In stand-up comedy, ripping off another comedian’s act is an enormous faux pas. It does go on but it usually signifies the death knell of the thief’s career but not in every case. A few comedians have alerted me to a very celebrated North American comedian and whether or not he has listened (and plundered) (or his writers have) to my award-winning stand-up series on the radio, the imaginatively titled, the Small World of Dominic Holland.
But hey ho. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. It is tough to prove and frankly who has the energy or the money to even think about engaging those honourable and value-for-money professionals called lawyers.
But plagiarism in writing is much more apparent and easier to prove and explains why the guilty are more easily exposed and frequently put to the sword. Recently there have been a few instances of very well-known journalists who have been exposed for stealing other scribes words and have seen their careers implode as a result.
I imagine the same applies to writers who are exposed for dishonesty and specifically for lying. Whilst I certainly do embellish my writing for comic effect (which I hope is apparent?), I happen to be a writer with the highest moral code and the utmost integrity.
I tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – unless I am writing a novel of course in which case I make everything up.
But certainly with my non-fiction, I am scrupulous and entirely trustworthy – and why the biggest laugh of Tom’s recent appearance on the Graham Norton Show might have been troubling for me.
In the short excerpt, Tom is an 11-year-old talking about how he came to be cast as Billy Elliot. Looking suitably angelic and with an unusual accent, the little dancing boy explains that he was approached by the headmaster of White Lodge, the home of the Royal Ballet School, whereupon he asked to Tom if he would like to audition for Billy Elliot – to which Tom replied,
‘Yeah alright, fair do’s.’
First of all I don’t think the head honcho of the Royal Ballet school would appreciate being called the headmaster, but this is an aside.
So, why could this clip be an issue for me?
Well, because if it were true then it would undermine a central premise of my book Eclipsed. And whilst I am not a dad who would ever throw any of his beloved sons under the bus, I am a man who feels a need to defend myself and my writing by explaining that Tom’s version of this event is pure fantasy. It never happened. In the words of my hero, Vincent Gambini, in one of my all-time-favourite films, My Cousin Vinny –
“Everything that man just said is bullshit.”
And speaking of favourite films – you might have noticed the noise and incredible reception currently greeting ‘Spider-Man – No Way Home’ opening across the world and starring this same 11 year old boy, now 25.
Fortunately, for those people interested, the true version of how Tom Holland was picked out of the millions of boys who dream of becoming actors (and more specifically, Spider-Man) is faithfully chronicled in my book Eclipsed. Recently revised and extended with new anecdotes and further observations by the author (me, his dad…) complete with snazzy new jacket and available at amazon and a raft of other online stores.
Nikki and I are heading to our local cinema to see the movie today. As a man of a certain age who is not a Marvel aficionado, I hope I can follow the plot and enjoy all the permutations that are sending the fans in to a frenzy. I confess that I find much of Marvel’s output completely bambozzling (Loki?) – unlike my book Eclipsed which is easy to read, easy to follow, is the definitive explanation of how a kid who was never in a school play somehow gets to become a film actor – oh, and it all happens to be the truth, the whole truth… but embellished for comic effect.
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