‘Piers Mor­gan,’ said Jack White­hall, ‘about as wel­come as Ebola...’

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FSado­masochism is not an en­tirely alien pas­time in Hol­ly­wood. My own ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with it comes at this time each year when I at­tend Bafta’s star-stud­ded Bri­tan­nia Awards at the Bev­erly Hil­ton ho­tel in Los An­ge­les and get rit­u­ally hu­mil­i­ated by reg­u­lar host Jack White­hall.

This af­ter­noon, he posted an In­sta­gram photo of him­self with his scriptwrit­ing team, and the omi­nous cap­tion: ‘Com­ing up with new and in­no­va­tive ways to mug off Piers Mor­gan in front of Hol­ly­wood’s finest.’

I sat near the front with Dame Joan Collins, who star­tled the LA guests at our ta­ble by loudly de­mand­ing, ‘Could I please have the bread bas­ket?’ as they mourn­fully picked at their kale sal­ads. ‘I’m a freak in this town,’ she chuck­led, ‘I like carbs.’

When the show be­gan – the awards were streamed live on Brit­box, which has just started air­ing Good Morn­ing Britain in the States – a large cam­era sud­denly ap­peared inches from my face. White­hall was clearly go­ing for an early kill. ‘Brit­box re­cently an­nounced, so I can only as­sume it’s some­thing they’re ac­tu­ally proud of, that they’re of­fi­cially bring­ing Piers Mor­gan back to the US,’ he sneered.

The au­di­ence erupted into rau­cous jeers, al­beit with some pleas­ing counter cheers too.

‘I thought that might be the re­ac­tion,’ he nod­ded. ‘About as wel­come as the re­turn of Ebola...’

The crowd gasped, as I shouted ‘GET HIM OFF!’

‘Sorry,’ White­hall chor­tled, ‘I shouldn’t com­pare Piers Mor­gan to Ebola… that’s very un­fair to Ebola.’

The gi­ant TV screens around the room showed Jim Car­rey, Cate Blanchett and Damian Lewis all cack­ling away. The rat wasn’t fin­ished. ‘I re­ally shouldn’t joke. I do some char­ity work and was lucky enough to meet a young boy who had ac­tu­ally lost his eye­sight to a Piers Mor­gan show. Couldn’t bear it, just reached for two forks.’

White­hall mimed stab­bing his eyes out as the room rocked with laugh­ter. I was DOA – again. Blanchett, who re­ceived the Stan­ley Kubrick award for ex­cel­lence in film, made a ram­bling but fan­tas­ti­cally en­ter­tain­ing 11-minute speech that be­gan: ‘This is a to­tal f ****** dis­as­ter! I am so f ****** low-five… my glasses are so filthy, I can’t even read my pieces of pa­per! They told me to speak for three to five min­utes but we could be here all night!’

We nearly were, as she veered from mock­ing the ‘un­der-cooked chicken’ we had for din­ner, to de­mand­ing au­di­ence af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion against an in­creas­ingly di­vi­sive world.

‘We’re all f ***** up,’ she de­clared, ‘and you all just need to turn around and give the per­son be­side you a hug.’

I looked at Joan, we both burst out laugh­ing, and then hugged it out. ‘I’m go­ing to stop now...’ said Cate. ‘KEEP GO­ING!’ I pleaded, loudly. She paused, looked down at me and chuck­led, then car­ried on for an­other few min­utes.

When she fi­nally did stop, White­hall reemerged to jok­ily be­rate her: ‘Cate, I’m sup­posed to be the one who low­ers the tone at this event!’

Damian Lewis, hon­oured for ex­cel­lence in TV, su­perbly mim­icked Sir Michael Caine as he re­vealed how he learned his best act­ing tip from him: ‘Al­ways only look at the eye clos­est to the cam­era and never blink.’

And he paid an emo­tional trib­ute to his par­ents and ac­tress wife He­len McCrory, who stars in Peaky Blin­ders. ‘To my beau­ti­ful mum, who came to the set of Band Of Broth­ers and was tick­led pink her son had a job, ANY sort of job, but who very sadly didn’t live to see Band Of Broth­ers – I love you. To my dad, who is re­ally re­spon­si­ble for all this act­ing malarkey be­cause he took me to the theatre all the time when I was young – I love you. And to my love He­len, who when I said, “Babe, come out for the night and get a break from film­ing in Manch­ester”, dropped her voice alarm­ingly deep and said: “Damian, no­body messes with the Peaky foo **** ’ Blin­ders.”’

Lewis fin­ished by evok­ing the spirit of last year’s win­ner of his award: ‘In the words of the great Dick Van Dyke, I do what I likes, and I like what I do.’

When Car­rey re­ceived his Char­lie Chap­lin award for com­edy, a mon­tage of his great­est film mo­ments was played to re­mind us that he’s right up there with Robin Wil­liams as the most bril­liantly bonkers comic ge­nius in movie his­tory. Or rather, he was. De­press­ingly, he’s now gone ag­gres­sively po­lit­i­cal – with all the drea­ri­ness that in­volves when ac­tors for­get that their pri­mary func­tion, as Joan re­minded me dur­ing one in­ter­minably self-in­dul­gent mono­logue about the sup­posed higher call­ing of thes­pi­anism, is to ‘just bloody en­ter­tain’.

As his name was an­nounced, Car­rey – who spends most of his time these days abus­ing Pres­i­dent Trump on Twit­ter – sprang to his feet two ta­bles away from me and hurled his chair over guests’ heads onto the stage.

Then he charged to the podium and launched into a fren­zied anti-Trump di­a­tribe, brand­ing him an evil mon­ster wreck­ing the planet, to whoops of ap­proval from the very lib­eral crowd.

‘I know this isn’t funny,’ he yelled, things are not very funny these days!’

No Jim, that’s be­cause so many co­me­di­ans have turned into de­mented Trump-bash­ing bores.

At the end, White­hall – whose very en­ter­tain­ing per­for­mance in­cluded in­tro­duc­ing Vi­ola Davis with the words, ‘She starred in How To Get Away With Mur­der, Saudi Ara­bia’s most pop­u­lar show’ – said, ‘Well, that’s it. Piers, the af­ter-party is at Mo­tel 6 in Glen­dale. Ev­ery­one else, we’ll see you in the ball­room.’

S‘but An email from Jack White­hall: ‘Thanks for be­ing a good sport. You ARE like Ebola, ex­cept at least you can get rid of Ebola.’ 31

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