The title of this talk was ‘Johnny Vegas in Conversation’ but in truth, Johnny wasn’t in the building. Michael Pennington is Johnny Vegas, but not the way he sees it. He has a strange relationship with his creation, talking about Johnny as if he was an entirely different person! As Michael said himself, he was surprised he wasn’t sectioned after the release of his new book ‘Becoming Johnny Vegas’ in which Michael talks about his childhood and formative years. There’s a lot going on in Michael’s head and not all of it’s pretty.
Michael talked about having 15 minutes of material prepared before ‘showing it to Johnny’, who would go through it and dismiss the majority of it before finding one thing on the list that he could work with and making a half hour show from. It’s a strange Jekyll and Hyde type relationship, a Bruce Banner to his Hulk.
To further complicate issues, there’s a third voice in his head, and that is the voice of the hypochondriac! He talked of staying up late at night watching films on Channel 4, as he didn’t want to listen to this voice, who would repeatedly tell him he had cancer. He remembers opening and closing his jaw, as the voice was telling him if he didn’t he’d get lock jaw! He talked of a final show down between the hypochondriac and Johnny Vegas about whether he could go to Edinburgh or not, with Johnny winning the argument by saying that everyone is dying, but it’s about how you die!
Last night in the National Concert Hall, Michael was interviewed by Pauline McLynn. She brought him through his younger years, and his trip to a seminary at the tender age of 11 to start the journey to become a catholic priest! He left after four terms due to homesickness. He later went on to study art and ceramics, which remains one of the great loves in life. Michael talked about his new career as an actor and director, which he sees as the first thing he has done for himself, without Johnny.
It would be fair to say the new books isn’t your standard ‘rags to riches’ tale, and that this warts and all account of what is going on in his head sounds a fascinating read. They say comedy comes from a dark place and certainly this is no exception.
His book ‘Becoming Johnny Vegas‘ is published by Harper Collins.