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Publication: British GQ, 2003

Ant & Dec

They’ve been Tyneside Tykes on Byker Grove, Saturday saviours on SM:TV; they console Pop Idol rejects and are the perfect recipe for ITV’s Takeaway. Give it up for this year’s hosts with the most.

Some TV presenters present TV. Others invent a game called Wonkey Donkey, shave childrens’ heads for fun, innuendo their way out of the kids’-telly ghetto to become the new Morecambe & Wise and get handed a BAFTA, a new £3 million ITV contract, a place inside Madame Tussauds’ (no pun intended) - and now GQ’s TV Personality of the Year award. What higher accolade could a pair of Tynseside scamps ever hope for?

You join us Live from the floor of the Cigar Room at No 5 Cavendish Square, where Declan Donnelly (the short, funny one) and Anthony McPartlin, (the short, funny one), are celebrating Their Amazing Year.

‘We’re over the moon to have won, thanks to everyone who voted,’ beams Dec. ‘We’ll be haing a few drinks to celebrate, and everyone’s invited. Meet you this Friday 7.30 at Pizza Hut, top the of the Bigg Market?’

Ant & Dec prove that genius can grow up next door and speak with a Geordie accent. Twenty-eight apiece and affable in the extreme, they were born to trifle. They make light of everything, heavy weather of nothing and have built a career on making in-jokes that somehow everyone can be in on. They project an almost-believable impression of not knowing how all this came to be. There’s a businesslike seriousness to Ant & Dec somewhere, but it’s so deeply hidden among puns, giggles, petty insults and wisecracks and as to be invisible. But you know it’s there.

Ant & Dec are kids who speak the language of adults, and adults who live the life of kids. But ‘Kidult’ doesn’t begin to describe their charm. They’ve remained permanently loved, laughed-with and relevant because they’ve grown up with their audience, who are only just beginning to tune in fully with the light entertainment/heavy irony routine they honed at ‘SM:TV’, the Saturday morning ‘hangover TV’ show made for six year-olds but watched by the caned and unable.

Previously they’ve weathered ignominy in ‘Byker Grove’, and boy-band infamy as PJ & Duncan. This Year they hosted ‘Pop Idol’, and with ‘Saturday Night Takeaway’ legitimised the remote control’s third button as the weekend’s essential destination. Without their knowing commentary, ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!’ would have just been some vaguely famous people in a jungle on TV. There’s talk of network deal in the US, and an Ant & Dec film (‘about friendship and that’) in 2006. In short, they look like they’re having a fun – about three million pound’s worth in fact. ‘When you’ve done you done the celebrity thing,’ Ant tells me, lighting another Regal, ‘we realised where we’re happy – down the pub or with our girlfriends. We’re quite happy in ourselves, which is a rare thing. There’s a lot of screwed-up people on TV…’

Saturday Night Takeaway has raised Muckabout Telly to a level of high art…

Ant: It’s the show we’ve always wanted to make - a family entertainment show.

Dec: We’ve always wanted that slot. The six o’clock teatime Saturday night, because those are the shows we loved watching as kids. It was seen as a poisoned chalice. We were the first people in a ages who’d knocked on the door and said, ‘give it to us’. We (+i)love(-i) it.

Dec: Some people see entertainment as cheesy, a bit Noel Edmonds. We’re like, yeah – totally!

It’s a fiendish timeslot because the audience demographic is so broad. Can you appeal to everyone?

Ant:  It’s unforgiving. We’ve got no ambitions to go late-night, or be experimental. We want all that the whole family to sit down together and enjoy the show. At the same time you can do some surreal comedy. We’ve talked a lot about the difference between innuendo and being vulgar, and we did push it, I have to say. It’s just to give older people something to smirk about. We’ve done 17 shows and we’re starting to win the family audiences. Once we’ve got them, we can push it more.

The next series will feature more than  references to ‘love custard’, then?

Dec: Innuendo is good as long as it has double meaning and it’s not just ,’ooh, look at your cock.’

Ant: My favourite was getting Victoria Beckham to draw a pair of boobs on a perspex sheet in a space sketch. We had two asteroids, which were the nipples, and she had to draw our spaceship’s trajectory. So obviously she ended up drawing two boobs and stood behind the perspex. Of course she got it!

Dec: There are so many things you can do - but nobody’s doing them.

You’ve go no competition…

Dec: No!

Meanwhile, the US is holding on line two. Do you think they will they get you in America?

Dec: We said, but they won’t understand our humour?’ And they said, ‘Hey, no problem!’ So we’ll give it a try. If they don’t get it, we’ll just go, ‘we told you they wouldn’t…’

Do you like Americans?

Ant: I don’t know any. We never had a career in America doing the music, did we?

