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The Time I Was an Extra in a TV Commercial... On Acid!

Sometimes it's OK to cancel work commitments if you've accidentally taken lots of drugs.
December 6, 2011, 3:25pm

This is me at a party in South London a couple of years ago. Shortly before this picture was taken, I accidentally (eugh, don't ask) took quite a lot of acid.

And this is a picture I took a few hours later on the set of a Fame-themed commercial that I'd been asked to be an extra in so I could blog about it for VICE. I probably shouldn't have turned up being as high as I was, but I'd agreed to and I'm a man of my word. (If you're a potential future employer who is reading this because you just Googled me, this shows you that I'm a very reliable and punctual person who you should definitely hire.)

After spending an hour or so wandering through side streets trying to work out where I was going, I was ushered into some press holding area where I watched the dancers warm up. Eventually, I started thinking about how funny the shapes my chewing gum was making in my mouth were, and began to laugh hysterically. Some PR guy came over to introduce himself and talk about press releases, but by this point I was so entertained by my chewing gum that I was crying and had to sit down. I managed to say "I'm sorry, but my chewing gum is making the funniest shapes in my mouth," before I lost the ability to speak.

The "stars" of the commercial were "professional enterntainer and star of Broadway and the West End" Denise van Outen, and "internationally renowned comedian and actor" Johnny Vegas, and there was a photo op so we could get some shots of them for our coverage. Once they let us out of the press holding area so we could get into position, people started RUNNING and shoving.

In retrospect, it's pretty obvious that people were running in order to get a good photo-taking spot, but at the time I had no idea what was happening and instantly went into some kind of dark Cloverfield place in my head. I was literally running for my life. This photo doesn't have anything to do with all of that, but at the time that light was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.

This guy definitely didn't help my mental state. I don't think I've ever felt as anxious as I was when this totally-didn't-have-anything-better-to-be-doing police photographer walked over and took a photo of me. Even looking at this photo is making me hyperventilate.

After lining up with all the other photographers, there was a chance to take some photos of Johnny and Denise. Do you have any idea how long it takes to make 50 people jump in unison? For-fucking-EVER. I have over 100 photos of this. Come on polka-dots, get your shit together.

This picture is the part of the day I remember the most clearly. I spent a lot of time looking at it on my camera and having some really, really deep thoughts about the nature of celebrity and social heirarchies and how the human race is fucked and how nice it would be to have Denise van Outen's hair on my head. (I'd play with it all day long.)

I then realized Johnny was staring straight at me. It seemed like he knew I was on drugs. How could he tell? He wouldn't stop staring and I got into an even darker mental place. It was like he could see right through me. It took me a very long time to realize he was actually looking at the TV screen positioned about a foot above my head.

I started freaking out extra-hard when they began teaching us the dance moves and I realized I was too high to learn them (or do them). This pub is the location of one of my life's low-points. Though I have no pictures, I have very hazy snatches of memory of sitting on the floor here, trying not to cry while a group of luminous dancers tried to get me to eat sandwiches while telling me that everything was going to be OK. It's about a two-minute walk from my office, but strangely it's not a place I go to often.

This was taken during the first take. You know that feeling where you're on drugs and you feel like everyone is staring at you and can tell you're on drugs and it's the worst feeling ever? Well imagine if you were standing amongst 2,000 people doing a choreographed dance routine but you weren't dancing and were instead holding onto a wall and trying not to cry and there really was no way anybody could look at you and not know you were on drugs, even the children. And really, I wasn't even sure that what I had taken was acid. It could have been anything. All I knew was that it was horrible.

After the first take, Denise got on a car and gave an inspirational speech about how everyone had done REALLY GREAT in the first take, but we needed to try and do even better in the second. Which made me feel bad, because not only was I letting down Denise van Outen, I was also letting down the 2,000 extras who were doing the dance AND myself AND the people who were going to be watching the commercial on TV. I'd say the shame was equivalent to being on trial for murder, and making eye contact with my mom in the witness gallery. Or something. So I did what I should have done about five hours earlier and went home.

Here's the finished commercial. If you look really hard, you can see me in the background of a few shots. I'm the one who isn't dancing, leaning against a wall holding a camera, trying not to die.

CONCLUSION: Sometimes it's OK to cancel work commitments if you've accidentally taken lots of drugs.

@JLCT

For more trips with VICE, check out:

London Fashion Week… On Acid!
Druids… On Acid!
Occupy Wall Street… On Acid!