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June 22, 2018

I'm just trying my best not to be vanilla

I'm just trying my best not to be vanilla

With the paperback edition of Reveal now available in stores and online, we're giving you another chance to take a look inside the pages of Robbie's intimate, frank and funny best-selling biography.

In the extract below, Robbie explains why he resists many performers' desire to stick to a script and instead courts controversy in his quest to 'go out and be entertaining'.

September 2016

'I think,' Rob begins, 'Gandhi said'

One highlight of sitting in as Rob gives interviews over the autumn and winter of 2016 is seeing how different interviewers react when he invokes Gandhi. Some merely look puzzled. Some confused. Some maybe even slightly horrified or soiled. One Australian woman makes it so clear that she thinks he has gone wildly off track that he has to suspend what he is explaining for a moment to reassure her: 'Don't worry, don't worry, it'll soon come back to pubes and crabs'.

When Rob talks about Gandhi, he is explaining why he rebels against giving boring, safe interviews.

'I think Gandhi said, 'Be the change you want to see in the world.' And I really don't watch chat shows anymore, because the interviews are so boring, the people are vanilla, people stay on script and they don't give much of themselves. I'm bored with seeing people do Hollywood-style interviews, where everything is glossy, everybody staying on message, everybody being safe. With most people you could write the question, ask it and answer it yourself with exactly what they're going to answer. Sometimes you see people interviewed and you're like, 'Ah, fucking tell the truth!' Or 'be interesting!' Or 'be entertaining!' And maybe they're smart, they're not opening themselves up so much to the public. But I suppose my childlike reaction to that is to want to mess it up a little bit. Welcome to the heavy entertainment show. If you want to have a vanilla interview, you want to watch a vanilla interview, you have plenty of places to go. I'm just trying my best not to be vanilla. The change that I would like to see is somebody talking about their neuroses, or being controversial, because I think the marketplace is bereft of that. It's much more interesting to be a little bit broken and talk about your vulnerabilities. And I don't have a choice either way, because I'm sort of built for oversharing. My filter is broken. For good or bad, I will answer a question to my own detriment a lot of the time.'

Of course he absolutely knows the ways in which this is absurd - quoting Gandhi to justify why he will, to use some examples, 'talk about cocks and wanking off and Botox'. But at the same time, however ignoble his cause, his logic stands up. And no matter if Gandhi did not actually speak the famous words attributed to him, because what he did say - 'If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the word would also change' - is exactly aligned with what Rob is saying. There are tendencies in his world he would wish to be different, and he is doing his bit.

'Nobody seems to be dangerous,' he expands, 'and everyone seems to be politicking and sticking to scripts. I like my singers lonely and weird, and we seem to be getting Olympians. Olympic pop stars. And they're great, too, and they're a sight to behold, but I like my pop with dysfunction. And everybody is dysfunctional, but a lot of people seem to be hiding their dysfunction and funnelling it into corporate behaviour.'

He knows of course, how easily this can all blow up in his face. That's why most entertainers choose a different path.

'Do I feel as though I can say anything?' he says. 'No. But I have, and I do, and I will.'

Here's one more way he has of describing what he does and why he does it.

'I just think to myself that I want to go out and be entertaining,' he says. 'And I have meagre talents and I don't have a high intellect, so in a bar fight you grab whatever tool you can to defend yourself. And when I go on TV I feel as though it's like wrestling or a bar fight - I grab the nearest tool, defend myself'

And his nearest tool, his profound weapon, is to be entertaining by telling stories, revealing truths, divulging the kind of thoughts and acts that others might recoil from sharing.

'I enjoy those moments of going too far,' he says. 'And some would think that it would be like taking an axe to crack a nut'

A smile that spreads to a grin.

'but at least people know I've got a fucking axe.'