I’M A RIDER ALISTAIR MCGOWAN
He made his name mimicking others in the early naughties but it’s cycling that’s left a big impression on him
People say I look like Bradley Wiggins. With the right wig and sideburns...
I’m what you’d call a Famous Five cyclist. I read the [Enid Blyton] books when I was growing up in the ’70s. They’d head off on their bikes in white linen shirts, baggy shorts and with bottles of ginger beer - that’s the sort of cycling I do. I’ve no Lycra, nor am I a member of a club, but I do love being out on a bike. I don’t drive. It’s 80 per cent to do with the environment and 20 per cent simply because I loathed doing it. When it came to learn to drive I resisted, I’d no desire at all and was very happy on my bike. I only got my licence because I was going to drama school and they insist you have driving on your CV to make you more employable to TV companies. I think I drove once after my test, to watch Coventry City. That was an expensive trip to football, all those lessons for one game! I didn’t need to drive when I moved to London, and nothing’s changed. Family and friends in Worcestershire, where I grew up, are horrified I ride in London. It’s all, ‘I wouldn’t wanna cycle down there in all that traffic.’ I tell them it’s easier and safer in London than the countryside. Drivers in the country aren’t used to bikes and you have people careering down the middle of the road, in those wretched, ubiquitous 4x4s. In London you have cycle lanes and I do think drivers look out for you a bit more. I hit peak cycling a decade ago. I was doing a couple of shows, one in the West End, another in Wimbledon. I found it the most beautiful thing to come off stage into the heat of summer and cycle home. I find it harder to cycle in London now than back then. While the provision for cyclists is so much better than it was then, as a Famous Five-type I actually feel more in danger from cyclists than motorists. The more ‘head down’ cyclists out there come by so fast and seem to get more annoyed with me than drivers. My newest bike cost me 20 quid. I picked it up at a car boot sale and keep it at my in-laws’ house, who recently moved to Suffolk - the most beautiful place to ride any time of year. I can’t say I’ve seen much road racing. That’s probably very unfashionable of me. Though I do remember in 2012, on the first day of the Olympics, realising the road race was coming right by my house about 10 minutes before it happened.
Hugh Porter, the commentator, is my one cyclist impression. He had this wonderful Black Country accent and... [disappears into pitch perfect Porter]. Then I started doing gigs with Jasper Carrott and had to drop it from my act because he’s from the area and it sounded wrong doing it before he came on. It also really hurt my throat! Bradley Wiggins would be a good one to try. I’m doing fewer impressions, for various reasons, but in 2012 when he came to the fore so many people were saying I had to do him because I looked just like him. I don’t think I do but in terms of the old TV programme I did 15 years ago [ The Big Impression] he’s exactly the sort of person I’d have tried to do. With the right wig and sideburns... I’d like to ride a penny-farthing. When I was better known, they come to you, the TV people, and ask what documentaries you’d like to make, and I said I’d like to do one about bikes. I think Clare Balding did it in the end... I love cycling, but my passion now is the piano. I’ve really thrown myself into it over the past two years, to the extent I released an album on 29 September [ Alistair McGowan: The Piano Album]. I’ve always fiddled around with it without dedicating myself to it enough. But the chance to make this album changed that. My teacher, Anthony Hewitt, is a really keen cyclist, actually.