Giles Coren arrives panting apologies for his tardiness. He is extremely excitable, which he puts down to “too much oxygen to the brain”, having sprinted over from his office.
Coren is back in London, having spent the last few days living in a Premier Inn, Alan Partridge-style. Lamenting the BBC’s budget, he says he usually “does a Mariah Carey” on set, making demands of the production company for “bunnies to cuddle”.
The Mirror recently reported that Coren had complained to the hotel reception about the smell of weed coming from the room next door. The smell conjures up bad memories of a misspent youth.
“To me the smell of a joint is misery, shit reggae, basement flats, virginity and shyness,” he says. “Besides it’s hard to find ways to occupy yourself in these places … what are you going to do in a Premier Inn apart from w*nk and complain about the neighbours?”
As well as the accommodation situation, pay also seems to be an issue. Coren explains at length how tight the BBC budget for his new series is: “The best you can hope for is getting an advert out of it. I’m standing there in a wheat field being paid nine quid a day by the BBC in a check shirt saying how great wheat is. All I’m thinking is ‘maybe I could get a Kellogg’s advert out of this. I could be selling Cornflakes for £600,000’. People think you get paid millions by the BBC if you’re famous, but me? Me, I’m in the Premier Inn in Gillingham.”
The presenter’s other employers are News International and Coren concedes that The Times pay him well, "but basically if me, Caitlin Moran, David Aaronovitch and a few others left to write for someone else - who would read The Times?”
Bizarrely, he does not know the name of most of his fellow Times columnists. “I generally don’t read columnists because I don’t give a f**k what people think. All I care about is that people who like me think I’m funny. I get on with writing pretty straight-down the line, old-fashioned stuff. To a large extent I’m just a public school tosser.”
Taking stock of his career, he insists that he had no real journalistic ambitions.
“My dad was very successful as a journalist, so I didn’t want to be one. I wanted to be a novelist. I ended up doing this. There are endless novels I could write. Writing a restaurant review is a piece of piss and it’s not a proper job for a grown-up and I probably shouldn’t be doing it. I’ll do this crap for 20 years and write in my old age.”
Coren got married only two years ago, at the age of 40. I ask if he stayed unmarried because he was enjoying the single life.
“There’s nothing I miss,” he says, deadpan, “apart from f**king other women.”
Warming to his theme, he insists that he never enjoyed having sex with a woman he didn’t know for the first time. “It meant one of two things: either I was single or I was being unfaithful. Both of which made me miserable.”
He fell into a pattern of sleeping around with restaurant PRs between relationships, reflecting: “It was probably so quick they don’t even remember.”
He used to be enamoured of Twitter and a prolific tweeter, but has recently been stung by a few controversies, including embroilment in a super-injunction legal tangle and making a joke about raping his neighbour’s son. However, he still responds to tweets and is an avid follower of Richard Madeley. “He’s my favourite,” he says. “He will literally tweet things like ‘frosty this morning, will need to scrape ice off car!’”.
His followers on Twitter mainly consist of “poofs, girls under 16 and women over 60. It’s basically people who want to have sex with me. I think of my 80,000 followers, 60,000 are poofs. I only have to write the word ‘knob’ and they all get excited and just want to lick cream off me.”
The problem for Coren is that there is no one to curb his excesses on Twitter. “I always say what I think to be amusing. Mainly those things are sick and wrong because I’m a bit of a dick. On TV, or in The Times, it would be edited out.”
With this in mind he will now be keeping his tweeting to a minimum. In fact he is apparently giving himself something of a personality makeover at the insistence of his wife.
“I’m in my 40s now with a child. I can’t be falling out of the Groucho Club with my c*ck hanging out, screaming ‘you’re all w**nkers’. I’m going to be nice to everyone. I have been going for four days and, so far, I haven’t pissed anyone off. It’s actually a lot less tiring being nice than being a bastard.”