Entertainment | 5 days ago
Simon Bird: "There was one night that involved a crate of beer and a loaded rifle"
The Inbetweeners man chats to us about the show and still being called a briefcase wanker.

Next year it will be 10 years since The Inbetweeners was first broadcast on British TV.

When I point this out to Simon Bird, he balks. "That's horrible. A horrible thought." Simon played Will McKenzie across three series and two mega-hit movies of the E4 phenomenon. Everyone watched The Inbetweeners; many people still watch The Inbetweeners. It's a modern classic of British telly, and in an era when Mrs. Brown's Boys is voted sitcom of the century, we need it more than ever.

I asked Simon what he thought people loved most about the show. "I guess the dazzling performance by the show’s bespectacled lead act," he wryly replies. Simon's a comedian, you know. "Really, it’s all about the scripts by Iain [Morris] and Damon [Beesley]. It was based on their real lives, so it’s very honest. People can tell that and recognise themselves in it."

Like all great ensembles, from Friends to The Beatles, everyone had an Inbetweener they could identify with, or at least someone their mates could point at and say "that's you, you twat". There's the nerdy, uptight Will; the bullshitting, sex-crazed Jay; the hapless romancer Simon; and the nice-but-dim Neil. Together, they are the Pussay Patrol.

Photo: Entertainment Film

The four of them embodied every secondary school loser that we all hoped we weren't, but secretly knew we were. The difference between Skins - a fellow E4 '00s youth zeitgeist show - and The Inbetweeners was everyone wanted to be in Skins, having sex, taking drugs and driving cars into rivers, but deep down they knew which show they were actually starring in.

One way to measure a show's enduring popularity is whether people still quote it on a daily basis. Another, more immediate way, is whether people continue to yell these quotes at the show's stars. So what does Simon get the most? He sighs. "Briefcase wanker, I suppose. Bus wanker." He pauses. "Anything with 'wanker' in it really." I get the sense that he avoids bus stops now. Possibly briefcases, too. Maybe even wanking, just to be safe.

Since The Inbetweeners, Simon has starred in Friday Night Dinner, and co-created Chickens with Inbetweeners alumni Joe Thomas, a comedy about conscientious objectors in World War I. Now Simon is exploring a new medium: the audiobook. He's working with Audible on Too Cracked For TV, a kind of audio spinoff from the hit Dave show Crackanory, where comedians tell stories that are most certainly not for children's ears.

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Simon's tall tale is The I.T. Man, a story about two best friends whose boisterous friendship is disrupted by the arrival of a new love interest. "It’s a love triangle," Simon explains. "It’s a love triangle-cum-murder caper-cum-bromance. It’s got it all." You can download it from Audible for free, if a couple of lads having their laddy hootenanny interrupted by a lad(y) sounds like your kind of thing.

Photo: Audible

It will shock and surprise you to learn, however, that Simon couldn't really see himself in the banterous escapades of the story's protagonists. "I don’t think anyone who knows me would describe me as laddy," he admits. You might think that, given all the time he spent on the set of The Inbetweeners, he might have picked up a few laddisms or climbed aboard the banter bus once or twice.

"I remember there was one night in the Outback when we were doing the second movie that involved a crate of beer and an actual rifle," Simon tells me.

"I can’t say anymore than that because we’ve got a pact, so I’ll leave that to your imagination." An actual loaded rifle? "Oh yeah, it was loaded." He wouldn't tell me what they got up to, but since this interview wasn't conducted in an Australian prison cell, we have to assume they got away with it.

As well as being an actor and a comedian, Simon is also a Crystal Palace fan, and when I ask him how that's going for him, it's clear which of those identities he enjoys the most. "Same as it always is: demoralising and humiliating, with some fleeting moments of joy," he says. "But they're few and far between."

Neither saddened nor gleeful at the exit of the much-vilified Alan Pardew - "he sort of blew hot and cold" - the appointment of his successor Sam Allardyce was a little confusing for Simon.

Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

"I had some sort of memory that he’d already been hired for quite a high-profile managerial post," he quips, a pint of wine in mind, though likely not in hand. "Thankfully now we're fighting for a Champion's League spot, so..." He trails off. It takes an especially resilient kind of optimism to be a Palace fan these days.

Last summer it was revealed in the press that Simon and his wife had welcomed a son into the world some six months prior - it was on Wikipedia and everything. Except, they hadn't. "I don’t have a son," he says. "That was in a lot of the papers but, well, it’s fake news." He clarifies. "I have a daughter, to be absolutely fair."

This rather scuppers my question about male bonding between fathers and sons, so I ask what he's learned about himself as a dad. "That I’m really fucking good at peekaboo," he says. "Genuinely, I bring it. I’m a wizard at peekaboo. I’m the Cristiano Ronaldo of peekaboo." And if he could give one piece of advice to his daughter, what would it be?

"Don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia."

Too Cracked For Crackanory is available now free at Audible.co.uk

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