You will (of course) have seen in the June issue of AOC that we reviewed comedian Miles Jupp’s new book Fibber in the Heat, which tells the story of his attempt to become a cricket journalist (through blagging his way into the press box on England’s tour to India in 2006). Here he talks to Ed Kemp about his experience and touches on what makes cricket so damn funny.
So then, India, 2006. What the hell were you thinking?
I did it because I love cricket and I love what those people [cricket writers] do. I think being a cricket journalist must be just an amazing, brilliant job and a really privileged job to do, and I think any kind of sports reporting is misunderstood by those who don’t do it.
Is that because it turns out to be less romantic than you’d imagined?
Whether it’s people who are fronting television coverage or commentating, there’s an element of acting and face about that, you’ve got lots of other bits of life that you’re cutting out or editing out of your broadcast. Comedians just turn up and go on stage and talk about what a terrible journey they’ve had, but as a presenter you can’t say “I’m staying in a terrible hotel, it’s a nightmare to get to the ground, the last thing I want to do is talk about f**king cricket, I just want to stick my head in a bucket of iced water and pass out”. You don’t hear Gower say that sort of thing very often. People’s professionalism is really tested.
What are your favourite memories from it?
The main moment for me happened very early in the trip, when I walked into a bar, and the only person in the bar was David Gower, and he turned round and said to me “You look like you need a drink, what can I get you?” Hanging out with him and Ian Botham, and Nasser – all ex-England captains – that for me, as something that happened early in the trip, which was representative of how I thought things would be (even though there were things that happened later on that weren’t how I imagined things would be) – that for me was an amazing moment, just to spend time in the company of people like that, and for them to be kind, friendly and welcoming.
Did you fear you might become someone just going through the motions and not enjoying cricket as you used to?
Not necessarily going through the motions, but it’s the idea that you’re just at work, and you stop getting excited about things, and I would be excited about things like Flintoff in a press conference and get giddy about it, where others were just like “OK, he’s here, let’s just get some quotes and then go write some stuff”. I appreciate that anyone who does things that sound exciting can very quickly get too used to it. When I was in Balamory doing arena tours, the first time you’d walk out in front of 3,000 people and they’re all shouting and screaming it is all very exciting, but by the third or fourth time you’ve done it it’s just like “I might play The Sims during the interval” – the gloss can be taken off anything I suppose, even cricket.
Is there something about cricket that lends itself to comedy?
It’s a game in which people have time to ponder, and it’s similar to performing in that while it’s a team thing, the emphasis is very much on one person. I’m probably being unfair to other sports, but one could be a passenger in various other sports. In rugby at school I’d always make sure I was not quite in the right place, so when the ball would come I’d always just not quite be able to help out. Whereas in cricket if the ball is hit very high in the air it’s obvious who the fielder is who should catch it, and the onus is on you, and it’s the same thing as acting or whatever, as you think “Great, I’ve got a job”, and then it starts and suddenly it’s like “Oh the camera’s on me and it’s a close-up and I’ve got to say all of these words and I don’t know if I can remember them and there’s lots of other people here and it’s really quite expensive and this is pressure.” There is that similarity, but sometimes it can give you moments you thrive on.
Click here to read the AOC guide to being funny about cricket, where we enlisted the (much-needed) help of Miles and two other top cricket-loving comedy writers