Music by VICE

Reflecting on When Kanye West Used to Gleefully Tell Wank Jokes on Shit UK Chatshows

An in-depth investigation into that time Kanye West hosted the Friday Night Project with Justin Lee Collins and Alan Carr.

by Joe Zadeh
04 September 2015, 4:38pm

This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.

There’s a little thing I like to do now and again, just to stay grounded. I open my laptop, load Facebook, and pull up my profile photo, but instead of clicking right, I click left, and go to the very first images I ever uploaded, of myself. Who is this guy? Who is this asshat with the H&M polka dot hoody walking through a field at night, with the scrunched mouth and glazed eyes of a man who does not yet know how much Oranjeboom is too much Oranjeboom? Who is this cunt posing outside a Greggs in Dundee holding two steak bakes and student loan letter in the air like he’s just won an three Academy Awards? I see the photo, I compute it, I associate it with a memory, but I don’t remember actually being there. Is that me? Am I the same person?

But at least I know I’m not the only one to feel like this. If Kanye West went back through his Facebook snaps he might see a grinning press shot of him, Alan Carr, and Justin Lee-Collins hosting the Friday Night Project on Channel Four.

It’s hard now, when you look at Kanye West, to remember who he was before the person we see today. The Kanye who cannot be stopped from taking any moment in the limelight to vent endlessly from the heart about whatever cause he takes issue with at that very moment. The Yeezy who constructs Jodorowsky-inspired Aztec pyramid stage props for his tours. The enigmatic Mr West who now shields his laughter from the prying public, diving onto his own giggles like a brave soldier on a grenade, for fear that pictures of him happy may show weakness or might just not look that cool. Yet, here he is, in 2006 - on a show that’s previous music guests that season included The Twang and Mel C - gleefully reading a wanking joke off a teleprompter, and then properly pissing himself afterwards.

Nine years ago, almost a decade before Kanye became the subject of a hateful UK petition of 133,000 signatures to have him removed from the Glastonbury line up, he was, for at least one night, a veritable darling of the British gameshow audience, strutting around a Channel Four TV studio in Waterloo, playing hidden camera pranks on a cockney boy called Lee.

He didn’t just sit through his slot on the Friday Night Project, orating staged jokes, smiling at the crowd and then praying come Sunday that he’d be higher up the UK chart. He gets positively got involved, riffing off Alan Carr and Justin Lee Collins like some sort of wizened TV comic, like some sort of under-appreciated safe pair of hands BBC 2 journeyman - like Kevin Eldon basically. At one point, he carries on a UK centric joke about Sunderland being a shit hole by breaking into Amy Winehouse, “You want me to go to Sunderland and I said no, no, no!” Is this Kanye West?

Well, that isn't no. That's DJ Talent. Yes, in the audience that night was DJ Talent. DJ Talent, who everyone only knows from being DJ Talent in the semi finals of 2009’s X Factor - turns out he existed before that, he wasn't just birthed by Simon Cowell's mule factory and incinerated afterwards. During the part of the show where the audience can ask questions, he gets up and raps directly to Kanye, and Kanye gives him career advice. DJ TALENT WAS GIVEN CAREER ADVICE BY KANYE WEST.

Still, there are glimpses of the Kanye we know today, tiny chinks of aloof indifference peaking through this gushing waterfall of youthful exuberance. This was only a few months after he marched on stage at the MTV Europe Awards when Justice and Simian got the Best Video award ahead of him and shouted “Aw hell no!” and “Fuck that shit!” So, when Alan Carr asks if he’s ever heard of the Cheeky Girls, you’ll recognise the deadpan response he returns with. He shirks off the question as if Alan had just asked if his suit is from Burtons. When he is sat next to a dude dressed as a silver sequined arrow, Kanye has the expression of a man who has just been told in court that his three weeks community service will be served at York Pencil Museum. It’s a face we see a lot today.

But after twenty minutes of this Friday Night Project - after an anonymous sex skit on “Gold Digger” called “Gold Dogger”, a news reel sketch about footballers wives, and lots more open questions from the audience - you’re left wondering how much less Kanye this piece of Kanye history could get. And then he hosts a quiz.

Out comes special guest Jamelia - much to the delight of JLC who starts panting and slavering like a beagle in a hot car. Out comes special guest number two, one man meme machine Tim Westwood. And thus begins a quiz about Kanye West hosted by Kanye West, in which Justin Lee Collins cracks jokes about him being a flan tosser on Tiswas and Alan Carr drops quips about Take a Break magazine.

Listen, this is not just me pointing at this thing and desperately saying, “Look!”, with a view to embarrass or shame, or just vaguely suggest something ambiguous like, “Isn’t the past funny?” Even in the surreal depths of this show, there are some incredible Kanye nuggets worth savouring, like when he admits that when his mum found his porn stash as a young lad, she forced him to write a lengthy essay titled: “The Impact of Watching X Rated Movies”. But the meat of what I’m trying to say here is bigger than that. I’m saying that this is an ode to how we are all growing humans. Our cells regenerate every seven years. We all change. People change. We cannot be judged by the left swipe of our Facebook profile photos.

If you’re currently in a strange moment in your life, where you’re not sure you like who you are becoming, you’re finding yourself posing for photos with two steak bakes outside a Greggs in Dundee, or you feel like your whole life has become predictably mapped out in front of you and all you need to do is steer an inoffensive course until the care home and the eventual sweet release of death, just put on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, kick back and think: Kanye West used to laugh at Justin Lee Collins jokes. Now he showcases collections at New York Fashion Week. I wonder what I could become?

Watch part one here, then follow the prompts to see the full show.

You can follow Joe on Twitter.

kanye west
gold digger
justin lee collins
alan carr
friday night project
channel four
Touch The Sky
what we can learn from our former selves
wank jokes
the past