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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Here Comes The Eggman - A tale of Britain's Got Talent


It’s that time of the year again for the cringe fest that is Britain’s Got Talent, only this year I have an extra reason to watch it (or not watch it you may think) as I auditioned for a place this year. Madness you may think and you would be right. Somehow I managed to get through to the filmed heats with AntDec and all the so called ‘judges’. How did this happen? Read on, my friend…


It was shortly after the end of the last series and I was egged on by the Boy to fill out the online application form. But what was my talent? There had been vague talk in the past of the band I have been in for the last 20 years or so (The Dylan Rabbit) to enter one of their novelty music numbers, so after an equally vague agreement with my musical partner in crime – who shall be known as Roger Kaputnik (although his real name is [name deleted following legal advice]) for the purposes of this article – I duly filled out the form. It was decided to put down that we would perform a number called ‘The Egg Song’ as a duo – this entails the wearing of enormous papier-mâché egg shaped heads and various silly bits of business. So, the form was completed and forgotten about.


And lo, months passed and out of the blue in November a message from noreply@thamestv appeared in my inbox:


Dear Fred Karno (act leader - ACT NAME: The Dylan Rabbit Singing Orchestral Circus),

CONGRATULATIONS! You have been chosen to attend an audition for BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT! Please note that due to the large numbers of people we need to see we are unable to predict how long the audition sessions will last, therefore please allow for the possibility of being at the venue for a considerable amount of time (this may include queuing and filming outside of the venue, please make sure you wrap up warm). We advise you to allow plenty of time to get to your audition. Feel free to bring along family and friends for support, the more the merrier!
Oh my giddy aunt! This was most unexpected. They wanted us to attend an audition at the Emirates stadium on 18 November. Now, this wasn’t the audition that you see on the telly this was a kind of pre audition audition. It turns out that contrary to how it is portrayed on the box there is a considerable amount of sorting the wheat from the chaff before they let you near the cameras. So, first things first, on the blower to Kaputnik, the other half of the duo. After thinking about it overnight Kaputnik declined to take part – he didn’t want to be part of the Simon Cowell media manipulation machine. This was fair enough as none of us believed that it would actually get to this stage but there was later a bit of trouble when Kaputnik was worried that the manipulation machine would steal The Egg Song and use it conquer the charts. Luckily common sense prevailed and Kaputnik granted permissions for the song to be used. Now I was a bit stuffed – a duo with only one person. I asked two other members of the band, who I shall call Wakeman and Oldfield, but they too declined to be involved. So I decided I would go alone, as a solo duo....


So about the ‘audition’. I got there at about 12.30, egg head in a black sack. There was a long queue of people being ‘processed’. I was surrounded by hundreds of hopeful candidates – including some real weird inbred families.
It was hard to work out what a lot of these people would be doing. I suppose the same could be said of me with my mysterious egg shaped black sack... Some acts were more obvious, like the roller skating medieval mandolin playing buxom wench in front of me. And the seemingly endless supply of Michael Jackson lookalikes... Eventually I was ‘processed’, had my number stuck on me and was led into the holding chamber.  I felt a little depressed as I was surrounded dancing groups and serious young ‘singer songwriters’. There seemed to be a large proportion of middle aged women, bored housewives types, one I spoke too was just treating it as a day out away from the kids and old man. I couldn’t see many novelty acts. There was a bumbling Sikh gentleman bashing people with his tabla drums. A drunken northern ‘poet’ briefly chatted to me and I met a dog that made breakfast, but there was not much else of interest. I had yet to remove the egg costume from its bag.  I was seriously thinking of leaving when we all got herded outside to do some faked shots of us ‘arriving’ at the audition. These are the ones that they will show on the telly to make look as if we are arriving at the audition and going straight onto the stage in front of the judges. It was out here in the cold November air that I first donned the egghead, I had an epiphany moment. I realised that I could and should do this ridiculous act and from then on I felt much better about things. The Eggman was revealed, much to the bemusement of the other acts out there. We had to troop up the stairs past the camera acting as if we had just arrived at the venue. We had, of course, been sat there for 2 hours plus with nothing to do. It pleased me greatly that just in front of me was a pretentious young, long haired singer-songwriter type. It did not please him that if they use the footage of him he will have the Eggman lumbering up behind him…


So at about 4pm I finally got called to the audition. I hurriedly got the egg costume back on and followed the young chap who called my name. I had no nerves about this really as I had done this kind of thing on stage many times before. The auditions were in a series of rooms and we had to wait on chairs outside until we were called.

