Dimension Jump XIII


Oh, my aching head. Hattie Hayridge took to the stage and said what we were all thinking of the Club's first video choice of the day: "That's what we need - a load of Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson shouting and screaming at each other first thing on a Sunday morning." Preach it, sister. I don't care if Chris Barrie was in that episode of Filthy, Rich and Catflap, it's just too damned early to be that damned loud.

Funny how Rik's name keeps coming up this weekend...

Hattie was, of course, on fine form for her Q&A. "I'll start with the basic things - no, I don't know how to get into drama school." She asked for questions from new people, fans who had yet to raise their hands. Ain't she good?

She had also located a Hotpoint manual which had been left in the merchandise room. Quite how it happened we may never know, as no-one claimed the washing machine instructions. Sure, they would have been embarrassed, but how are they going to get their whites whiter than white now?

There followed a fairly icky story involving a mouse stuck to a frying pan with lard - a story best left in Hattie's autobiography - and then a very odd question: What would you do to a voodoo doll of Norman Lovett? "I'd give it a big kiss! We're mates, me and Norman." Aaah. Okay then, who would you like a voodoo doll of? "I can't think of any. Not because I'm a nice person, just 'cause I've got a bad memory. Anne Robinson?"

Slipping past her beginnings in stand-up, a career kicked off with a combination of talent and Southern Comfort - Hattie was asked what was the secret of her great skin and hair. "Make-up and genetics? Keeping it on the front of your face is a good idea."

Then it was The New York Bus Incident. Oh dear. So, you're Hattie Hayridge, and you're sat on a bus in the Big Apple when a woman says to you 'Nice skirt'. 'Thanks,' Hattie replies. Big mistake. "'It's not a compliment, I'm just saying it's a nice skirt. What, ya didn't know it was a nice skirt before I told ya?" Takes all sorts...

What show would Hattie have liked to have been in? "Blackadder." Would she do Celebrity Weakest Link? "I wouldn't want to give Anne Robinson the joy of insulting me." Who are her favourite comics? "I like Russell Brand. I like people who are mad and dangerous, where you don't know what they're going to say."

As a sometime contestant she also put to rest some of the rumours regarding Have I Got News For You. "It's not all pre-planned. It's more of a technical run-through." The show was once, apparently, shot more or less to length, but is now filmed over-long and edited down. Still, "it's a shame we can't have a topical comedy show without giving points."

Leaving us with her happiest Red Dwarf memories - including watching Robert Llewellyn trying to eat crumble in his Kryten mask - Hattie handed over to... er... well...

Me. Andrew Ellard. Hello. Beat the Geek, the all-new Red Dwarf interactive quiz was presented to a crowd who generously ignored some utterly awful jokes in favour of going 'ooh' and 'aaah' at the footage on-screen. It's going to be a killer release. Promise.

At the very least it won't cause the trouble of the Club's quiz, Test the Smeggers, the results of which were given out very efficiently... until debate began over how many actresses had played Kochanski. Does Suzanne Rhatigan count? That alternate version from Back to Reality? What about unseen people who were cast but never filmed? This one's gonna run and run...

Somehow I also got roped in to play Smeg Or No Smeg, a version of the TV quiz that netted 21 fans a little box of goodies, and left me winning... one penny-cent. Seriously. Playing all the way to the end, and what was in the box? The lowest amount possible. You all may have been amused (by James in a wig and the banker repeatedly changing his ringtone if nothing else), I most certainly was not.

Post-lunch, it was the big one. After eight years away from Dimension Jump, Craig Charles stepped up to the plate.

And received a standing ovation.

"It's been an interesting year for me," Craig kicked off, setting the tone for a session that is almost impossible to describe. Looking slim and fit Craig was warm, confident, honest and witty for an hour that no-one present is likely to forget in a hurry. (Least of all the Club's very own Sharon, who ruled Craig with a rod of iron as she managed the audience microphone.)

Attributing his lateness to a significant navigational error - "I thought the A1(M) was the M1" - things soon picked up. "I haven't done this for a while - what happens? You ask me questions? No geography questions, I'm crap at geography."

