During a 1997 episode of I’m Alan Partridge, Steve Coogan’s anti-hero gets flustered and desperately pitches an idea for a TV show called Youth Hosteling With… Chris Eubank? The joke, of course, is that the former boxing world champion has no connection whatsoever with the youth hosteling movement. But nobody ever explained this to Eubank, who spent 18 years having to shrug his shoulders incredulously every time a Partridge fan asked him about it
Until now. Last month the famously dapper fighter asked his Twitter followers to explain the joke to him and the story went viral, prompting Hostelworld to recruit Eubank to front a tongue-in-cheek YouTube ad called, that’s right, Youth Hosteling With Chris Eubank. But has it helped him make peace with youth hostels once and for all? NME gave him a call to find out.
So how long have people been asking you about youth hostels?
Chris Eubank: “Imagine someone telling you a joke that you don’t really understand. You do the courteous, decent thing which is to smile and laugh along, but you don’t really get it. That’s precisely what had been happening for years. I mean, how was I supposed to make head or tails of it? I was always baffled by it.”
Did it get worse after you joined Twitter earlier this year?
“Yes, though I had no idea that when I asked the question on Twitter, I’d get an avalanche of people trying to explain it to me. The uptake was epic! But after getting that extraordinary response, I watched the [I’m Alan Partridge] clip and finally understood it.”
Now you’ve been let in on the joke, do you find it funny?
“When people ask if I see the joke, it’s hard because I’m me. Youth hostels, why would I know about youth hostels? I come from Peckham and I took a different track in life, which was boxing. From the age of 17, I lived the life of a hermit and dedicated myself to gym life, first in the South Bronx and then back in England. I was in a bubble and I bypassed a lot of popular culture. I’m not saying I’m ignorant of everything, but that is the reason I didn’t understand the joke. I promise you, I kid you not, up until I asked my wife a few weeks ago, I didn’t know what a youth hostel was.”
You’ve visited one now though. Did you enjoy yourself?
“Indeed – as I said in the advert. I wasn’t acting, I was being me. When I described the youth hostel as “extraordinary” and “splendid”, I meant it.”
So the advert wasn’t scripted?
“I think we went off script immediately. I was only given a few lines and they didn’t think I’d stay more than an hour, but I stayed for five hours because I wanted to find out more, If your image is going out to people, you have a duty to make it the best it can be. That’s why I always wear make-up on camera. Geezers might say, “I wouldn’t wear make-up even if I was going on TV”, but why not? You’ll look better. I can most frankly be called a geezer – I’ve earned the right to be called a geezer, a proper stand-up guy, that kind of thing – and if I can wear make-up, so can you.”
Do you think there could be future instalments of Youth Hosteling With Chris Eubank. It has the makings of a fun web series.
Do you really think so? I would say everything is possible… I have a wonderful wife called Claire, who knows much more about entertainment than I do, so if anything else is going to happen with this wonderful youth hosteling thing I’ve stumbled across, it will be done through her.