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I TALK TO Alex Brooker

A year on from my last chat with him, I caught up with Alex Brooker to find out what the past year has been like for him.

Ever since the Paralympics back in the summer of 2012, The Last Leg remains one of the best entertainment shows on TV and the fact that we're now into a fourth series shows that I'm not alone in that thinking.


The banter between Adam Hills and his two co-hosts Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe is brilliantly funny, and the calibre of guests is just as great. When a show works, it just works, and The Last Leg is a classic example of that.


Alex speaks exclusively to me about the effect Twitter trolls and negative reviews had on him during The Jump, why he doesn't check Twitter as often as he did.


First of all, I have to ask about the t-shirt you wore on last week's show. Explain...


Do you know what, when I went into All Saints to get it, I looked at it and I genuinely though - "That is a brilliant t-shirt. I really want this." - and it just so happened that because the strap across it was leather, when you look at it on telly it looked like I had a boob tube on! It looked a lot shinier under the studio lights so I was like - "Oh shit!" (Laughs). The thing is, you only realise once it's too late!


The worst thing is, it's dry clean only, so I have to pay a tenner if I ever want to wear it again. I'll be wearing it out, but not on telly I don't think. It didn't quite work.


What's been happening since the last time we spoke? Which was a year ago... 


Loads! I've been doing a lot of different shows, I also did The Jump, which in hindsight isn't the easiest job I've done. It was a good show! I loved working with Davina (McCall), but doing The Jump was almost like open season, I was getting panned left right and centre. Obviously I read tweets from people, and it's the first time I ever got it (a negative reaction), and I kind of took it all to heart and I learnt a harsh lesson, you can't pay too much attention to the trolls. Whereas I did. I remember thinking to myself - "Am I really blagging it? Am I actually quite shit at it and I shouldn't be doing it?"

It's one of those things, I've spoken to a lot of people since and everyone in TV gets it and there's no need to take it personally. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think it affected my performance, because it did, and it should've got the better of me, but it did. Midway through the show I kind of stopped believing in myself. It was a tough lesson, but one that I had to learn. I've had it all so easy so far, I've had a lot of success quickly, it's a lesson that had to be learnt at some point. It was a new aspect to television.


The show was hard, a week before I went out to Austria one of my best friends passed away suddenly and I had to deal with that while I was out there. Sometimes I feel like going to people - "You have no idea! You're just slagging it off!" - me doing shots afterwards. People think I was just doing that off my own accord. I've been told to do that shit do you know what I mean?

It's frustrating. It's not like I'm on there doing what I want and there's people in the gallery going - "What is he doing?!" The show is planned to an extent, so that was hard. I loved working with Davina, that was amazing. I got on well with Davina and I got on well with all the celebrities that were in the show.


For me that was kind of my job, I was there to be their mate. Look I'm not saying it was tough work, sitting in the ski resort doing shots with people but, it was a different job for me. It was a real big learning curve. The best thing that could've happened to me was going straight from The Jump to The Last Leg, because I missed the first show of the series. I was lucky because I went back into my sort of natural environment, Adam (Hills) and Josh (Widdicombe) around me.


Also reviews as well, some of the reviews of The Jump weren't favourable and it wasn't necessarily about me as a whole, but I've never read anything negative about myself before so I really took it to heart. What I didn't really take in is that people are entitled to their opinion you know? Some people express it in a better way than others. I know that when you're asked to write a column, it's always easier to write something negative than positive. It's just easier. Like when you write something about the state of a football team, more often than not the comments you see are all negative.


I was never bullied when I was younger, I was brought up to zero tolerance for all of that, so it's not in my nature to take shit from people. But I don't reply. And it's kind of sad, because I don't check my Twitter as much anymore. And as a result of that, I don't reply to the positive things not there either. I choose not to read it, I don't read it religiously after a show like I used to.


You've also done a lot of panel shows in the past year. What has that been like?