Craig discussed a recent visit to a Buddhist retreat, watching elephants walk past in the jungle. He talked about the joy of sunsets. About staying in Bergerac, France and staying to look after the kids rather than visit the vineyards. The term 'new man' may be underselling the point.

On the subject of stand-up, the comedian has also had a bit of a change of heart, expressing regret over his material in videos like Sickbag. "Once you've been on the butt of those jokes, your opinion changes." Now he'd like to try something more suitable for the whole family. Which fits with a children's poetry book he's written for his youngest called Scary Fairy.

If he could resurrect anyone as a hologram, who would it be. Craig was unsure. "Who should I choose?" "Me!" came a shout. Typical. What about James Brown? "No! It'd be like having Danny John-Jules around all the time!"

Ah, Danny. Y'know, Craig, he made a few cracks about you during his session. "I bet he wasn't that funny. That's one cat in desperate need of a scriptwriter." Then his eye was caught by a member of the audience. "Lovely earrings. Motorbikes jump through them when they're on fire, don't they?"

Yes, he can still bite his toenails. "I can also lick my eyebrows clean...that's a lie." And while he now sees Red Dwarf and Lister as the defining point of his career, he did confess to being very pleased that Coronation Street would be taking him back. His extraordinary memory skills have been very useful on that job. "I don't learn my lines until I get in the make-up chair!"

Mind you, he's not the only one who can learn things by-heart. Some fans were apparently in the bar last night performing entire episodes from memory. "We really only did it to entertain ourselves," Craig was told. "And I'm sure you did," came the reply.

Running through his peculiar voiceover gigs - including a scary sounding new gig involving "500 hours of female wrestling" - Takeshi's Castle inevitably raised its violent head. "Only three people have ever won, and all they get is their teeth back... When you do episode after episode you keep praying that someone's gonna break their neck!"

Did he enjoy his screen kiss with Chris Barrie? "Yeah. But he didn't have to do that with his hands." He giggled. "I felt sorry for Chris 'cause he's not a smoker. Just to wind him up I smoked 20 cigarettes beforehand." Oh, and apparently Red Dwarf is harder to film than Corrie. Big surprise, there.

Mid-rant about performance styles and naturalism, Craig suddenly realised what he was doing. "I'm quite intelligent sometimes, aren't I? How did that happen?!" Still, he soon reverted to just playing with his microphone cable - something that still got a great reaction. "You're a really easy audience," he teased.

Other projects were discussed - the sitcom he wrote with Robert Llewellyn, Screwed, about two prisoners that was optioned but never made; a show called The Janitor which was developed in America between Craig and a former Dinosaurs writer, and again never made it; and the actually-filmed Robot Wars ("I got to drive Hypnodisc once, and I destroyed Matilda with it").

Hi Craig, I've been asking the same question all weekend. "Well move on!" What is the most important thing to have in comedy? "A laugh." Apparently Craig's wife didn't want to come to DJ with him because of the 200 people all giving him hero-worship. "Oh, my ego. I've got a place for it in the car on the way home."

Ignoring some seriously disturbing stuff from the crowd about who, exactly, they'd choose to kill in Coronation Street, and Craig's utter loathing of Tongue Tied, a sequence he hated filming, it was time to wind down.

Well, when a female fan asks, "How come you look better in a dress than I do?" there's really nothing you can say. Well, unless you're Craig. Then you go off on one about how comfy it is to walk around in a sarong.

You know what they say - how can something so right be sarong?

After a jam-packed autograph session and a fond farewell to our last guest, the Auction was the perfect way to wind things down. As bids flew for one of the Cat's waistcoats, an unproduced Rimmer headknocker, and this year's big Dimension Jump sign - autographed by everyone who was anyone - we picked up our bags and headed for the door. Via the bar, obviously.

An amazing convention. Fans, Club team, guests - thank you all.

The vampire guy who brought two tubes of 'virus' through customs. The elegant American who was resident in, and dressed for, Japan - whom Danny called a "Ninja Turtle" and who left Robert "culturally confused". Ed the puppet... and his owner. People with signed heads and chests. Costume entrants and disco divas. The loudmouths and the softly spoken. Newbies and oldtimers.

You all made it what it was.