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The London Eye

Chris Neill calls his own bluff...adverts are what makes the world go round

Published on January 17th 2012.

The London Eye

I'M a hypocrite. In my column last week I was very sniffy about adverts, but seven days on, I have a casting coming up for one and therefore I think advertising is bloody brilliant. Populated by the greatest minds of our time, advertising agencies are the last bastions of true, unbridled talent the western world has to offer mankind. Right now, I can't think of a finer purpose in life than to try to flog stuff to people. This is the calling of demigods.

There were no words because this was an advert for a German bank trying to break into the Hungarian market using British actors filmed in Barcelona and so could I convey this complex set of emotions through facial expressions alone?

Zoe, my agent, occasionally pops these castings in my diary and frankly it's always nice to have an excuse to leave the house. The jobs promise good money and therefore, if you're anything like me, you can't help but start mentally spending it on the goods and services sold to you by some of the brightest brains of their generation (is this getting a bit over the top?). For my part, this is pretty foolish as I simply never ever get the jobs. When I remember that bald fact I go off advertising all over again.

Not being a proper actor, I've never actually learned how to walk and talk simultaneously on demand, and that, it turns out, is a pretty crucial part of most acting jobs. The speaking out loud bit is doable, but the minute I try to move I can see a look of horror creep into a casting director's eyes and the audition is brought to a swift end.

If you don't believe me when I tell you it's a really hard thing to get right just try walking the length of your flat or house for no other reason than the fact I've asked you to, and once you think you've mastered that do it whilst delivering the line: “I'm reading these words out loud because my next six months' worth of mortgage payments depends on it.” Be honest with yourself – do you really think you looked natural doing it? Of course you didn't. Not unless you trained as an actor. 

Along with stage combat and an inexplicable fondness for the works of Stephen Sondheim, walking and talking is something drama schools make sure you're up to speed in before you leave them to face a life of disappointment and self-loathing. 

Voice acting is something I've done a bit of before now and that's not so bad because you don't have to manipulate your feet whilst opening and closing your mouth but it's this moving malarkey that really worries me, and for this new casting the whole thing is compounded by the fact that I'm required to wear a model of a bull's head and do an impression of Boris Johnson. 


Yes, you did read that right. 

I have to wear a bull's head and do an impression of Boris Johnson. If you've ever found yourself searching for a definition of the word 'undignified' then surely this is it. Obviously the fee would go some way to ameliorate the pain but could any amount of money be enough to compensate for such a job? Well, obviously yes. But nevertheless, you get my drift.

My last advert casting was even odder than this Boris Bullshead business. I was to play an Italian chocolatier returning home from a confectioners' conference. Apparently, the choccy-get-together hadn't gone as well I'd hoped, but sales could have been worse and I was anticipating returning to my wife with this muddle of news. 

The director told me there were no words because this was an advert for a German bank trying to break into the Hungarian market using British actors filmed in Barcelona and so could I convey this complex set of emotions through facial expressions alone? On viewing back my first attempt I found myself watching a man appear to be going for the gold in a gurning contest whilst having a stroke. Possibly an accurate representation of the state of the European banking sector but nevertheless not a truth they wanted to convey. I never did go to Barcelona. 

And this Boris-as-bullock job won't come off either, but as I say it's nice to get out and with the weather turning colder keeping the heating off for the day is a treat in itself. If you're in Soho on Thursday afternoon do say hello – I'll be the one speaking in Latin, smelling of old leather and with rejection in my eyes.


Chris Neill is a comedian and broadcaster. You can make him feel more popular than he actually is by following him at @chrisneill on Twitter.

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