RICHARD J OBSON FEATURE
attitudes to sex. their bodies. women etc. Without too much preamble he shifts onto the topic of his own role in the proceedings.
‘It‘s a difficult situation in the first place because you‘ve got five guys who don‘t know each other,’ he says, ‘meeting fifteen minutes before they go on air, and suddenly they’re in a completely foreign and intimidating environment. They were really uptight about it. My job was to massage it out ofthem. which I found a pain in the arse. Hold on a minute. it‘s beginning to sound like a homosexual orgy . . . Anyway. the most difficult thing was to keep these guys going. just to keep them chatting and try and maintain some thread throughout it. so rather than participate. I became a sort of conduit between the people. In retrospect I‘m unhappy about that and wish I‘d given more ofmyself. I think I had something to offer through my own experiences, but didn‘t really manage to get that going.‘
Ironically. with his next breath Jobson enthuses about how the series‘ producers wanted to weed out media-literate journo types eager to spill out their personal psyches on screen. ‘That was one of the conditions ofmy being involved with it.‘ he says. ‘on the understanding that there would be people from other parts of the country. not just the south-east. and also people from working-class backgrounds. I didn‘t want it to be a cosy middle-class programme. with people debating something they do for a living anyway . . .‘
This contradiction is something Jobson slips into fairly readily. While he laments the emotional emptiness and inarticulacy ofhis working-class upbringing. Jobson‘s favourite participant in Men Talk was ‘a Scots guy who was about 18 stone and didn‘t give a shit. He really ripped into the vanity and whole idea of the body beautiful. which was great. I Ie had this brilliant acerbic, very Scottish style. While the rest ofthem were sitting there discussing something. he‘d go “Huhhhh. huhhh“. Quite a disturbing character. sitting there with his masonic ring on. I found a lot of them quite disturbing actually. I do see a lot ofmyself in them, and just think “fuck“.‘
We‘re back to ‘myself‘ fairly swiftly after a short digression. You get the impression that had Jobson been given free rein we could have had an entire second series on our hands. When it comes to analysing masculinity Jobson has certainly been there, done that and bought the T-shirt. He was an international class footballer as a schoolboy and appeared on Top Of The Pops the day
his 0 Grade results came out. conveniently getting two common male fantasies out of the way while barely into adolescence. ‘Yeah, but I didn’t exactly end up doing very well at either,’ he recalls. ‘I participated, which was a nice thing to look back on, but that‘s all. I‘m a deeply romantic person sol have very fond memories of those times. On both occasions I was let down by other people. rather than myself. I retained my romantic spirit while the people around me were far too pragmatic and greedy. Even now at 31 I‘m still irresponsibly unaware of how to conduct myselfin a businesslike way.‘
This is the self-image Jobson has constructed. perhaps understandably considering the acute criticism he has attracted. ‘I feel that the money thing destroys everything really quickly. Greed comes into it and it‘s based on power. The music industry just sickened me. I tried sort of vaguely to refresh my attitude to that in the Armoury Show. but that didn‘t work. again because all the other guys in the band were so fucking greedy. it was a money thing. nothing to do with the songs we were writing.‘
This belief in his own ethereal anti-materialistic character is touching. although rich coming from a man who regularly does hack TV work and ad voice-overs. presumably for the sake ofthe folding stuff. The truth is though. Jobson genuinely has something to offer a debate
‘Everyone was quite content with Jobbo as the gravel-voiced Skids hollerer belting out ‘lnto The Valley’ on Top Of The Pops, so what was he playing at appearing nude in fringe theatre, or publishing a slim volume of difficult poetry? Asking for trouble.’
about masculinity. In fact it‘s a subject he has tackled already in his book Sixteen Years OfAlcohol. The book subsequently evolved into a theatre piece. Daddy, that explored his own upbringing. and its implications.‘
‘A lot ofguys from my background are brought up in that way.‘ he says. ‘It‘s very patriarchal; the father‘s the dominant figure. It‘s very physical. very masculine. Certain areas are never touched upon. To be sensitive or emotional is scorned. I don‘t think it‘s just a Scottish thing. either. It‘s far more to do with class and social conditioning. There‘sjust no time for anything else. I always got the impression
‘When it comes to analysing masculinity Jobson has certainly been there, done that and bought the T-shirt.’
my father was quite an emotional man but he always had too much to be getting on with. My brother similarly. In my own situation , although football was all men. and being in a punk band was very much all men as well, very tough and aggressive, they introduced me to other issues, and possibly a way out.‘
How all this cathartic reconstructed stuff goes down with the mates Jobson stands beside regularly on the Parkhead terracing is anyone‘s guess. It does seem likely, however. that it contributes heftily to his image as a London-based ‘poseur‘ (another regularly-mentioned epithet in that vox pop we began with). a stereotype that he believes has damaged his career in Scotland.
‘All the work I‘ve been offered is in London.‘ he says. ‘I‘ve never actually been offered anything in Scotland. I have taken projects for programmes to Scottish companies, and they‘ve been rejected out of hand. They don‘t even want to return your telephone calls. I find that quite disturbing. Especially because I‘ve felt “have they rejected them because they‘re crap ideas or because they don‘t like me and they don‘t like the fact that I‘ve been living in London for a bit?“ The only people who took a chance with me were the BBCI programme EX S , and even they decided they didn’t really want a presenter.’
Jobson ﬁnds himselfthe victim ofone of his obsessions: other people‘s power. His intro. middle-eight and coda all go something along the lines of ‘What can a poor sensitive boy do when tossed on the
stormy seas of the Mammon-crazed media?‘ When he finally returns to the subject of Men Talk, Jobson’s comments could be a resumé of his career to date. ‘Some ofthe programmes are a mess, but a kind of interesting mess. People will be a bit pissed offabout what they hear from these guys. We‘re all under the illusion that things have changed. Nothing‘s changed.‘ Jobbo is a mess, but a kind of interesting one. He pisses a lot of people off. Nothing changes.
Men Talk begins on Channel 4 on Thursday 23 July at 10.20pm
The List l7—30July 19929