Jane Bradley: Celebrities are only human

Crime writer Ian Rankin. Picture: JP
Crime writer Ian Rankin. Picture: JP
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LAST week, author Ian Rankin issued a late-night, innocuous tweet: “I’m so drunk I’m eating salad.”, begins Jane Bradley

Within a few hours, more than 130 people had favourited the comment and scores more had retweeted it.

Rankin has been drinking! And is tucking into a plate of lettuce! Quick, must let everyone know! A news agency even rushed to put out a story on the situation, while fans took to Twitter to see who could come up with the wittiest retort.

Some referenced the author’s books: “...said Rebus to Patience. She tutted.” quipped one woman. Others dashed to make matey jokes with the bestselling writer. “If it’s with a kebab then that’s OK!” laughed one.

Someone else actually lauded it to be “Scottish tweet of the day”. Really? REALLY? I’m not a great Twitterer myself, but I’m pretty sure even I must have said something more exciting than that last Thursday. No, wait, I didn’t. But someone in Scotland must have done.

This is not a social media phenomenon – it is a universally recognised fact that if someone is famous, they automatically get a 20-point lead on the humour scale.

There is nothing that makes me want to chew off my own arm more than when the lead singer of a band makes some “witty banter” to the crowd, who then giggle, guffaw and heckle as if he were both Morecambe and Wise rolled into one.

“You’re all looking lovely out there!” he might shout [cue roar of laughter]. “Except for him!” [points to random guy in crowd. Crowd goes wild]. Just sing, would you? If I made that joke on a night out with friends, my mates would look at me like I’d lost my mind. Maybe one of the kinder ones would grimace, awkwardly. Others might wonder if I’d been deprived of attention as a child. But stick a microphone in my hand, charge people £30 a ticket to come and see me sing and I’m an automatic comedian.

It must be odd to be famous and for everything you say to be guaranteed a massive response. You must lose any perspective on what is actually funny. Or relevant. Or interesting.

That’s not to say that poor Mr Rankin shouldn’t have tweeted his salad-eating antics. It was a moderately amusing anecdote which may have raised a few smiles among his nearest and dearest who perhaps shared an in-joke about his history as a salad hater. But for strangers to care? Plain weird.

Some celebrities embrace the concept and use it to their own amusement. Actor Joshua Malina, of The West Wing – and most recently, Scandal – fame, is, in many people’s opinion, a douchebag on Twitter. Quite an amusing douchebag, but nevertheless a douchebag.

But although he constantly mocks his adoring fanbase, people continue to try to interact with him. It’s like they can’t stop themselves.

Recently, one fan wrote (sic): “@joshmalina I think your adorable & funny...no offense”, to which he replied – much to the delight of my inner grammar pedant: “My adorable & funny...no offense what?!”. The conversation continued. She got upset. He got sarkier. She eventually declared herself to no longer be a fan.

Well, careful what you wish for. You interacted with someone who you believed to be adorable and funny and expected a matching response. But on what grounds? His character, Will, in The West Wing, WAS adorable and funny. A little pompous, perhaps, but oh-so-adorable. David Rosen in Scandal, less so. But surprise! Joshua Malina is neither of these people.

It turned out that the real-life Malina actually has a wicked sense of humour and a sharp tongue. Who knew? Well, his family probably did. And his close friends. Maybe even people who’ve met him once or twice.

But for you to assume a friendly response from someone you have never met?

Naive at best. If you want to break past the celebrity veneer and treat them like ordinary people, then fine. In fact, great: perhaps then, everyone will stop getting so excited that someone who writes books once ate a cucumber and drank beer at the same time. But you may not like what you find. Celebrities sometimes say amusing things; they are sometimes boring. They are neither fictional, carefully crafted-characters, nor infallible human beings. So treat them as such. And please stop encouraging them to make crap jokes.