Johnny Vegas wants to tell you about his new Channel 4 programme, 18 Stone of Idiot, which starts at 10pm on 27 May and continues every Friday night for six weeks. But he's such a blather that if we let him, we'll be here all day. It's hard to sum up: 18 Stone is a chat show, with both high-kicking and violent variety elements; there are men dressed as comedy animals, a section where Johnny turns a viewer's (strange) fantasy into reality and a dramatic Evel Knievel finale where he attempts to jump over his celebrity guest on a Chopper bike, or a shopping trolley. 'We tried,' says Johnny, 34, 'to make the whole show so ridiculous that there was no way they'd recommission it.
But Channel 4 love the results, and, from what Johnny says, I think we will, too. For a start, his guests are great: Ray Winstone, Kathy Burke, Hughie from the Fun Lovin' Criminals, Elvis Costello, David Soul, Rhys Ifans - one a week, and they stay for the whole show. Rhys Ifans turned up drunk, so Johnny joined in - 'I'm not being out-boozed'; Hughie was his usual stoner self, his heavy smoking resulting in one regular character, Bad Budgie, being rendered unable to move. ('That budgie,' remarked one of the crew, 'is fucked.') Other well-known faces turn up: in one episode, Neil Hamilton is put in a glass box and pelted with fish. Can't wait. And I especially like the sound of Celebrity Lock-In: a real lock-in, in a real pub (the Good Mixer in Camden), with real celebrities (the Krankies!). It lasted eight hours, but has been cut down to three minutes per show. 'There's singing, and arguments,' says Johnny.