Andy Richardson: Mistaken identity is a laughing matter
The man on the end of the phone is Tom Stade. He is an award-winning Canadian stand-up who’s been described as being the ‘Keith Richards of comedy’.
Famed for his work on such shows as Live at the Apollo, The Comedy Store, The Live Floor Show, Stand Up for the Week, he once lived in Bilston, where he was beaten up after buying a bag of chips. Tom has an accent that makes him sound drunk and is a very, very funny man. He is 46.
Except I don’t realise any of that.
I think the man on the end of the phone is Colin Blunstone, the English singer-songwriter who found fame when he formed The Zombies during the mid-1960s. Such hits as She’s Not There, Tell Her No and Time of the Season have given Colin a 50-plus-year career. And I will hear no stories of them today – for I am interviewing THE WRONG MAN.
And so my embarrassment begins.
I toss my interviewee – who I think is Colin Blunstone – a gentle opener to begin with, asking him to recall the early days of his career. He rattles off a story about wanting to do theatre at high school. I think that’s a little odd and wonder why he doesn’t mention R‘n’B, the Rolling Stones or picking up his first guitar. I also wonder why Colin is speaking in a North American accent – and try to figure out if he’s spent too long in New York, Toronoto or Vancouver.
And then it gets a little weird.
My interviewee starts talking about making people laugh, about appearing at an open mic night and about knowing that he wanted to do that for the rest of his life. I imagine Colin got a taste of the bright lights and then, somehow, made an improbable switch from, erm, comedy into rock‘n’roll. And as we’re all done on stories about the start of his career, I ask him tentatively about the hits and about forming a band.
And then it goes quiet. We both realise something is wrong. There were no hits. There was no band. I am talking to a damned comedian from America and not a rock‘n’roller from the home counties. This is Tom Stade, the Canadian. It’s not Colin Edward Michael Blunstone, born June 24, 1945, in Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
“So,” I venture on. “The, erm, hits . . .”
Tumbleweed billows down the road.
“Hey, who do ya think you’re talking to, buddy?” says the voice at the end of the phone.
I mumble, unconvincingly: “Erm, Colin . . ?”
There’s a pregnant pause – the size that you could drive a bus through.
“Yes, erm, Colin Blunstone. The Zombies . . .”
The pause is a little longer. Then it’s broken by a gale of laughter – the sort that makes Storm Ophelia look like a little light wind frothing the top of a tea cup.
“This is Tom,” he says. “Tom Stade.”
My face colours. “Oh, Tom. Tom Stade.” My fingers rattle out ‘Tom Stade’ on Wikipedia so that the next 15 minutes of my life have some semblance of order. And as they do, Tom and I both fall about in hysterics.
“Sorry, man,” I say.
“That’s cool. Actually, that’s brilliant. That’s hilarious. Who the hell did you think I was?”
I offered a potted biography of Colin Blunstone – the man I’m plainly not interviewing – and Tom laughs again. He thinks it’s the funniest thing that’s happened all year. Which is pretty good, considering he’s a comedian.
“This is going to go into one of your routines, isn’t it?” I say.
“Sure is. I’ll sure as hell use this,” he says.
“Oh, man. Sorry.”
“Hey, don’t worry. I do hundreds of these interviews. You’ve livened things up. This is one of the rare ones I’ll remember.”
I’m thinking precisely the same.
In my defence, Tom and Colin share a PR. And the PR had been emailing me about Colin, before slipping in a cheeky Tom Stade interview once she’d got me hooked on Colin, like a cannabis dealer weaning me onto crack.
At the top of her email are the words ‘Colin Blunstone – phoner’ – rather than, for instance ‘Tom Stade – phoner’. It was an easy mistake to make.
And a damned funny one. It gave me a column and Tom got five minutes of comedy gold that will amuse audiences around the country as he riffs on the Midlands journalist who thought he was a hoary old rocker, when all he wanted to do was tell me about the time he got beaten up after buying a bag of chips in Bilston.
Still, it could have been much worse. The interview schedule that day also featured Pam Ayres and Phil Collins. Imagine if I’d got that pair mixed up . . .