t want anyone to be embarrassed, and I don’t want word to get around that it’s a bad show to go on because guests will be badly treated.”
Extra time – Alan Carr
Carr’s dad, ex-Northampton Town FC manager Graham Carr, had hopes of his son following in his footballing footsteps.
Before becoming a comedian, Carr had a host of jobs, which included packing boxes for a living.
He might be in his early 30s, but Carr has already released an autobiography called Look Who It Is!: My Story.
Carr has already won several awards this year including the Television and Radio Industries Club Personality of the Year Award and the Royal Television Society Entertainment Performance of the Year.
He gained a degree in drama and theatre studies at Middlesex University.