Dec: Oddly enough, no…

Do you still have a lot of international fans?

Dec: From the music, aye. We still get letters from Singapore saying, ‘I heard you’re dead, are you?’

How do you respond to that?

Dec: I tend not to….

Your schedule is full until Christmas 2005. Do. Have work and play become the same thing? 

Dec: we always say, ‘we’re having three months off.’ And then you have week’s holiday, and end up ringing each other.  You’re like, ‘I’ve had this idea for an item, wanna come over?’

Ant:  Aye, I get really fidgety like. But then when I work I like finishing early so I can got to the pub

Dec: I think, right I’ll have a lie in the day and watch telly. Then I think, It’s a waste of a day, this! I’m not staying in bed! This is a waste of a day!

So you can’t relax. You’re always moving onto the next thing

Dec: Aye. What does that say about you as a person, Ant? There’s probably a deep-rooted psychological problem there…

Ant: Aye. It says that you’re a fidgety bastard.

Did ITV hand you a check for £3 million made payable to ‘Ant & Dec’?

Ant: They give us it in a wheelbarrow.

Have you got a joint bank account?

Dec: We have! AND we’ve got interconnecting doors between our houses. That was a rumour for a while

Where you surprised Tuffers won I’m A Celebrity?

Dec: Nah. The minute he went on I thought he was going to win it. I thought Fash might come through in the inside, though.

Did you play football with Fash?

Ant:  He can’t, can he? He claims disability.

Dec: Gets caught kicking a ball, zip, that’s the end of his money.

Ant: We played football with the Aussies on the beach and won. Mind you, they played a really weird 1-3-15 formation.

Dec: We played football against The Coral at Anfield last year. Lovely fellers, but  they were really shit

How have you managed to not crack up, disappear or end up presenting Blue Peter in 15 years?

Ant: five years of that was Byker Grove, then we did the music for four, started doing To Of The Pops, moved into kids’ telly, and then SM:TV. We’ve been dipped in slowly.

Can you understand your appeal to people?

Dec: I think we’re quite normal? We enjoy ourselves on TV and people enjoy seeing people having a good time. I don’t analyse it much.

Describe the worst thing about being Britain’s most normal celebrities?

Ant: People think we’re approachable, so you get people selling you ideas or sitting with you in the pub all night. I’m not very good at telling people to go away. All my mates are telling me to tell them to piss off. But I can’t! I’m not very good at being rude.

Dec: you’re not very good at being rude? You are to me…

Pop Idol has destroyed pop music forever. It’s your fault. Discuss:

Dec: I know what you mean. I think it creates a problem, because kids see normal people being famous and it looks great, and it’s not. Kids now just want to be famous. Famous at what though?

Dec: We’ve done a couple of weeks of auditions on the second series. What can you say to some of the people? We can’t say we thought you were fantastic, because we thought you were shit as well!

‘Let’s Get ready To Rumble’ was a visionary record: as white rappers you prefigured Eminem by almost a decade.

Dec: We only did it because we couldn’t sing very well. We didn’t even write it – the guy who wrote it, Nicky Graham, wrote ‘When Will I Be Famous for Bros’. Fact!

Complete these lyrics: ‘We’ve got so many lyrics/we keep them in stores…”

Dec: ‘We even got them coming out of our pores/your father, your sister your brother, your mother/everyone’s gotta be an AKA lover.’

What’s an AKA lover?

Dec: at the time we were called PJ & Duncan AKA. Very clever. We knew we weren’t going to mature into fantastic talented songwriters or whatever. We’re not. So we left it at that.

What’s the silliest amount of money you’ve ever blown on something?

Dec: £45,000 on a BMW X5

Ant: £1,500 on a Rolex. I mulled it over for about three months to justify it to myself. My girlfriend said, ‘just get it! Stop moaning about it, you can afford it.’ I was frog-marched there. ‘I’ll have that please – I’ve been told I have to’. 

What’s the best rumour you’ve heard about yourselves recently?

Dec: That I’ve got a glass eye, probably.

Ant:  And my wooden leg…

Have you any desire to be taken seriously whatsoever?

Dec: None.

Ant: I would love to get back to acting, though. My favourite part ever was playing a drunk on top of the number 12 bus in school. I was 11. That’s how I got the part in Byker Grove.

Where do you buy your Saturday night Takeaways from?

Ant: (instantly): Domino’s or Pizza hut, Meat Feast Pizza, or a Mighty Meaty

Do they know you?

Ant: they do now

Do you get a discount?

Ant: I get free barbecue sauce from the Domino’s man. He give me about five packets of warm barbecue sauce straight from his pockets

What’s the best thing about famous and alive?

Ant: free barbecue sauce!

© Kevin Braddock 2003

All content ©2004 Kevin Braddock

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