I just watched Michael Parkinson’s last show on YouTube.
As you’d expect it’s a gathering of impressive luvvies.
Michael Caine, Billy Connolly, David Beckham, David Attenborough.
All basking in the glow of adulation.
All trying to look good while being witty and amusing.
All wanting to be seen as being polite and charming.
And all, including Michael Parkinson, very dull, very boring.
Then on comes Peter Kay.
And all the famous guests are thinking “Who the hell is this nobody, and what’s he doing on this show with us?”
And Peter Kay just takes over.
He doesn’t treat any of the famous guests as if they’re special.
He’s not disrespectful.
But he treats them as he’d treat anyone.
Whereas they’re used to people being awed in their presence.
Peter Kay just carries straight on, talking to the audience.
Laughing, joking, telling stories about his family.
And the audience are in stitches.
Finally the whole show has come to life.
Peter Kay has the audience in the palm of his hand, they couldn’t care who else is on stage.
And you can’t work out why.
What’s he got that no one else on stage has got.
Massive screen actors like Michael Caine.
Huge comedians like Billy Connolly.
All reduced to silence, just watching Peter Kay.
And then Parkinson says something which tells the whole story.
As he wipes the tears from his eyes he says “Peter used to be the warm up man for this show. He used to warm the audience up before we started. In fact he even did the warm up when we had Billy Connolly on. Do you remember Peter, you once said to me ‘I’ll be walking down those stairs as a guest one day’ and I said ‘Dream on’?”
And Peter Kay, without missing a beat says “Aye I do an’ all, I used to hoover them stairs too.”
And, as the audience cracks up again, Peter Kay turns to them and says “I remember I had the Pledge all over the banisters, then the Dyson on the carpet. He made me do all that before I did the warm up. It were too much work, see?”
And you realise that’s the difference.
All the other guests are letting Parkinson lead the interviews.
All the other guests are talking to Parkinson.
They are guests on his show.
They talk to him and the audience are allowed to listen.
But it isn’t like that for Peter Kay.
He’s used to talking to the audience before any of the other guests came on stage.
Even before Parkinson came on stage.
He had to get the guests ready for Parkinson.
So they’re not Parkinson’s guests, they’re his guests.
This is his audience.
The others, even Parkinson, were too frightened to talk to them cold.
Peter Kay wasn’t.
So he knew them better than anyone else there.
He knew how to get them going from stone cold.
The others only knew how to respond after they were warm.
Peter Kay came on the show that night with the same intensity he used to warm up a stone cold audience.
And he was irresistible.
No one else could live with him.
So they all just sat there mute, while Peter Kay owned the show.
Even Billy Connolly.
Because Peter Kay doesn’t need anyone to warm them up for him.
He talks to people exactly as they are.
And to him, they are people exactly like him.
I think we could learn a lot from Peter Kay.
Because, our audience is actually people just like us.
So we can talk directly to them like he does.
We don’t have to be frightened of them.
We don’t have to behave like talk show guests.
Guests who only talk to Parkinson and let him decide what the audience wants.
What the audience are allowed to overhear.
But I think that’s what we do.
We talk to the planners, account men, clients, anyone and everyone else.
And we let them decide what the audience wants.
Then eventually, the audience is allowed to overhear the result of our conversation.
No wonder so much advertising is as dull and boring as Parkinson’s guests.
But imagine if we didn’t go through the filter of an interpreter.
Imagine if we talked directly to ordinary people.
As if they were people just like us.
Imagine if we weren’t frightened of them.
Imagine if we acted like the warm up man.