I was on the set of the second episode of series 2 of Richard Hammond’s Crash Course. In the episode, Richard Hammond faces his fear of doing live standup by getting on a stage and telling jokes at Gotham Comedy Club in New York.
I had made plans with my friend Jimmy Failla, but first we had to stop off at Gotham because he was the MC for a show. “Something to do with the BBC,” was all he said. But when we got there, a camera crew was shooting a man talking outside the club.
“I know him,” I said. “The guy from Top Gear. What’s his name, not Jeremy Clarkson or James May…”
“Richard Hammond,” somebody said.
Right. The one from the Ashes to Ashes charity promo. I’m going to get this out of the way now: I don’t like Top Gear. It’s nothing to do with the production value or the hosts. I’m just painfully uninterested in cars. For people like my brother who love cars, it’s great. But I still recognized him because if you watch as much BBC America as I do, you’ve spent an average of 14 hours of your life watching Top Gear commercials.
Jimmy went over and gave him advice, and the camera crew filmed it. Then we went inside and the three of us stood around, Richard talking about how nervous he was and how he’d done a show downstairs the previous night to prepare for this one, Jimmy trying to calm him down. I didn’t say anything. What was I supposed to say, “Mr. Hammond, I’m a big fan, I love Top Gear”? I wasn’t going to be one of those people. Instead I just wished I could trade places with my brother because he deserved this more than I did, and my big regret of the night was not calling him and trying to get him in.
I would love to tell you what a jerk Richard Hammond is to give more fuel to my distaste of Top Gear, but it turns out he is actually a super nice, really down-to-earth guy. Soft-spoken, no ego. Genuinely nervous about doing standup, for those of you reality TV skeptics (I know, I’m one of them). The nervousness you see on screen is real, I promise.
Eventually, they started letting other people in, snapping photos of everyone in the audience, making them sign releases so they could be shown on TV. I sat next to Eddie Brill in the back and watched the first couple of acts. They decided to put Richard on a little earlier than they planned. Having not seen his act before, since this was the second time Hammond had been on stage, Jimmy assumed he’d have high energy because he’s a TV host, so he gave him an energetic introduction, which he later regretted because it turned out that Hammond is more of a relaxed-style comic, which is all well and fine but unexpected.
Hammond chose a long form style and told a story about getting kidney stones out, which is probably better suited for a British audience as culturally, they tend to be more private, so an intimate story of this nature is uncomfortably funny. In New York, you hear people talking about much more intimate details of their lives on the subway. Even though he didn’t bring down the house, I think people enjoyed listening to him talk. It wasn’t bad for a second time. Will the TV editors make it look like he bombed or make him look like a comedy god? We’ll have to tune in tonight.