Forget selfies! Selfies are so last week! Trends change quicker than opposition teams scoring at Old Trafford. (#MoyesIn) Whilst selfies have been everywhere recently, such as at award ceremonies, second-rate talent shows and clogging up your social media feeds for days on end, the new selfie is the craze for celebrity discomfort.
In the age of multi-channel TV, social media and rolling news you might well be thinking that celebrity discomfort is not an entirely new thing and you would be right of course. The media and the viewing public love to see celebrities squirm. Celebrity Big Brother, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Celebrity Love Island, Hole in the Wall and of course that one where David Beckham’s kiss and tell whats-her-face got a bit too intimate with a pig.
Things have moved on though since these halcyon days of reality celebrity squirmathons. Recently a whole new level of celebrity discomfort has been reached as anyone who sat through Jo Brand trying to present BBC One’s The One Show will testify. Last week for two agonisingly long half-hours Jo brought all the warmth, charm and traditional sofa-driven, teatime faux chumsiness of a piranah in a packed swimming pool having not eaten for a month. She couldn’t have looked more uncomfortable on the One Show’s gaudy sofa if she had been asked to complete the whole show stark naked whilst the smiling assassin himself, Matt Baker, constantly threw itching powder at her. I haven’t seen someone look so miserable, irritated and less pleased to be somewhere than when Gordon Brown had to apologise to “that bigoted woman”. She made Jeff Brazier look like TV gold. Yes it was that bad! Never before has a nation breathed such a collective sigh of relief when Gabby Logan appeared to take over the guest host role.
Jo Brand however, isn’t exactly my point. The reason she was there in the first place was because Matt Baker’s usual TV wife, (do people still use that phrase?) Alex Jones was crying her way up an “impossible climb” in aid of Sport Relief. Here’s where the trend I’m talking about kicks in. We’ve always had a tradition of celebrity fundraising and in itself this is no bad thing, but recently the fundraising efforts have become centred all around “the challenge”. That challenge has to be immense too. Gone are the days when a marathon would do! If you’re a celebrity and you want to raise money nowadays we need to see a journey. It can’t be any old journey either, it has to involve one or more of the following:
- Months of tough preparation with a trainer who will push the celebrity to the limit whilst also being available to be a shoulder to cry on.
- A complete pre-challenge wobble, culminating in a breakdown with lots of tears and repeated use of the phrase “I can’t do this!”
- A pre-challenge injury or injuries which are extremely painful, involve tears and preferably even more painful treatment which is just serious enough to add some jeopardy to the challenge without being so serious the challenge can’t be started in the first place.
- Some sort of mental stress that causes the celebrity to reveal personal information about their lives whilst in a vulnerable state leading to more tears.
- The celebrity is close to breaking point and quitting the challenge mid-way through only to be comforted and refocused by a celebrity friend or random well-wisher, leading to more tears and the repeated use of the phrase, “I can do this!”
- An injury during the challenge creating heightened jeopardy but still just not quite enough for the challenge to be abandoned.
- The moment of sheer joy at the completion of the challenge, leading to uncontrollable tears, partial collapse or mental breakdown and the all important “big cheque” moment.
In recent weeks we’ve had Alex Jones’ journey of sobbing up a mountain and Davina McCall’s week long pain induced, hypothermia fueled sob-athon cycling, swimming and running across the UK. Ordinarily, I like a bit of celebrity suffering as much as the next person but I’m just a little uncomfortable with just how far people will expect celebrities to go before they decide to part with their hard earned cash in the name of charity. No doubt the bar will be raised higher next time around, but just what will we be forced to watch? Mel and Sue spending a week in a lion enclosure with only a toothbrush to help them? Andrew Neil jumping over 43 parked double-decker buses on a motorbike whilst being shot at by the SAS? Claudia Winkleman locked in a perspex box for a month without access to any eye-liner?
Whatever the next big challenge is, I just hope Jo Brand isn’t called upon to fulfill the guest host duties.