The Final Leg’s Alex Brooker: ‘Viewers do not outline me by my incapacity’
When comic Alex Brooker was employed to seem on The Final Leg he was initially placed on a nine-day contract.
Which is not stunning. In any case, the programme was solely purported to run for 2 weeks, alongside the 2012 Paralympic Video games in London.
Brooker, who was working as a sports activities journalist on the time, assumed that when the event concluded, so too would the sequence. However then, the group began noticing how a lot momentum was constructing round it.
“I did not suppose I would do any extra tv, however once we have been about 4 exhibits into The Final Leg, we went out within the Olympic Park and an enormous variety of individuals have been coming as much as us,” he remembers. “Josh [Widdicombe] and I went to movie one thing and like, individuals have been mobbing us. And it was the primary time I realised that this had hit residence with lots of people.”
The programme, fronted by Brooker, Widdicombe and presenter Adam Hills, seemed again at every day’s occasions through the Paralympics.
Crucially, it celebrated and poked enjoyable at incapacity in equal measure. Brooker, who has hand and arm impairments and makes use of a prosthetic leg, would make as many jokes at his personal expense as he would at different individuals’s. Hills, who was born with out a proper foot, would do the identical.
The present grew to become so fashionable that Channel Four commissioned it for an extended run. Eight years later, it is one of many community’s largest hits. However having spent practically a decade making mild of his personal impairments, Brooker is able to take a barely extra severe and reflective have a look at his personal incapacity.
A brand new BBC Two documentary, broadcast this weekend, sees the comic ask himself questions he hasn’t addressed earlier than, one thing which was prompted partly by a charity swim final yr.
“Once I did Sink or Swim, there was a moment in Lake Windermere where I struggled, and I felt for the primary time in as a few years as I can keep in mind, that my incapacity was beating me,” he tells BBC Information.
“I felt very disabled and I received very emotional. So I took a step again, and thought, I am clearly not totally OK, and I’ve to work some stuff out about how I really feel about it.
“I simply wished to do the documentary to shine a lightweight on incapacity in maybe a distinct method than I’ve achieved on tv up to now. However in a egocentric method, it was about studying for myself. Attending to a stage the place I felt capable of discuss these emotions I’ve had through the years.”
Whereas incapacity is the butt of a number of jokes on The Final Leg, it is not the only focus. The present additionally options video games, superstar visitors and a dialogue of the week’s information. However the documentary sees the difficulty take centre stage.
He explores the impression it had on his household when he was rising up. He interviews Paralympic swimmer Susie Rodgers and speaks to fellow disabled soccer followers at Arsenal’s Disabled Supporters’ Membership.
“All my conversations I’ve ever actually had about being a disabled man, I’ve had on telly,” he notes. “It is a actually unusual factor, and it makes you’re feeling fairly uncovered. However on the identical time, I actually hope that the viewers take one thing from the truth that it’s so, so private.”
The movie additionally prompted some frank conversations along with his household, which Brooker had by no means had earlier than. “The dialog with my mum about what life was like once I was a child in Nice Ormond Road, that is the primary time we have ever [spoken about] that,” he says.
It is his hope that the programme may have a broad attraction, and discover an viewers past different disabled individuals. Any enhance in consciousness and understanding can solely be factor, he argues.
‘Massive step ahead’
Brooker and his Final Leg co-stars are sometimes praised for flying the flag for an under-represented group. However the public’s focus has, in latest weeks, turned to different minority teams on tv, sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests.
“I believe we should always at all times be making an attempt to symbolize as many individuals as attainable via tv,” Brooker says.
“Okay, yeah, on The Final Leg, we’re three white males, though clearly there’s loads of range within the sense of our disabilities. However I’d by no means sit there and suppose to myself, ‘Oh, effectively, we have it accomplished, then. We do not have to be any extra various.’ We won’t relaxation on our laurels.”
Apparently, it could possibly be argued that any perceived lack of range on The Final Leg is a victory in itself, as a result of any such criticism would imply that individuals now not think about the hosts’ disabilities uncommon and even notable.
“With me personally, I am not seen as being disabled. I do know that seems like a bizarre factor, however I am not likely,” Brooker says. “That is not a praise, as a result of I am proud to be disabled, however what I do take from it’s typically which means persons are de-sensitised to it.
“And for the viewers to see somebody like me, and never be observing my arms and truly be listening to what I am saying, is a extremely massive step ahead. And truly individuals aren’t seeing it as defining me, it is only one side.”
Brooker says he takes “nice satisfaction” in assembly viewers in actual life who reward him for being a task mannequin.
“Generally I’ve had mother and father converse to me, and perhaps their little one has been born in the same method,” he says. “I get a great deal of messages, and there is nothing higher than that.”
However, he jokes: “Clearly I nonetheless would not thoughts a Bafta in just a few weeks, when the Final Leg are nominated once more! That might be neat, however that will come second to the messages I get, in fact.”
This yr’s Bafta TV Awards are actually due to take place on 31 July. The ceremony had been scheduled for Could as normal, however the coronavirus pandemic means the Academy have needed to maintain the nominees ready two months longer this yr.
“They’ve!” laughs Brooker. “After which, on the evening, we’ve to attend for 3 hours to lose to Graham Norton!”
Alex Brooker: Incapacity and Me is broadcast on BBC Two on Sunday at 21:00 BST.