Chris Ramsey interview
Stand-up Chris Ramsey is one of several celebrities appearing on new Channel 4 series Time Crashers. Here he talks about his time on the programme, being very “particular about cleanliness”, and how he’s “probably going to come across as a bit of a dickhead.”
Did you agree to this show because there was no pitting people against each other like other shows?
Yes, massively. I would never do something like that. They were like, “Look, it’s not going to be like anything like what you’ve seen before, it’s going to be historically accurate, so you might learn something, Geordie boy!” My immediate thought was, “If Katie Hopkins is in then I’m fucking leaving immediately”.
There was no-one in there like that at all, which was just great. They are just a really lovely bunch. I would happily sit next to any of them on a long-haul flight!
Were you interested in history before doing the show?
Yes, but I was ignorant to a lot of it. In my head the only historical periods of note that existed were the ones I did at school. So in my head it sort of went: Jesus times, Romans, Victorians and World War 2 was in there as well.
While I was in the costume fitting I was messing about and feeling the costumes to try and guess the period on all of the costumes, and I got every single one of them wrong. I was convinced I was going to be a Native American or a World War 2 soldier… it was just pathetic, I knew nothing. But I know a little bit more now.
What were you worried about the most beforehand?
Hygiene and sleeping arrangements were my main fear. I don’t know how much they are going to show, but literally in the pre-interviews, I confidently claimed that I was not going to be doing a number two while in any time period, and I didn’t, I actually didn’t. I refused.
Do you have an issue with cleanliness?
I’m just particular about cleanliness. I think some people call it OCD, but I know there are people with proper OCD, and I haven’t got anything like that, so I try not to call it that. I like my hands and face to be clean all the time, and if they’re not it gets in my head. I had really bad acne when I was younger and I got it in my head that it was cleanliness.
Every Clearasil advert that comes on is like, “If you just wash your face it’ll go away!” – total lies! But I bought into all that, as if it really worked on acne. But by the end that was all gone. By the final period I had skinned a deer, there was blood all over my hands and everything, and I didn’t care.
So you’re cured!
I’ve just got a new house and I’ve been doing a lot of manual work in the house over the last couple of weeks, so I’ve pulled the kitchen out, a 30-year-old extractor fan – imagine 30 years of bacon grease collected – and I just pulled it out and threw it in the skip, I didn’t give a shit.
Before Time Crashers I’d have had to wear Marigolds and jump in the shower afterwards, but now it’s like, throw it in the skip, have a cup of tea, eat a sandwich – I wasn’t bothered, and that’s all because of Time Crashers. I feel like I’m a bit more of an adult now, more of a man.
What was it like to unplug and give up your technology before the show?
Weirdly, giving up the phone and the technology, the only time you missed it is if we were all talking about something to do with the 21st century, and someone says, “He’s in that film, what’s it called?” and no-one knows. But it was not being able to speak to my wife all the time; I really missed that – that’s what really hit me hard.
Did you find it hard?
The first two or three time periods we went into, I really didn’t enjoy it; I found it really hard to adjust. I had no sleep whatsoever in the first one and I felt ill. And within five minutes of being there I was down on my hands and knees cleaning the floor with a cloth, and we had to clean it with a wet cloth and then put the cloth into this muddy water almost instantly I forgot I was on a TV show.
What happens, the people who are telling you to do stuff, are being ballbusters they would be back in that time, so my brain switched to, “I am this person, this is my boss, he’s a pain in the arse, I’m trying to get this done, I’ve got a real problem with authority.
When someone’s like, “Do that NOW!” I’m like, “Fuck you, mate.” I haven’t had that since school or part time jobs when I was younger, so literally like, “Go fuck yourself.” I turned into a petulant child for the first three eras!
In the second one we were squires for these knights, and the master squire guy was an absolute knob. He was the biggest knob in the whole world, and he was screaming and shouting, and he moved the goalposts and changed his mind all the time! At one point he was shouting at me and I was just shouting back, I didn’t care.
Did it make you realise how hard they had it?
I think in every era I’d have been killed! In every single time period, someone would have taken me into a field and chopped my head off. It would have been like, “You’re dead!”
That was the turning point, the farm. After the farm I was on it. I really got the bug for it and I stopped worrying about cleanliness and stuff, and that was my turning point. Before that I was like, “I’m not doing what you tell me because I don’t have to. You’re not my dad!”
What was the worst moment?
The worst one we did was the Edwardian house. We had to sleep over in the night, and we had to have a shave the next morning with an Edwardian razor.
We had to put this oil stuff on our face, and obviously for me that was a real issue. And we had these collars; you know the ones that stick right up under your chin so you can’t put your chin down, like a footman’s collar? It’s basically like having two sharp credit cards under your chin so you can’t put your head down, and the jacket hurt my back, and I had this oil on my face and this sharp thing digging in my neck, rubbing away, my neck was bright red.
It was so painful, and we had to do this really laborious and painful work. We had to set up a big marquee outside, me and Greg had to do it, and honestly it must have been a good half a mile from the main house. We then had to bring all of this stuff out of the house so they could have lunch outside.
We had to carry massive tables, I think I was carrying one with Jermaine or something, Greg had like two tables on his back, sprinting, and making noises like a fucking wildebeest – it was madness. He’s an Olympian – he has to win.
So he was like, putting three tables on his back and legging it, and I’m going, “Mate, don’t worry about it, it’s fine,” but he was like, “No,” and sprinting off. I was trying to help him but he was in the zone. It’s crazy. When he sees that finish line, he’s a fucking animal.
For the final part of their meal outside they made me and Greg carry a MASSIVE jelly desert the full distance from the house to the field where they were eating… That was the moment we both gave up. It was hysterical! A hilariously impossible task. I don’t want to give too much away, just watch that episode!
Tough as it was, it sounds like you had a good time.
We did, and it was tough, but I’ve got mates who work on building sites 9-5 and I couldn’t do that, so even in this day and age, and that’s without even going to third world countries or migrant workers who have to basically work until they die. So it was tough.
If you ever whinged about it, you had to keep it in your mind that this was an experience. If I was actually in those time periods I would have been executed every single time. So it’s like, “You’re lucky to be alive, mate!”
Why should people tune in?
I think you might see a different side to us, a side that you wouldn’t really expect. I genuinely think I’m going to come across as a bit of a dickhead for the first two episodes, I think you’re going to have to stick with it to see me grow up and stop being a whinge bag.
So yes, tune in just to see the emotional journey of Chris Ramsey going from dickhead to normal person! It’s supposed to be really historically interesting too – I’m looking forward to seeing it myself.
Time Crashers starts on Channel 4 tonight at 8pm.