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