Vicki (her spelling not mine – I don’t believe in shortening names with an i at the end always with a y for me), a colleague and partial-friend, was shocked to hear that I was reading the James Corden autobiography – when I announced it the other day. “I’ve just started reading James Corden’s autobiography,” I said. “I might over describe this bit of me saying it in a blog in a few days,” I might as well have added, but didn’t.
May I Have Your Attention Please? is quite a good title to be fair. I would definitely have called it James Corden to My Memory or My Life James Corden to Me by James Corden: The James Corden Story. Both options refusing to acknowledge that James Corden sounds almost nothing like the word according, yet depend on this pun heavily. This is one of many reasons why James Corden has made a lot of money from writing his life story and I give mine away on daily basis to people who don’t want it. And because I often end a paragraph with a clichéd phrase which doesn’t even make sense. You do the math.
But, yes, Vicki: I do sometimes think he is a bit of a cunt but I also think Gavin and Stacey is one of the best things I’ve seen on TV and he made it with Ruth Jones so he must be alright on some level. Plus he was one of the few people I ever saw in my years of watching Hollyoaks and thought, “he’s better than this.” Plus the book was about £3 for a limited time on a Kindle offer. The book is pretty good, really. Much like you might imagine a book written by a man who is James Corden yet could co-write something as brilliant as G&S it is never too mawkish about the real stuff that’s a bit sad and is happy to be a bit daft. In fact, despite some of it being annoying on TV, the swaggering stuff is almost completely absent; though there has just been a bit that is quite funny about Kate Winslett fancying him and only ignoring him at parties they have both been at because she is intimidated by him.
Why am I talking about James Corden’s book here? Well there is an anecdote in it which nearly made me cry and did make me laugh out loud (or LOL is you are reading this after 2007). The fact that it had, potentially, contrasting effects on my, admittedly fucked up, emotional being is what makes it a bit interesting to me (and my own self-obsession).
In his last year at secondary school Corden ends up as part of the rugby team. It is the first time they have had a rugby team and it seems like it is just an idea of what to do with the fat kids, geeks and bullies who are not part of other sports teams at the school. They are not very good and lose heavily in the eight or nine games they play against other schools. Their last game is against a team from a local Young Offenders Home. And one of the lads on the young offenders team wears jeans. To play rugby in. And he, jeans lad, stops the game starting while he jogs off to hand his tabs and lighter out of his pocket to a teacher.
My initial reaction to this is laughter. I think because someone once played in my weekly five-a-side game in jeans and a baseball cap. I never worked out why the lad did, but it was a choice and he wasn’t playing in his only clothes or anything. I struggled to play properly that night as I kept laughing at him playing in his normal clothes. It is not that funny to describe. Just imagine watching some football and then Wayne Rooney stood there with a pair of baggy jeans on with a t-shirt and cap on. It is funny, trust me.
So my initial reaction to the Corden-Rugby-Young Offender-Jeans anecdote was laughter at the memory/the slightly absurd nature of it. If I were to get pretentious about it – that means I am going to – the syntagm of a rugby game (the pitch, the ball, the player, the rules, THE KIT etc) involves the clothing worn by the people involved (that’s why I put the kit in capitals and in bold); the paradigm of different styles of clothes (a rugby kit, a business suit, an astronaut suit, a leotard, etc) means the expected syntagm of the rugby game looks daft when you select a different option than ‘rugby kit’ from the paradigm of clothing. And if the syntagm is remained for all but one of the players his ‘street clothes’ are juxtaposed against the kits of the other people: emphasising just how unorthodox it was.
Pretty pretentious eh? And not necessarily right: it has been over 10 years since I have read/written about semiotics and I haven’t checked if I’ve got my syntagms and my paradigms the right way round. Less pretentiously – someone dressed unexpectedly is kind of funny (see whatever the Principal wears at the beginning of episodes of Community).
Only after I had stopped laughing at the idea of some lad playing rugby in his jeans and tackling people in proper, matching rugby kit, I immediately started to feel really sorry for the lad. It wasn’t his fault he didn’t have the kit – he was basically in prison. There is a good chance he wasn’t from such a great background. But he was still up for a game of rugby – in his jeans and t-shirt. And that nearly made me cry. I think I might be mental.