This Tony Slattery interview went viral because it’s extraordinary and totally heartbreaking

Hadley Freeman interviewed Tony Slattery in today’s Guardian and it went viral because it’s an extraordinary piece, and totally heartbreaking.

You’ll probably remember Slattery from Whose Line Is It Anyway?, 30 years ago, and a whole load of other stuff besides, including Peter’s Friends.

Here’s just a little bit (and you can read the whole thing here).

Slattery pretty much vanished from public life in the late 90s, and while 20 years will change anyone, he looks at least a decade older than his 59 years, and close to unrecognisable from his Whose Line days. Where once he was energetic and prickly, occasionally accused of grating self-satisfaction and gratuitous cruelty (he once said Jeremy Beadle should be “clubbed to death”), the man I meet today is like a lost, anxious teddy bear. Heavy-set and visibly nervous, he is still hyper-eloquent, with that familiar melodious voice, but the syllables sometimes stumble on his tongue. It is noon and there is a faint smell of alcohol about him, although he promises he hasn’t drunk anything today. “I made a special effort for you,” he says with a sweet smile.

The ostensible reason for us meeting today is that Slattery is reuniting with some of his old Whose Line colleagues for a show in Edinburgh this summer. “So people can come to that and say: ‘Fuck me, I thought he was dead,’” he says. One of those colleagues will be Richard-Vranch-on-the-piano, who, pleasingly, remains one of Slattery’s dearest friends, and one of the very few who has stuck by him. Almost all his other celebrity chums and hangers-on vanished “when the money dried up, which was saddening. Yes, very saddening,” he says, quietly.

I suspect the real reason he has agreed to talk is that he wants people to know he’s very much not dead and, hopefully, to attract the attention of an agent. “I haven’t had an agent for a while and I want to get back into the swing of things. I had a very happy time until I went slightly barmy,” he says.

What, in fact, happened was that in 1996, at the age of 36, he had a massive breakdown. After 13 years of nonstop work, fuelled towards the end by a daily diet of two bottles of vodka and 10g of cocaine, he collapsed, physically and mentally. He alternated between what he describes as “terrible isolationism and an almost comatose state, and then terrible agitation, constant pacing, sitting inside with thoughts whirling round and round”. Multiple hospitalisations followed – “all voluntary”, he emphasises. At one point, he locked himself in his riverside flat for six months and threw all his furniture into the Thames.

“The river police came by and said: ‘Tony Slattery, we like you on television, but please stop polluting the river,’” he says, doing a jolly imitation of a policeman. He often breaks into impressions during our time together – of Ken Dodd, Terry Wogan, his mother – and while they are all excellent, it feels as if he is doing them out of an exhausted sense of obligation to keep me entertained.

There’s more to it than that – a lot, lot more – and you can read it here.

Here’s what Slattery himself had to say about it today.

And here are just some of the things other people were saying about it today.

And there was this exchange which caught our eye.

And this one, in reply to Hadley Freeman’s original tweet.

And here he is back in the day.

Read the whole thing here.