|02 Jan 2016||
||‘As my immune system underwent one of its regular replacements, I thought of Keats’
The odes Keats wrote in his last creative surge are so wonderful that it is impossible to believe the dreadful truth: he was just a boy, soon to be dead from a disease that can now be cured in a trice with antibiotics.
|09 Jan 2016||
||‘Steven Seagal restores himself through aikido training. I have tried it and it works’
The writer considers whether wordplay can ever be considered witty, even when one’s life might depend on it, in real life as much as in film.
|16 Jan 2016||
||‘Having scarcely left home since winter began, I hobbled to the barber’
En route, our writer stumbles across four wandering Moldavian jazz musicians.
|23 Jan 2016||
||‘If I were a pop star, I’d sing like Johnny Cash’
There was a song Cash sang near the end of his life that I now listen to often, near the end of mine.
|27 Jan 2016||
||‘It could be said that Adele is Mama Cass born again’
All the leaves are brown, and our writer’s thoughts turn to big ballads and summers in Sydney.
|30 Jan 2016||
||‘Jeremy Corbyn is a student at heart’
Students seem to be convinced that if they talk long enough, they can save the world for justice. I was one of them once, and perhaps I was nicer then.
|06 Feb 2016||
||‘Am I convincing in the role of Bob Geldof?’
At a charity event, instead of just saying, ‘Give us your money’, I recited from my Dante translation.
|13 Feb 2016||
||‘My granddaughter’s school was connected by video to the International Space Station’
Now when she and I ask each other questions, both of us pause before answering. It’s a space conversation.
|20 Feb 2016||
||‘Leslie Nielsen made a gun of his fingers and shot me. I shot back’
In my career as a television interviewer, Nielsen was up there with William Shatner as the funniest man I ever met.
|27 Feb 2016||
||‘None of us realised that the bushfires and floods were climate change’
At our weatherboard infants’ school in the bush, the memorably severe Miss Cashman had to get us to safety when the bushfire came.
|05 Mar 2016||
||‘In the matter of how women are treated, Australia is the reverse of a stupid country’
Australia’s journalists are still trying to marshal the communications skills to cope with the continuing story about the teenage Melbourne jihadist.
|12 Mar 2016||
||‘Chris Rock proved satirical comedy is at its strongest when anger is expressed through reason’
For all I know, in order to act like Leonardo DiCaprio you have to believe you are ‘fighting climate change’ when you fly by private jet.
|19 Mar 2016||
||‘I got used to Hollywood, but never got used to the teeth’
Americans want their teeth to prove that eternal youth is a social obligation.
|26 Mar 2016||
||‘Lady Gaga’s Star-Spangled Banner had oomph — then she added a woo-hoo-hoo’
To have the authentic gift of vulgarity, you need to have a talent for spoiling your own effects.
|02 Apr 2016||
||‘In my condition, you have to go on throwing a double six just to stay in the game’
I’ve been making plans for yet another in the string of springs that I never expected to see.
|09 Apr 2016||
||‘Finally we knew that Hugh Laurie was evil’
...and not just a friend of Stephen Fry.
|16 Apr 2016||
||‘Bob Geldof dropped the F-bomb in his show about Yeats’
He was the perfect sonic fit.
|23 Apr 2016||
||‘A misprint in my new book made me feel I was contemplating the ruins of 60 years’ work’
Getting things out of proportion is an occupational hazard for anyone whose occupation is over.
|30 Apr 2016||
||‘Ben Affleck has overcome the handicap of his absurd good looks’
Redford got so bored by his own beauty that he would go off and direct something. Affleck probably has the same motivation, but he has a lot more directorial flair.
|07 May 2016||
||‘If Victoria Wood had caught us moping over her death, she might have been quite strict’
Wood’s central power was an infallible ear for the nuances of the national language.
|14 May 2016||
||‘I can’t mock Donatella Versace, because I am no stranger to the plastic surgeon myself’
There is the disturbing consideration that, with proper planning, I could have been turning myself into someone better looking.
|21 May 2016||
||‘It is not yet against the law to be frivolous...’
...In the US, it’s a reason to hand names to the FBI.
|28 May 2016||
||‘Fixing my maple tree will cost a few bob. I’d write a poem, but it won’t make any money’
Even the best poets would be in career trouble without the occasional grant or award.
|04 Jun 2016||
||‘This carcinoma was starting to look like the alien that erupts from John Hurt’s chest’
When we were kids in quest of a tan, we would lie around forever being cooked by ultra-violet rays, and the results show up around now in the form of skin cancers.
|11 Jun 2016||
||‘Is it time to retrain as an actor?’