Yeah, loads of panel shows; 8 Out Of 10 Cats I've done a couple of times, Never Mind The Buzzcocks which was amazing. Never Mind The Buzzcocks is probably one of my favourite shows that I've ever done! I also did Celebrity Juice, and for me there are shows that if somebody said to me - "What would you like to do? Ideally, if you could have any job." - I would've said 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Celebrity Juice, and A League Of Their Own is the only one I haven't done yet.


I'm a massive fan of Celebrity Juice and I kind of sat there and thought - "Bloody hell! A couple of years ago I was writing about league one football for a living." - when I was on Celebrity Juice I was like really loving it. I was kind of in awe of it a little bit, working with Leigh Francis/Keith Lemon - Bo Selecta is one of my favourite shows of all time!


I did Virtually Famous the other day and it's a great show. It really was an awful lot of fun. I love the silliness of panel shows, it's right up my street so that's what I'd like to do, more of that.


You're back on The Last Leg now, what can we expect from the new series?


Yeah, I'm back on The Last Leg and I feel like I'm doing some of the best stuff I've ever done! I think the last couple of series we've taken it up a notch, I feel like we're getting better, as a show we're improving. This series we've got more of the same really this time around; our unique take on the news, the sketches, the big endings. So far I've managed to avoid singing on the show! But I can't promise that it won't happen at some point in the next four weeks.


I love the funny sketches we do. I loved the test card last week. I absolutely loved it! It's one of those ideas that you hear it in the studio and you go "Oh this is funny!" I love stuff that I'd laugh at if I was watching at home.


I'm not afraid to make myself look stupid on the show as viewers will well know. I mean there hasn't been any Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball moments yet, but the chances are that at some point you may see me in my pants or something like that! I go into the office and they're talking about rollerskating, dressing up like a clown and I'm like - "It's good to be back." It's great working back with Adam and Josh as well. I miss it, and when we don't do it I really miss it.


Someone on a forum wrote - "I'm sick of Adam, Josh and Alex pretending to be friends. They're fooling the audience and I'm not buying it anymore." - it's just like you can't pretend to like each other as much as we do. (Laughs) That's the best thing about the show I think, that we genuinely get on. Fair enough we got lucky in the sense that we got put together randomly and then we developed this relationship, but it is real. The two of them really make me laugh.


I mean the way Adam talks about things, he can balance comedy with warmth, and it's such a difficult skill. And then you've got Josh who is so quick and he cracks me up. As weird as it sounds, I'm almost fans of theirs as well, as much as I'd hate to admit it to Josh. But I am. I got given both of their DVDs for Christmas! (Laughs) And I was at the records for both of them!


What can you tell us about the guests you've got lined up for this series?


Daniel Radcliffe will be on in a couple of weeks, which I'm really excited about. I've watched all the Harry Potter films! We've got Noel Fielding on this week, and I loved being on Noel's team for Buzzcocks. And The Inbetweeners last week were amazing. Again, that's a show I watched, and then suddenly I'm doing a sketch with James Buckley and he's calling me a "leg wanker"and it's just like - "Fucking hell this is great!"


That's the best thing about our show, the random stuff that it throws up. That's why it's a joy to work on. I mean, we're in the office today but when we all reconvene at 4pm there could be something else that gets thrown into the mix and you get all excited and can't wait to do it. Because it's so much fun doing it, it kind of takes away the nervousness of it being live.


Obviously we have to try and be funny and tactful, but I trust the other two. I especially trust Adam that he'll lead us in the right direction. I'm sure there'll be a few musical numbers down the line, Adam bloody loves them.


Recently Adam Hills has said that he'd love David Cameron to come onto the show. Is he someone you'd like on?


I'd love to have David Cameron on the show. What a great guest that would be! I've heard he's a fan of the show. I'm actually going to Downing Street in September with the charity Whizz-Kidz so if I see Samantha Cameron I might try and have a little word in her ear to convince Dave to come on. We had Boris Johnson on and he was a great guest. I think as well, if I was David Cameron it could earn him some brownie points, if he cracks a couple of gags it could earn him some votes! (Laughs)


I mean if I was him I'd probably avoid doing the disability jokes I do. I'm not sure how kindly the public would take to that. I don't think if David Cameron came on and started taking the piss out of somebody with one leg, it might not go down too well in the current climate but there you go! (Laughs) I'd bloody love to see that. It'd be amazing.


