Comedian Frank Skinner has revealed how he turned down compering an evening with the Pope in favour of becoming the president of the Samuel Johnson Society.
The funny man was approached by a Vatican representative to appear at the same event as the Pope during his visit to Britain in September.
With concerns about the number of people attending a vigil mass in London's Hyde Park leaving at the same time, it was suggested having a post-vigil concert with the Black Country star as compere.
The comedian has joked that the show could have been seen as the pope being his warm-up act - or organisers believing the crowd would drift away slowly once he took to the stage. But he had to choose between the Pope and becoming president of the Samuel Johnson Society - the two authorities in which he has placed most faith during the course of his life.
After already agreeing to his Johnson date in Lichfield, he has now told how he had to turn down the offer from Rome. He said: "I said 'Yes' to them. And anyhow its not that often you get to blow out the Pope. I'd like to think its a pivotal moment in my life." Skinner was raised a Roman Catholic in the Black Country, but he lost his faith at 17, only to find it again - when he had overcome a drink problem - a dozen years later.
In the interim he became a fan of the journalist, novelist, literary critic and biographer while attending Birmingham Poly as a 20-year-old by reading James Boswell's Life of Johnson.
In an interview, he said: "I got into Johnson the way one gets into a band. I quoted chunks of it all the time.
"I converted a mate and we had a phase of prefacing everything we said with an 18th century 'Sir'."
The main objective of the Lichfield Johnson Society is to further interest in the life, works and times of Samuel Johnson.