This is a story about fulfilling your dreams, then peeing all over them. Literally.
Here’s what you need to know: I worship Stephen Fry. I know, I know, you do too. He’s great and he’s clever and oh-so-funny. But you don’t understand. You really like him, I worship him, which, as a career atheist, is a huge admission for me to make. I don’t believe in God, but if I did, I’d like him to be a gay British man with a crooked nose, potty mouth, and a collection of oddly patterned ties.
Here’s how deep the obsession goes: my favorite book of his is The Hippopotamus. I, too, have a crooked nose. We share the same birthday. I am also best friends with Hugh Laurie. Okay, maybe not the last part. But you get the idea. In my universe, he’s kind of a big deal.
Which is why, when I got an email from someone purporting to be the producer of QI (Stephen Fry’s popular quiz show that is almost the entirety of ABC’s entertainment programming at this point), inviting me on the show, I thought it was fake. Then, when I replied saying as much, and they provided credentials and confirmation that they were who they said they were, I squealed and wept manfully. A few months later, there I was, walking into the building where they record episodes of QI.
In the weeks leading up to the recording, my friends had asked who my ideal panelists for QI would be, and I said I hoped it would be David Mitchell and Sue Perkins. So when, on the ride up in the elevator, a production assistant informs me I’ll be on with David Mitchell and Sue Perkins, I let out a silent scream that hurts dogs for miles around. I’m first taken to a private guest room, where I nervously pace in and out of the closet, while drinking three bottles of water so as not to dehydrate too much when, inevitably, I cry. Then, after half an hour, I’m led to the green room. I walk in to see a small bar, attended by Alan Davies, David Mitchell, and Sue Perkins. Oh, and Bill Bailey is hanging out as well.
Some quick things worth noting: David Mitchell is magnificently intelligent. His intellect is so immense, when he turns to face you, you can actually feel the tangible presence of his mind slapping you across the face. Bill Bailey is as friendly as you’d imagine. Alan Davies is actually quite quiet. And Sue Perkins is the kindest, gentlest person since Nelson Mandela died. Seriously. She sees me changing colour and instantly procures me several glasses of wine to calm me down. Then Stephen Fry comes in, and I need more wine.
“I’m Stephen,” he says.
I just look up at him and giggle like a buffoon for several minutes.
Eventually, we make our way onto the set. Then they announce me, and all of a sudden I’m sitting at the famous QI table, surrounded by everyone else, and attended by an audience of a couple of hundred people. Lights go on, cameras focus, Stephen Fry lets out his classic, “Good evening, good evening, good evening,” and we’re off. I get a laugh early on. I’m loving every second of it. I’m literally living my dream.
And I really need to pee.
Like, a lot.
By now, I’ve got three bottles of water and half a bottle of white wine in me. And we’re only about 15 minutes into recording the show. So I start shifting in my seat, twisting and turning to take weight off my bladder. At one point, I even consider surreptitiously unbuttoning my pants to relieve the pressure, except it turns out there’s no way of surreptitiously unbuttoning pants while seated between Sue Perkins and Stephen Fry, with 200 people watching. Then I make a decision to man-up. I’m 36 years old and I’m doing something I never thought I’d be given the opportunity to do. I’m not going to let the need to urinate ruin that. So I grit my teeth, gird my mental loins, clench my thighs, and decide I’m going to wait. Which is when the large screens in the studio that show footage of things being talked about next start showing waterfalls. And now I know that if I don’t say or do something, this will end in pee and tears. So hating myself, I raise my hands and interrupt one of Stephen’s eloquent monologues. And he takes one look at me and understands. Next thing I know, a production assistant is racing me to the toilet, as I loosen my pants while running. I slide into the loo and unleash a stream that went on for several years, ending it all with a weary sigh. Then I make my way back to the theatre, where I’m met by rapturous applause.
“They really like me,” I think, waving to the enthusiastic crowd.
What I didn’t know, and what I was about to learn, was that as I ran out of the studio, Sue asked Stephen if I was still mic’d up. Which I was. And then 200 people, as well as my personal deity, heard me pee. And pee. And pee. Then they heard me sigh.
From what I’ve been told, that’ll probably be edited out of the airing episode, but it’ll make a DVD extra for sure. Either way, it guarantees that Stephen Fry won’t forget me. Which I suppose is worth a great deal, even if it’s not how I’d prefer to be remembered.