The time I met Stephen Merchant/Fame is strange
I recently listened to an interview with Stephen Merchant, the tall, spectacled, less-famous co-creator of The Office. The original one. At one point he was talking about dealing with fans and I felt like he was speaking directly to me.
“I get people come up to me and sometimes it’s a hassle, sometimes it’s charming and quick…lingering with cameras is a problem,” he said.
Stephen Merchant is the only celebrity I’ve gone out of my way to stop and say hello to, but it was something I had very little control over.*
During a particularly bad breakup, I spent a lot of time watching the British Office. It was one of the only things that made me feel better. It got to the point where I recited lines from the show while I’d watch. If there were some sort of Office trivia game, I’d have mastered it.
I also have a thing for extraordinarily tall men with glasses. So it was natural for me to develop a thing for Stephen Merchant, when I’d watch the DVD extras over and over and over again.
While I have a bored fascination for celebrities and fame, I’m not that bowled over by it. I think having dated someone who went through the cycle of fame, I was able to have a unique perspective into what it’s all about. (To give you an idea, he was playing Coachella and gracing the cover of NME while we were together.) Sure, if I’m dining with someone who’s considered famous and they get recognized, I certainly get a kick out of it, and I’m not going to deny that when I saw Jay Z last time I was in New York, I got a bit of a thrill. But in a time where degenerate teenaged moms are gracing the same newsstands as glamorous movies stars, fame has lost its luster.
But back to Stephen Merchant. It was about four years ago, around the last time I had an actual boyfriend. I was over at his house when I got a voicemail from my good friend, um, we’ll call her Merida. Unlike me, Merida grew up in a small town that didn’t have celebrities around for many miles. As a result, when she’d see someone around town in Vancouver who’d been on the ol’ TV box, like Owen Wilson or the guy from Swollen Members, she had no shame to go out of her way to say something and then call and text all her friends about it. Let’s just say she wasn’t terribly smooth.
I’d cottoned Merida on to the Office and my love of Stephen Merchant. So when I got a brains-blown-out excited message from her telling me he was having breakfast next to her, I couldn’t help but scream. My boyfriend at the time thought I was a piece of shit.
In her detailed message, she described what he was wearing (jeans, a green t-shirt and a baseball cap), and what he was doing (reading the paper) and what he ordered (eggs). I called her back and we squealed at the idea that he was in the same city as us, walking the same streets, breathing the same air.
That night, I was working an evening shift at the Canadian Press. I hadn’t brought my dinner so I decided to head out to Wendy’s for a burger. (This was before Robson Street had some decent meal options.)
As I opened the front doors of my work building, there was Stephen Merchant, walking directly in front of me. My eyes nearly popped out of my head.
In a split moment, and without thinking, I went up to him and told him I was a big fan.
“Thank you,” he said, clearly uncomfortable.
I don’t quite remember the gist of the conversation but I did get a few words out of him. He’d just seen that Jean Claude Van Dam movie, JCVD, and highly recommended it. Then he excused himself as he’d left his hat at the theatre.
If I hadn’t of gotten a detailed Stephen Merchant report from Merida that morning, I would have felt like he was using that as an excuse to get out of an extended, awkward chat with a superfan. But she’d mentioned he was wearing a hat, which he wasn’t when I had stopped him. So at least he wasn’t lying to get out of talking to me.
It’s hard to say if Mr. Merchant would have classified our brief interaction as a hassle or charming. I know for me, it was just one of those things that were meant to have happened – at least for the sake of dissecting the story, and the idea of fame, so many years later.
* That’s not true, actually. I once excitedly tried to corner Natasha Lyonne backstage at a Hot Hot Heat show. She looked at me like I was about to throw a mesh net on her with the intention of kidnapping and skinning her. To be fair, her and I had a past together, which in that moment she seemed to have forgot. We’d attended the same Israeli army-training program as teenagers. Most of the night backstage at the show, she completely ignored me until she realized my boyfriend was in the band. Then she was nice. She wasn’t doing too hot at that point in time but I’ve heard she’s since cleaned up her act, which makes me happy.)
I want to hear about your run-in/relationship with celebrities, cause that shit don’t get old. Leave me a comment below, on Facebook or email me at email@example.com, yeah!
Tags: Elianna Lev, fame, fame game, fame is strange, famous, Hot Hot Heat, I know a lot of "famous" people, I know famous people, I'm a Good Story, jcvd, jean claude van dam, Natasha Lyonne, owen wilson, sometimes i get a kick out of fame, Stephen Merchant, the british Office, The Office