Anneka Rice writing sitcom about her fake agent

Friday 7th May 2021, 9:52am by Jay Richardson

  • Anneka Rice is writing a sitcom based on her real-life tale of pretending to be her own agent
  • She invented 'Clemmie Hart' for rejecting work offers whilst she took time out to raise her children
  • She told Richard Herring on his podcast: "Clemmie unwittingly did become this quite dark malevolent force"
Anneka Rice. Copyright: BBC

Anneka Rice is writing a sitcom about her imaginary former agent.

The television presenter, who became a household name with her Challenge Anneka series on BBC One in the early 1990s, is penning a comedy about Clemmie Hart, the fictional representative she created to continue fielding work offers while she took time out from showbusiness to raise her children.

The ruse started to emerge in 2018 when Rice began performing stand-up about it and was recorded for Radio 4 as The Clemmie Hart Years, released the following year.

And though Rice eventually dispensed with Hart's services after the fake agent's popularity began creating its own problems, with a cover story that she had left the business after giving birth to her own child, she may yet be immortalised.

"She might be coming back, I am actually writing a sitcom at the moment" Rice told Richard Herring on his RHLSTP podcast.

"Clemmie became my alter-ego and I had a lot of fun with her, it became like sort of performance art because she was very popular and people loved dealing with her and she had adventures ... but the thing is, Clemmie unwittingly did become this quite dark malevolent force in my life."

She recounted how Hart had been renowned for her waspish wit, rejecting an offer for Rice to appear on Strictly Come Dancing with the terse reply: "Have you seen her dance?" Hart batted back a follow-up enquiry by asking if her client "could have two teachers do you think, one on each side for ballast and support?"

The fictional agent also rejected a television offer for Rice to have colonic irrigation up the Himalayas - a desperate reality show pitch that Herring reckoned he may have been offered too - suggesting that she go instead.

Unfortunately, such stunts only led to people wanting to meet Hart in person and Rice was forced to create an increasingly elaborate backstory for her creation, who had started receiving charitable donations for marathons she was supposedly running. At one point, Rice was also employing her then boyfriend, who was a spy, and various lodgers that lived in her house, to assist in the deception.

Rice's sitcom plan has been revealed in the week the UK remake of hit French comedy Call My Agent! announced its cast, led by Lydia Leonard, Jack Davenport, Jim Broadbent, Maggie Steed, Tim McInnerny and Rebecca Humphries.

And it follows David Tennant's recent admission that he too created a fake personal assistant, Melissa Von Stressel, to rebuff unattractive work offers, which he admitted to Stephen Mangan on his Radio 4 show The Confessional in February.

Rice also recalled for Herring the oppressive paparazzi scrutiny she was subjected to at the height of her fame; her regret at turning down the opportunity to be a Bond girl because of her feminist principles; the bizarre experience of being portrayed giving birth on Spitting Image and the circumstances that led to her second Radio 4 stand-up special, last year's Help! My Head's in Wookey Hole, about her efforts to find the remains of her Madame Tussauds waxwork.

The presenter also expressed a desire to return to performing live comedy when clubs reopen. "I really love doing stand-up" she said. "I had no idea it was so blissful, I really enjoyed it."

Meanwhile, Herring has revealed that he intends to write a book about his recent operation to remove one of his testicles because of cancer.

The working title is "Never Mind My Bollock" he wrote on his daily Warming Up blog, with the caveat that the experience of writing his 2002 stand-up show Talking Cock had taught him that "rude words in the title might be off-putting, so I suspect it will become something less controversial.

"I have plenty of ideas. Please do not send me yours" he entreated his fans. "It's probably rubbish and if it's not I have already thought of it. I guess if my puppet features in the book that Talking Ball might be applicable. Or just Ball(s).

"But if it happens then I am sure the publisher will have ideas of what will work and they won't want anything that references stuff that only fans of my stupid work will get. That's a problem for down the line though."

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