The Dabbler Interview: Stan Madeley

Confessions of the Chisel Thrower: The Dabbler in Conversation with Stan Madeley, the UK’s top Richard Madeley lookalike and author of ‘Second-Class Male’

The D: Was it always your ambition to write pestering letters to the rich and famous or did the hobby evolve organically?

SM: Thank you Brit. With an opening like that, you should be in cabaret. In fact, you remind me of the great Harry Lint who would run out on stage and crack his pelvis to the theme tune of Bonanza. It might be a great skill but, opening like that, where can you go?

First of all, I wouldn’t characterise them as ‘pestering letters’. The idea suddenly occurred to me one night whilst performing my ‘Bassoons of Death’ routine with my wife, Sandra (54), igniting the percussive caps down my trousers. I suddenly thought: how else can we improve the world except by setting a good example?

You improve the world by stuffing percussive caps down your trousers?

In a way, I believe I do. I perform in cabaret six nights a week but that’s only 20 minutes a day I spend enriching other people’s lives. That’s why I decided to share my talents with complete strangers. What a great thrill it must be to have your humdrum nine-to-five job punctuated by a letter from the UK’s top Richard Madeley lookalike.

I should think it surprising.

‘Edifying’ is the word I believe you’re looking for. You might say that I have embarked on a moral crusade to bring happiness into their lives. I don’t entertain a crowd. I aim to amuse the world, one person at a time. It’s just a shame that not all the people I write to have the decency to see it that way or respond.

But you also write to big businesses and national-wide companies… Do you think they have a moral obligation to write back to you?

Absolutely. We should judge a company by their treatment of the Joe and Jennifer Peglegs of the world. It’s a condition of the modern business that we feel disenfranchised by corporations who think they can ignore the individual. However, to receive a personalised letter back is always reassuring. You would think that big business would have figured that out but apparently they haven’t.

What’s the best reply you’ve received, and the worst?

The worst would possibly be from Simon Hoggart at The Guardian – an odiously snide remark scribbled on the top of my own letter posted back to me. Couldn’t even spare a sheet of headed paper… He didn’t make the book.

The best: difficult choice. Bernie Clifton is a favourite but I’m proud to have a postcard from General Noriega. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish but he’s apparently praying for my soul or describing the best way to cook chicken.

Are the any conclusions you have drawn from writing so many letters?

I don’t know if it’s possible to draw any conclusion from this experience but I have found that those of liberal politics tend not to respond well to letters. Those to the political right tend to be more likely to pick up a pen. I haven’t a bad thing to say about Quentin Letts, for example. Generosity and manners are almost a pathology with him.

That said, I did send the entire Tory Shadow Cabinet my own personalised Valentines cards and only two replied. Jeremy Hunt seemed a nice guy but he kept emailing to ask me my post code… Apparently, he didn’t believe I was his constituent.

Were you his constituent?

I’d rather not say. It might be a criminal offence speaking to an MP who isn’t from your constituency.

Who disappointed you most with their reply, and was there anyone who surprised and delighted you?

I’m delighted when anybody reveals a degree of humanity and/or humour. The most surprising was Michael Howard, though I also enjoyed a response from John Prescott.

The most disappointing response was from Clive James. I wrote two letters and still have no reply. It’s usually the case that I rarely get replies from the people I admire the most. It was a shame because my wife, Sandra (54), wrote him a rather delightful poem.

In fact, since The Dabbler is a culture blog, your reader[s] might be interested to know that some of the most disappointing replies came from ‘Poetry Review’. I have a wad of rejection letters for some of my best poems; poems praised by a certain poet who I know is close to your heart…

You mean Grayson Ellis?

None other.

Do you have any examples?

