Have you ever had to run for your life?
One time when I was using, I'd gone away with some of my friends to a little quiet seaside town in England, a quiet place. We went to a bar and there was this girl sitting at a table with all these guys, one of whom was her boyfriend. Like an idiot, I went over to chat this girl up even though this group of guys was a rowing team. One of them told me to fuck off, so I picked up a drink and smashed the glass on the table like, "Come on, then!" The doorman stepped in and said, "What are you doing? You idiot." I had a moment where I realized, "Oh man, I'm gonna get killed." He slowed them down, but not by much. That was a scary night: This little quaint beautiful city and me running through gardens and hiding under hedges. It was frightening!
Are you fast?
Not fast enough to be takin' them kinda risks. Not with rowers. They can't row on land, but they've got good stamina and they can pack a punch. I was thinking, 'cause they're rowers, they must come from cozy backgrounds and they won't have fire in their bellies. But they were big rowers!
What was your impression of America when you were a kid?
Where I'm from, Essex, America was considered cool. That's before all the foreign policy stuff started changing: "America is cultural colonialism." As a comedian, there's Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks—and you've got the Doors, the Ramones, the New York Dolls, all this cool music. So my idea of it has always been positive, except the political awareness.
C'mon, we're getting better, aren't we?
I made this documentary about Jack Kerouac for the BBC. Me and my mate drove right across America, from Boston all the way to San Francisco. We'd ask people about war and politics, and everyone was just nice and fun and aware. I don't know where they're finding those people for tea-time TV where everyone's shouting and screaming. I'm very optimistic about America and American people. I sort of live here, really. I'm marrying an American woman. I was excited by it as a kid and I'm excited by it now. When I do comedy, I take the piss a bit, but that's what I'm gonna do I'm a comedian. I talk about England having more culture or more class or whatever, but you've gotta find an angle, haven't you?
Do you live with regret?
No—and that's one of the good things about having, in some senses, an extreme life. I know what it's like to be a junkie, I know what it's like to live for the hedonism with women. I know what it's like to not have money, I know what it's like to be desperate, I know what it's like to treat myself badly, to treat others badly. There's the quote, "You don't regret the things you do, you regret the things you don't
do." I have a job that I love, I'm developing as a person in a way that I'm pleased with. I'm good to the people I love. If my feelings are hurt, I can still lash out and say something spiteful, but now I don't feel good about it.
Do you worry?
I suppose there's some anxiety. If you're in show business, people let you do anything you want. It's easy to become an egotist and an asshole—but the people around me knew me before I had anything, and they don't tolerate that. I have a woman who doesn't tolerate it. I feel sick when I do it. A lot of those stories you hear about becoming consumed, I'm hoping it won't happen to me.
Just being conscious of that could be enough.
If it's not on your radar, you become susceptible to its charm.