In front of me for my room were 2 teenage girl singers and a jolly fat lady who looked a bit like Susan Boyle. This was the third time she had auditioned for BGT and she informed me she might sing Right Said Fred (the Bernard Cribbins classic). After me was a girl with her dad. So they went in one by one and you could hear them singing through the door. They were all very good – but they all came out saying they had been told no. In the room next door an oldish man, in a bowler hat and bright waistcoat, with a puppet went in to audition. I thought this might be a good omen. So in I went, egg costume on. Before me were two child junior producers – they seemed incredibly young. What could they have thought of this middle aged man in a sinister egg costume? After a bit of banter I began. I did a two minute version of the song – Egg intro, chorus, verse, chorus and then one more verse in which I did an ‘egg’ dance.

I rather enjoyed it, I had rehearsed for two hours the day before and again for about half an hour in the morning. Thank god the CD played… I had seen them writing notes on bits of paper. They then informed me that they wanted me to go to stage 2 as they liked it so much – this I thought was quite exciting. So it turns out that this was yet another filtering process. I had to go and be filmed in front of a proper producer chap (older BBC type in a suit. 20 years ago he would have smoked a pipe). There was also endless form filling which I rushed as I wanted to go home, to be honest. So I had to do it all again – they film these stage 2 auditions so they can review them to decide if you should go to be humiliated in front of the judges. The producer chap asked me some stupid questions (“Why do like dressing up as an egg?”). I kind of struggled with the answer – I didn’t really know why I did these things. I then repeated the act as I was filmed and the producer chap stared, expressionless. I was told as I left that I would hear in February if they wanted me for the proper scary AntDecCowell filmed show. I think I did alright getting to the stage 2 audition, as I said many people got thrown out at stage 1. It’s a good song and I think I performed it well so I was hopeful for news in February.

You will be pleased to know that old bowler hatted puppet man also got through to stage 2…


So about a month later the following email arrives from a gentleman by the name of Alan Riches, a researcher or something like that:

"I am happy to inform you that you have made it onto the shortlist to take part in the next round of the programme. Congratulations, however this is not a confirmed audition and we do reserve the right to withdraw an audition at any point of the audition process. The next round is televised and is in front of the celebrity panel and a theatre filled with people. The audition will take place between the 18th January and the 14th February 2014. The city you audition in may not necessarily be the city you originally auditioned in, I will talk to you about this and give you the exact details of your auditions but please keep yourself available for this period of time."

Egad! This seemed to confirm that they wanted the Eggman to appear on the show! After a few emails and filling out of the SAME form that I had filled out twice already and a lengthy phone call covering the SAME information from the form it looked likely that I was to appear. They repeat the caveat endlessly that it is not confirmed bit. I guess they do this in case you turn out to be a serious nutter and it makes it easier to get rid of you. It took ages for them to confirm the actual date they wanted me – did they really think that I could keep a whole month free waiting for them to give me date? I am a very busy man you know...

Finally about a week before the date of 12 February was confirmed. Showtime...


Forgive me whilst I digress from the narrative briefly to muse on the nature of appearing on these shows. This show is staged and carefully edited to show the acts they want to progress in the best light. For example they film a load of shots of the audience in a ‘standing ovation’ or booing so they can insert them at any point thus creating their own narratives that are different to what actually happened. If you are going into this you need to realise that lots of stuff is decided beforehand and it is not as spontaneous as it looks on the telly. A lot of the acts are professionals with agents who get them into shows like this. The silly acts like myself have limited chances to progress – they will let a couple through to the next round but mainly they will make you look ridiculous and humiliate you. I understood this and was fine with this prospect – sadly though I suspect many do not realise this. Having said that I believed my act could entertain for a couple of minutes so I had a bit of hope. I had a hope that David Walliams would like it as it was in his realm of the ridiculous. In fact it is believed that in the 1990’s he was present at a Dylan Rabbit (the band I am in that performs this nonsense at increasingly irregular intervals) gig in central London. How wrong I was...

Green with ham

I turned up to Hammersmith Town Hall at 8.30am on Wednesday 12 February as instructed. The Missus and the Boy and the Girl were with me to enjoy the day. There was barely anyone around and so began the first of many hours of ‘waiting around’. First we filmed some shots of us ‘arriving’ at the venue, in full costume of course. It was extremely unlikely that I would have really arrived wearing an enormous papier-mâché egg head... In the holding room some more contestants were arriving. The self styled ‘King of Karaoke’ was treated like he was a hot favourite. He was from Greece and they filmed us having a long conversation, acting as if we were old friends. The producers told us what to say. Thus began a day of whizzing around doing a ton of film bits. An interview with the director, some stuff with the camp showbiz guy from ‘Daybreak’ and a spot with Stephen Mulhearne who does the ITV 2 show that follows the main one. He did of course joke around at my expense – but how could he not faced with this monstrous egg creation before him? This is what he does and, like I mentioned previously, you need to realise this is what you are signing up for. If they mark you out as joke act or talentless then they can be merciless in their treatment of you. But I was ok with it; I have done far more ridiculous stuff on stage before.