Well, without meaning to boast, I’m particularly proud of my poem about my cat…

On The Death of Sandhurst (Cat)

Goodbye Sandhurst, you were my favourite cat,
Born of the union of Miggles and Tabitha Black,
Who was a friend in her day, but nothing quite like you,
So placid since you were neutered at the tender age of two.
Oh, I’ll miss you, Sandhurst! There’s no doubt about that!
Sad it was to see you lying there, so round and so flat.
For five long weeks you were a constant source of worry.
Why did you cross the path of Asda’s refrigerated lorry?
I doubt I’ll love another, you really were unique;
But I’ve bought myself a kitten. I think I’ll name him Squeak.

That’s really quite… moving. Do you know why they rejected it? Do you see this as a bigger problem with contemporary poetry?

I do. What is poetry if it doesn’t rhyme or carry some rhythm? What is it other than lumpy words held together by punctuation?

I would ask you for another example but…

Well, since you have time, I was very proud of the poem I wrote for the Poetry Review’s Christmas edition. Sadly, they didn’t think it for them either… You might want to check your batteries in your Dictaphone. This is a long one…

Sparing A Thought At Christmas

I often look at other people’s fate,
The lives that pass beyond my garden gate,
At Christmas time, poignant like no other,
I like to consider my sister and brother,
Those poor people, consigned to life’s cruel dump,
Left without a leg to stand on; one arm: a stump;
The vagrant and wasted, the psychologically complex,
The man who sits outside Boots wearing only his vest.
Think of the winos, the hippies, the morbidly obese,
Simon Cowell, the Belgians, my wife Sandra’s niece
As white as Persil, with studs in her cheeks and her ear,
Who failed G.C.S.E. Home Economics earlier this year.
I think of the working class, stuck on bad sink estates,
With cash from the dole and ten pence on my rates.
Think of Bangladesh, slowly washed away by the tide
Condemned by my car, a BMW four-wheel drive.
I think of the penguins, the otter, the North Sea cod,
Guardianistas reading that idiot called Liddle (Rod).
What must it be to be witless, the cretin, the dribbling wreck,
The addict, the scumbag, the dross and the dreck,
The harlot, the floozie, the working class trull,
Or a member of the Lib Dems, so insufferably dull?
At Christmas time, give thanks you’re not them:
The multitude not fit to kiss your cuff or your hem.
Thank God that we’re British, born with a crystal view,
We fine upstanding citizens who read Poetry Review!

Erm… Moving on, is it true that you received a reply from the Pope?

This is true and he is apparently also praying for my soul.

He’s probably read your poetry. But are you a religious man?

Somewhat. You might say that I whistle the tune even if I can’t remember the words.

What is your usual motivation for writing – is it rage, cantankerousness, a thirst for knowledge….?

I write out of a deep melancholy usually laced with rage. All art – painting, illustration, poetry, comedy, and even letter writing – delays entropy and restores a little order to the universe. Writing correspondence supports our claims to sophistication and culture. It’s just a shame that the majority of people don’t share my sentiments.

You’re a well-known name on the chisel-throwing circuit. How do you feel about the current state of British cabaret?

A good question but one that doesn’t have a quick answer. There’s a definite lack of novelty in modern cabaret and it saddens me to see the younger generation abandoning the classics such a chisel throwing. Do you know, there are cabaret performers today that have never seen inside a burns unit? It’s a terrible indictment of their ambitions with kerosene.

When did you first notice your uncanny resemblance to Richard Madeley? And does your wife Sandra (54) resemble Judy Finnegan? Would she consider plastic surgery to enhance any resemblance for the purposes of your career?

I wouldn’t say uncanny became I have a mole behind my left ear which I’m sure isn’t shared by the great man. My likeness became apparent when I went to join the Fire Service about nineteen years ago. They felt they couldn’t ask me to break through windows and enter smouldering apartments where I might make a trauma victim feel even less steady on her feet. That’s why I moved into cabaret. It’s a safer environment for women to swoon at a man with my good looks.

As for Sandra (54): she doesn’t resemble the lovely Judy, which has been a source of great disappointment to me. Sadly, she is terribly addicted to plastic surgery…

I’m sorry. I didn’t know.

Sixteen operations and she still looks like Karl Marlden.

