I got down on one knee and read her the final line
Comedian and reality TV star Joel Dommett talks to HANNAH STEPHENSON about popping the question via his new book and turning his ‘catfish’ experience into comedy
IT’S a rare occasion when a man asks a woman to marry him in the last line of his debut book. But that’s exactly what Joel Dommett does at the end of his memoir, It’s Not Me, It’s Them, in which he charts his romantic encounters and dating disasters up to the point where he found ‘the one’, in model Hannah Cooper.
“I planned to read her the last two pages of the book,” the 32-year-old comedian and I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! runner-up, explains. “I got her to read the whole book and ripped up the last two pages – and then read them to her.
“I put on a tuxedo, I bought a candelabra from John Lewis – it was huge and cost me 60 quid – set it all up and lit all the candles. I’d forgotten how hot a flat gets when you’ve lit 150 candles. Then she came home and I got down on one knee and read her the final line,” reveals Joel, a self-confessed hopeless romantic.
“Her reaction was to say, ‘What?’, lots and lots, and then cry lots and lots, and then say, ‘Yes!”’
They met on Instagram, when she sent him a message of a cat emoji with heart eyes when she was drunk, and Joel, who now hosts spin-off show I’m A Celeb... Extra Camp, proposed after a year of dating.
“It’s so odd going down on one knee. You’ve been on one knee so many times in your life doing up your shoelace and not thought about it.
“I don’t know whether I believe in love at first sight, but you just learn to get to know each other and understand that person is the right one for you
“She is amazing and we laugh so much and get on so well. She’s way funnier than me – it’s been a great year.”
He was happy to share the news with his 570,000 Instagram followers, posting a picture on Instagram of a toilet door lock first saying ‘Vacant’, and then ‘Engaged’.
Indeed, he’s not exactly shy when it comes to sharing snaps on social media, including a few cheeky photos with Hannah, with a fair bit of flesh on show.
“In Thailand, we were naked most of the time, so it made sense really,” he says, referring to images they shared during a recent trip.
“Instagram is a documentation of your life, and that’s what I was doing in my life at a particular moment. It’s not like I’m doing anything too dangerous.”
But three years ago, however, he was ‘catfished’, when somebody he’d met on Twitter asked him to participate in Skype sex – only to later use the footage to try to blackmail him.
While privately, Joel says the experience was horrendous and could have meant the end of his career (after spending the previous few years trying to get his comedy off the ground, he’d just been signed up to do I’m A Celebrity... at this point), he decided to use it as material in his routines.
“I remember the utter sinking feeling when I found out it wasn’t a real online relationship and these pictures were posted up.
“My world caved in, and for a full evening, I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’
“But then I thought, ‘Let’s just make it funny’. I wrote an entire hour about the ‘catfishing’ thing and it really helped me to flush out the anxiety and bad vibes.
“It made me much more cautious – until I met my fiancee on Instagram – I clearly hadn’t learned!” he jokes.
He does, however, reveal a lot about his previous dating catastrophes in his book, from teenage kissing – in “the way you attack a dripping Mr Whippy” – to almost losing his virginity, until he realised the condom was past its sell-by date and the trials of online dating.
Gloucestershire-born Joel, who began his career at the National Youth Theatre, keeps in touch with his old I’m A Celebrity... jungle mates, including Carol Vorderman and 2016 winner, Scarlett Moffatt.
“They’re a really nice bunch. Scarlett does the Extra Camp show with me. We just get on so well. I’m really excited to hopefully do more Extra with her this year.”
I’m A Celebrity... opened doors for him, he agrees.
“The last year has been mental. My wildest dreams have come true. The fact I did two dates at the Hammersmith Apollo is just ridiculous to me, performing to nearly 100,000 people, and then to go back and do the Extra show was incredible.
“Hopefully it will continue. I’m fully aware that people who do reality TV can enjoy fleeting fame. You can be everywhere for a month, and then nobody cares. I’ve made it last a year and if it all fails now, I’ve had a good year.”
He’s filming a new series of Joel & Nish Vs The World for Comedy Central, where he and fellow comedian Nish Kumar visit the fittest tribes in the world, and he has more stand-up tour dates this year.
But he still has plenty of goals... “My mum’s always wanted me to do Strictly – she just wants me to learn how to dance! It’s petrifying, but in years to come, I’m sure I would be tempted,” he teases.
“I’ve achieved a lot of goals I set out to achieve early in my career
– a big tour and falling in love – and I think this year is going to be amazing. I’m going towards where I want to be, and the comedian I want to become.
“I’m through the door now,” says Joel, “and it’s about staying in the room.”
■ IT’S Not Me, It’s Them: Confessions Of A Hopeless Modern Romantic by Joel Dommett is published by Headline, priced £16.99.
Joel Dommett proposed to his girlfriend on the last page of his new book