He survived six days alone in a Guyanan jungle on a new reality TV show but just don’t ask the star about comedian Stewart Lee
INTERVIEW Alison Grinter
Did winning I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here prepare you for being dumped in a Guyanan jungle for new reality TV series Alone In The Wild?
No. I don’t think there was any comparison between the two. The only similarity was the locations – they were both rainforests. On Celebrity … there was a doctor on hand 24 hours a day and you are given food rations every day. So the worst thing that can happen to you on Celebrity … is you can get voted off, whereas the worst thing that can happen to you in Alone In The Wild is you can get eaten by a caiman [a type of crocodile] or a jaguar.
What training did you do beforehand?
Everything from first aid and building a shelter to foraging for food, finding water, hunting animals – just basic survival stuff really.
You were left alone for six days. What scared you the most?
All the noises – you didn’t know what they were. The worst were the howler monkeys. They sound like a herd of tyrannosaurus rex coming at you. And I couldn’t light a fire for the whole six days because it was raining all the time and I couldn’t get any dry wood, so there was no means of scaring off wild animals. I was in a hammock with a tarpaulin and mosquito net. Every night you’d hear things walking around underneath the hammock but you wouldn’t have a clue what it was.
If you couldn’t get a fire going for the whole six days, what did you eat?
I didn’t eat for a week. I was given a pound of a local root vegetable which is ground up into a powder. It’s poisonous in its original form but after it’s been treated, you’re left with this pulp that tastes disgusting. I had a pound of that as rations to last me a week along with any animals I could catch. But, because of the rain, all the animals went to ground and the fish went to deep water. They’d showed me how to kill them, gut them, skin them and how to cook them but in fairness to all of that, if I’d seen something with a face on it I don’t think I’d been able to do it. I lost a stone in a week. I was so hungry one day I ate a maggot – I opened up this nut, but it had been eaten by a giant maggot, so I ate the maggot and it gave me indigestion all day.
It sounds miserable – were there any good times?
I absolutely loved the solitude: not having a phone or newspapers or television and being out there in that environment. It was great. I don’t know if I could do it for any length of time, maybe two weeks max – after that I’d be like, ‘get me a bacon sandwich and a bed, quick’.
Surely you had a phone in case of an emergency?
We had an emergency GPS radio, but that was it. If you used it they were going to come in and take you out and that would be show over.
Did you have any hairy moments?
I got lost a couple of times. One night I went out to do some night filming and got totally lost and didn’t have a fire, so couldn’t find my way back and I panicked. I did eventually, but it took me ages.
What’s this about you once getting drunk before you met the Queen?
It was for one of the Royal Variety Shows and they put a bottle of champagne in my dressing room. I’m not really a drinker, so after a couple of glasses of champagne I was as pissed as a fart. And then I had to meet the Queen. For the show I’d done a thing with the Blue Man Group and I’d been painted blue. The paint was made of eggs so afterwards I had to have a shower but I still smelt all farty. So I met the Queen after a few drinks and told her I smelt minging. And the Queen went: “Minging? What’s minging?” so I told her. She leaned forward and sniffed me and said: “Oh yes, you are a bit whiffy.” So I’m writing an autobiography called Sniffed By The Queen.
Comedian Stewart Lee once accused you of nicking a joke written by Michael Redmond for one of your Royal Variety Show performances. What’s your response to that?
I’m not even going to get into that conversation. It’s ridiculous, that is. I’ve never responded to it and I won’t. It’s just ridiculous. It’s a waste of your time and mine, love.