Should I change profession to something useful? Does the same thought ever occur to, say, Bruce Willis.
|18 Jun 2016||
||‘The English language is under siege from tone-deaf activists’
Anybody who says ‘IMHO’ is no more humble than Saddam Hussein and Imelda Marcos dancing the tango.
|25 Jun 2016||
||‘In many ways, when I was young, I was as dumb as Omar Mateen’
His repellent selfies reminded me of when I tried to convince my bathroom mirror that I was Elvis Presley.
|02 Jul 2016||
||‘After the death of Jo Cox, I found myself wondering if I hadn't lived too long’
When I was six, I was the only man in the house — so how could I defend my mother if the bad men showed up? Little did I know I had a long life ahead in which I would hear about the bad men almost every day.
|09 Jul 2016||
||‘These boots say: I am not Taylor Swift’
At Glastonbury, Lauren Mayberry hopped and floated in a skein of her delicious melodies, a tangle of white muslin being agitated in an invisible washing machine.
|16 Jul 2016||
||‘My daydream of being Roger Federer’
It’s more what he can do, and not how gorgeous he looks while doing it, that I so envy. Honest.
|23 Jul 2016||
||‘I've been reliving my years as a TV critic, though this time with adverts’
I forget what product this advert sells, and I have seen it about 100 times. Did you hear that, creatives? I have seen your dumb creation over and over, and I still don’t remember what product you’re selling.
|30 Jul 2016||
||‘It's Boris Johnson's personality that makes him look as if he's been rolled on by a horse’
The new foreign secretary gave an immediate impression of total dishevelment. But this is as well-groomed as he is ever going to get.
|06 Aug 2016||
||‘I won't get to Barry Humphries' new show, but I can tell he’s in total command’
He is far and away the most learned man I ever met, but can make immediate contact with anyone except the dull.
|13 Aug 2016||
||‘My granddaughter has left me to look after Charlie, her pet gerbil’
He goes nowhere except in his rattling wheel, while the whole family are chugging along somewhere in their Range Rover.
|20 Aug 2016||
||‘I watched everything at Rio, far into the night, cycle races and gymnastics’
Nothing could beat the women’s gymnastics. The men’s gymnastics almost did, but it was short of women, or one woman: Simone Biles.
|27 Aug 2016||
||‘The best way out of doing sport is watching it’
My long-term conclusion has been that top-level sport was worth doing as long as it wasn’t me that had to do it.
|03 Sep 2016||
||‘I never made a smarter move than when I changed my name’
If James Bumgarner hadn’t changed his name to Garner he might have been slower to succeed.
|10 Sep 2016||
||‘People have come to talk about my book. Sadly, not all of them have read it’
I long ago learned what to do — you give a precis of your book’s best bits.
|17 Sep 2016||
||‘Mickey Rooney hammed it up rotten as Puck’
Young male actors should still take note of how Rooney observed the pentameter in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
|24 Sep 2016||
||‘The Australian sun reaches around the world to roast me on my balcony’
Why did I ever leave? It must have had something to do with a desire to see the real world — even if it couldn’t be as good as this.
|01 Oct 2016||
||‘Brad might have got sick of being the less interesting one’
Angelina has handled her career path so smartly that you feel it would be good if she could take over Donald Trump’s role in whatever movie he thinks he is in.
|08 Oct 2016||
||‘I once did a sketch with Michael Palin and Terry Jones. I was scared I'd screw up’
The new era of British humour will doubtless be more feminist and I’m sorry I’m going to miss it.
|15 Oct 2016||
||‘I vowed that I would stay as cool as Yul Brynner when the god Chronos came for me’
The final fade-out approaches, and the chances are that nobody now will make a movie of my book Unreliable Memoirs, the story of my growth to manhood.
|22 Oct 2016||
||‘I am continually reminded of what a misery guts I have been’
When I was young, I rarely demonstrated any subtlety at all.
|29 Oct 2016||
||‘Hillary should have told Trump at least once to go screw himself’
If Trump loses, we will still not be free of his extravagantly coiffed shadow, because the analysis will begin as to why he lost.
|05 Nov 2016||
||‘Picture swaths of Britain where thousands of edible dormice reign supreme’
An edible dormouse doesn’t look like that kind of creature. It is very cute.
|12 Nov 2016||
||‘It occurred to me that I might be suffering from a sudden mental disturbance’
When one is genuinely shocked, there is a tendency to mumble polite banalities and shuffle away, dazed.
|19 Nov 2016||
||‘I was seconded to the SAS only briefly, during the hunt for Saddam Hussein’
I tracked him over a thousand square miles of desert, following the tang of his excellent Cuban cigars. Most of the Arab men in that area smoke fake Crème Caramels, so the mission was a cinch.
|26 Nov 2016||
||‘My idea of a speed thrill is turning up the gas on a mower’
Damon Hill installed me like a piece of frightened luggage in the front passenger seat of a fast saloon and headed towards the airport.
|03 Dec 2016||
||‘Does David Attenborough say, 'Thank Christ it's the snow leopards again'?’