Back in the holding room it was hard to work out if some people were acts or ‘friends and family’. Or perhaps they were just weirdo’s who had just wandered in. It seemed to be mainly singers and dance groups – the odd nervous looking magician. Nobody seemed to stand out as much as The Eggman, who aroused a great deal of interest. I was called to the Hammersmith Apollo at 12.30 – not for the audition but to do some more filming backstage. It was there that I saw the enormity of the place and felt a little daunted. It was empty and the red crosses that the judges light up were huge. They filmed me again talking to some boy band for some reason and then they rigged me up in camera device I dubbed ‘the eggcam’ – this showed me at the venue as if from the point of view of The Eggman. I then got ferried back to the town hall only to be ferried back to the Apollo about half an hour later for the show. I was to be on just after 3 pm – the second act on... Yikes!

Foo yung

So there I was, backstage with half an hour to go. The family had been installed in special seats with cameras trained on them. I could hear the dreadful warm up man and the judges being introduced. Strangely enough I felt no nerves – I had been there so long that, to be frank, I just wanted to get it over with. I hoped that my silly little ditty might win over the audience…

There was one more briefing from one of the endless supply of assistant producers. I had been wearing the egg head for some time now and it was starting to feel uncomfortable. Some other acts were gathering for their moment in the spotlight. There was an Asian guy on first who had been carrying around a load of paper and an ancient computer in a battered bag. Apparently he was to do some dancing. There was a girl band, a man on crutches and a boy pianist in a white frock coat. The Asian guy went on stage. From behind the curtains I could hear some banter, then some kind of kerfuffle and he was off. No buzzers or anything. Apparently his backing tape had failed so he had to leave the stage. This meant that essentially I was to be the first act they would see proper…

I ambled over to AntDec to film the pre stage banter. I couldn’t hear too well encased in the egg head, nor could I see too good as I had taken my glasses off. AntDec seemed to be an amiable pair. They sent me onto the stage…

The sheer enormity of the crowd struck me and I could just make out Mrs Egg and the Eglets in the audience. The four judges looked a bit fuzzy. Amanda asked the initial questions, I have no idea what they were or what I answered. Walliams looked bored, slumped in his seat. Simon piped up and was as you would expect, a bit of an ********. He asked if I was serious. There I was dressed as an egg standing in front of a crowd of thousands and he asked if I was serious. Of course I was!

And so my backing music started and I began the Here Comes The Eggman. The crowd seemed to be clapping along at first but quite quickly a buzzer sounded. The noise was immense and rumbling – you really don’t get a sense of how loud it is on the telly. Suddenly the crowd seemed to be chanting “Off, off, off!” Another buzzer followed quickly by another. Only Amanda was holding out. Simon leaned over and made her press the dreaded buzzer and that was it. I was out. It lasted anything between 30 seconds and a minute. They hated it. The Eglets were in tears. I stood on stage waiting for someone to say something. None of them said anything. They just stared at me. Simon made some sort of gesture with his hand to indicate for me to get off stage. So off I went deflated and defeated.

AntDec concurred with me that the judges had been a bit harsh and in a strange mood. I think it was a quick sending off even by BGT’s usual standards. I was ushered to another holding cell as they wanted me to film some more stuff for the BGT 2 show. After a while the King of Karaoke turned up, he too had been a failure but he had let it get to him in a big way. Some kind of laddish band turned up and they were furious saying they had been made to “...look like mugs…” Like I said before you really need to go into this realising that they can be ruthless in their portrayal of you. So, anyway, it was off to Stephen Mulhearne for some more banter/humiliation and then off home I hoped. I was tired and really wanted to get away but they wanted some more filming – this time dancing in front of the BGT logo. It was a bit like torture, I felt like I couldn’t leave until they had drained me of every last drop of energy.

I was tired, hungry, deflated and the costume I wore made me come out in a rash. Finally I got to leave…


So, there we have it. It was over – now to wait and see how they make me come across on the telly –  like some kind of retarded idiot I expect (if they show it at all). I sometimes think instead of going to the bother of trying to sing an original song I might as well have run around wailing like a loon and shat on the stage. It probably would have got a standing ovation.

Would I do it again? Most certainly not – it was everything I suspected it would be and more. I feel sorry for the folk who don’t realise how they will be manipulated by the Cowell Media Machine…


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