What’s the best letter that didn’t make it into the book?

Impossible to say, Brit. Without going into the figures, the letters in the collection represent a very small fraction of the total letters I have written in the last twelve months.

And who have you been writing to since it was published?

I continue to write letters and receive replies but I think it best not to talk about them. But should there ever be a second volume, I will be able to boast an even more impressive line-up.

Finally, are you a fan of The Dabbler?

Who isn’t a fan of The Dabber? I particularly enjoy the Noseybonk illustrations and the stripy woman in the Shop Curious ad.

Second Class Male is published by Michael O’Mara Books Ltd and is available from Amazon here. The Dabbler strongly recommends it – basically if you like us, you’ll love it, and so will everyone for whom you buy Christmas presents.
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13 thoughts on “The Dabbler Interview: Stan Madeley

    September 27, 2010 at 13:43

    Brilliant! Everything an author interview should be but so seldom is…

    September 27, 2010 at 13:55

    I know, Nige. You should have heard the poems Martin Amis tried to get me to print in his interview. Risible!

    September 27, 2010 at 15:11

    The ultimate doppelgänger interview, and the waterboard left unused. Add to this the sublime Amazon review, the knee in Rodders goolies and we have, what must be for many, the highlight of the agricultural year, our mugs runneth over.

    Why, incidentally is there no Booker prize for Amazon reviewing, the brother in laws piece on the sheepskin condom was earth moving.

    Joey Joe Joe Jr.
    September 27, 2010 at 15:31

    I just visited the page for Second Class Male and noticed that the only non-book products in the “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed” list are the “HoMedics SP-39H-GB Deluxe Shiatsu Massage Cushion” and the “HoMedics SBM-300H-3GB Shiatsu+ Massager with heat”.

    Do Stan’s fans just happen to be big fans of robotic shiatzu massages, or is it something he works into his act?

    September 27, 2010 at 15:37

    I don’t know Joey Joe Joe Jr, and I wish I’d asked Stan.

    I’ll email him and see if he can answer it. If anyone has any other questions for the UK’s number one cabaret chisel-thrower and Richard Madeley lookalike, put them here and I will try to ask them all.

    September 27, 2010 at 15:46

    Brit, thanks for the phone call. I’ll try my best.

    Joey, I can confirm that I bought that HoMedics Shiatsu+ Massager with Heat and an extremely good buy it has been too! The pain I’ve been feeling in my lower lumbar region has disappeared completely and it has rid me of the terrible knots I get between the shoulders after a hard night of chisel throwing. It’s easily as good as a visit to my local massage parlour, though it doesn’t come with an option to do my front or snatch my wallet.

  7. Gaw
    September 27, 2010 at 16:08

    I’d always assumed a Shiatsu was a dog. Perhaps Stan’s fans keep very good holistic care of their pets? It would be entirely unsurprising given the obvious affection Stan so beautifully expressed for Sandhurst. No wheely bins for him. At least until dead.

    September 27, 2010 at 16:17

    A wheelie bin! Dear Sandhurst was buried in a beautiful spot overlooking the North Yorkshire Moors, just beneath a flowing blossom tree and within earshot of a gurgling stream.

    Of course, my wife went back a week later to lay flowers and discovered that the grave had been dug up by a fox but what can you do?

    Joey Joe Joe Jr.
    September 27, 2010 at 17:27

    Thanks Stan for putting my mind at rest. The answer was obvious really; I certainly wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of a stiff chisel thrower.

    September 28, 2010 at 10:20

    Henry Root remains – immaculate, untouched.

      October 3, 2010 at 20:21

      William Donaldson (genius) was certainly not immaculate, and definitely not untouched.
      Stan Madeley (chisel thrower and stunt man) is both immaculate and untouched.

    September 28, 2010 at 11:45

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Stephen.

    Peanut Butter Jelly Time
    September 28, 2010 at 12:15

    Great interview. Great book.

    Henry shall soon be uprooted and a new person appear in his place.

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