Congratulations on winning the RTS Award for 'Best Entertainment Show'. What was that like? 


Oh thank you very much. That was a big thing for us, obviously you're not in it just to get awards, but it's nice to be recognised for something. That's a big confidence boost because you look at it and go - "People are really enjoying what we're doing." and that's kind of half of the battle won. We'll always look to improve, personally I do.


I spoke to producer Ben at the beginning of this series and I said - "Level with me. If you want to have a go at me about some stuff, stuff you think I can improve on, then tell me." I sometimes get worried that people are nice for the sake of it. We went through my performance last week, I don't watch the show back religiously, but I do watch it once and think about where I could improve, because I want to get a lot better really.


Last time we spoke you said you'd love to have Russell Brand on the show, and in the first episode of the series, you did! What was it like having him on the show?

My favourite guest that we've ever had! Him and Micky Flanagan are my two favourite guests that we had. I loved having Russell Brand on the show, it was amazing. Again, we were kind of in awe of the man. I've never seen someone like him. You throw a subject at him, and he'll just talk. You're sat there and you're listening, and you're enjoying it, and thinking - "I've got follow this. I've got to be on the ball." He was a great guest. What a great booking.

I love the comics that I'd like to see. I'd love one day to have Ricky Gervais on the show and also as well we had James Corden on which was amazing, Gavin & Stacey is probably my favourite show of all time.


Last week Adam mentioned on the show how he very nearly didn't get let into the country and you joked about wanting your 'moment of glory'. Are you itching to get behind the desk and from the show?


(Laughs) No! I think a couple of times I've joked that as soon as Hills steps aside, I'm the natural successor. I'm a bit younger, and also I feel like the criteria for the host of our show is that you have to be missing a limb! (Laughs) And sadly for Josh I don't think he'd go to that extreme to get in the hot seat.


But no, I joke about it but I could never do what Adam does. I mean, one day in the future I'd love to host a show. Adam gives me and Josh room to say what we want to say and it's a long time before I can do anything like that.


When we last spoke, you were about to launch your documentary My Perfect Body. Would you like to do more documentaries?


Yeah, the thing I've most enjoyed is when I did my documentary last year. I really want to do another documentary. I loved doing My Perfect Body, I loved the fact that I came out of it looking well. I'm still with the same trainer. I'm not as much on the strict regime as I was, but I lost a stone and a half and I've put on probably about half a stone since then so I'm quite happy with that, I'll take that any day of the week.


I want to put myself in difficult situations, and also it's kind of nice to do something that's a little bit serious and put my journalism skills into action. I trained as a journalist, I was a journalist for six years, so it was nice to go back to that. I'd definitely like to do another documentary. Soon if possible. I've got a few meetings but it's all in the early stages really. But hopefully next year I'll get to do another one.


One day I would love to get back into sport. Even at the Paralympics, I was trained by Channel 4 for 18 months to be a reporter for them. I think I reported for a day and a half, and I did three interviews!


Is there anything else you'd like to try?


Well I tried stand-up for the first time. It was absolutely the most terrifying thing I've ever done. It was a completely different world to television, I was on my own. I didn't have Adam and Josh. Well they were with me actually, they were on the same bill. I did it at the Palace Theatre and there were loads of comedians there, and it was for Centrepoint, the homeless charity.


When I got there I asked how many people they were expecting and they said - "Oh about 900" and I was like "Shit the bed! To do a 10-mintue set in front of 900 people, I was physically shaking and Josh and Adam were telling me I was fine, and luckily the set went well.


I got a good review in The Mirror and stuff like that. In no way am I a polished stand-up comic, far from it, but it made me appreciate the art, because it is a proper craft. It's not just going on stage and telling jokes, and I am fascinated by it. When Russell Brand came on the show he was giving me advice, and I'm lucky that I've got access to these people who know the industry inside out. I will try it again, because I've got material ready. But I'm not quite ready for Edinburgh just yet!

The Last Leg continues Friday nights at 10pm on Channel 4

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