If I switch on the TV at the right time, I will see a small female ape with a green bottom doing a lap dance for David Attenborough.
|10 Dec 2016||
||‘At 16, my dress sense was in the first full flower of its baroque glory’
It took me 50 years to learn that I should dress as plainly as possible.
|17 Dec 2016||
||‘My behaviour at the Christmas table is based on hard-won learning’
For years, I took it to be mandatory that I should be as entertaining as possible, so as to ensure being given first crack at the goose’s legs.
|24 Dec 20172||
||‘Trump’s boasts spring from an aching wish’
Any man who drivels about women when he is alone with a man has no clue what to say when alone with a woman.
|31 Dec 2016||
||‘Even the most trite Netflix drama is too slick to be ignored’
There was once some hope of turning off the set and reading a book.
|07 Jan 2017||
||I hanker for a time when everybody was given a job description by everybody else’
It would be handy if we all spoke a language sufficiently stuffed with honorific tags and phrases that we all knew where we stood.
|14 Jan 2017||
||Carrie Fisher sharpened her comedy with tragedy’
Debbie Reynolds was too sunny to add much darkness to her onscreen persona, but Carrie Fisher could give her inborn merriment a tragic aspect.
|21 Jan 2017||
||I am allowed to drink only elderflower cordial plus water, the diet of a playboy sparrow’
If all this restraint is worth it, you will see my name in this space next week.
|28 Jan 2017||
||We are told, over and over, that President Trump will destroy the world. How do people know this?’
I can remember a time when people of good will were equally certain that the newly elected President Ford would destroy the world by accidentally falling against the nuclear button.
|04 Feb 2017||
||Gérard Depardieu is not light on his feet. But I've always wanted to be him’
His nose once looked like a pair of lorries parked side by side, but now the lorries are the size of trains.
|11 Feb 2017||
||When I am a break down to Nadal in the fifth, I contemplate giving up. Not Federer’
More and more I need to be told things are happening. Only then can I turn my majestic attention to them, like a rusty old weather vane miles behind the action.
|18 Feb 2017||
||I’ve done a mental survey of TV arts presenters and can’t find any I hate’
It was a miracle on the scale of Lucy Worsley not dressing up as Queen Elizabeth I.
|25 Feb 2017||
||The Eagles were exposed as a line-up of relentless bores’
When they sang, they were magic, but when they talk now, they are nerve gas
|04 Mar 2017||
||I’ve been going deaf for years, so wouldn’t have been able to hear SS-GB anyway’
After the first episode, I was wiping the blood from my ears with Kleenex.
|11 Mar 2017||
||I couldn't believe how non-weird Sam Neill was’
Performers do best to do their best every time. It is easier to maintain this attitude if you are not being treated as a deity.
|18 Mar 2017||
||Idris Elba is the most kingly British star since Richard Burton’
To collect an actor’s performances is still one of the best reasons for continuing the long search into infinity.
|25 Mar 2017||
||Coogan and Brydon are the funniest couple since Laurel and Hardy’
The extras do uncanny impersonations of corpses, and sometimes can’t keep it up.
|01 Apr 2017||
||Helen Hunt! Holy smoke, what an artist!’
I long for the days when Jack Nicholson could deliver a speech without flashing his ivory like a leopard set to charge
|08 Apr 2017||
||Let me tell you about my other career as a spy’
Mine were the intelligence reports on Britain that every Australian prime minister read first.
|15 Apr 2017||
||I am planning for a future in which I appear only as a shimmering outline’
I am likely to proclaim that Margaret Thatcher once looked at me in silent awe.
|22 Apr 2017||
||I regret not calling my book Nail-Biting Slug-Fest On The Last Green’
I’m chortling to have got my book done before I roll over and gasp my last.
|29 Apr 2017||
||A reader has complained about my still being alive’
He has guessed the unsettling effect of going nuts in your face, like Peter Capaldi in The Thick Of It.
|06 May 2017||
||I have put aside Shakespeare, to remind myself that others can write, too’
The best artists are a bit like children and the best critics are a bit like artists.
|13 May 2017||
||Back in the 50s, I saw Abbott and Costello die a death. Two deaths’
As the sketch dragged on, the silence of the audience escalated to the monumental.
|20 May 2017||
||The Death Star is threatening me with a lethal dose of boredom’
All the special effects are bigger now, but you can’t bring on another Han Solo just by pressing a button.
|27 May 2017||
||My new wheelchair is a thing of beauty and precision’
The same people who conspired to buy it are now competing to get first push.
|03 Jun 2017||
||In a crisis such as Manchester, words aren’t easily handled’
Proper writers should take responsibility for the pictures their words suggest.
|10 Jun 2017||
||Australia’s grammar is a vestige, a mere gesture’
Is it because Australians eat so much meat?
|17 Jun 2017||
||My wife is visiting the warmer bits of Europe before the whole shebang disintegrates’
I am jealous of her mobility, but determined to profit from being left alone with my books.
|24 Jun 2017||
||The trick of coping with a flop is to go on pretending it is a disguised success’
Hardly anybody read my novel. There is an annual meeting of its readers, but it looks like those pictures of polar bears on an ice floe.