Close this search box.

Transcript – Iain Lee

Former I’m A Celebrity, finalist, radio personality and current mental health champion Iain lee discusses humour’s role in healing mental health and overcoming dangerous habits.

Paul Boross (00:00):

I’ve done 80 of these, and this is the most shambolic it’s ever been.

Iain Lee (00:05):

And I take that as a great compliment that it’s me.

Paul Boross (00:14):

Welcome to the Humourology Podcast with me, Paul Boross and my glittering lineup of guests from the worlds of business, sport, and entertainment, who are here to share their wisdom and their use of humour with you. Humourology is the study of how humour can dramatically improve your business success and your life. Humourology puts the fun into business fundamentals, increases the value of your laughing stock, and puts a punchline back into your bottom line. Please remember to like, subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. I’m just gonna relax into this because it’s gonna be fun,

Iain Lee (00:53):

Embracing chaos.

Paul Boross (00:55):

Good thing is that whatever we don’t want in it, David is an editor who is obviously like we said, done films. Yeah. So he’s going to make us look Oh, decent. Anyway,

Iain Lee (01:06):

I always think, Paul, keep it all in. Who wants to look decent? I wanna look human. Okay. Keep you, keep it all in <laugh>. And by the way, you can ask me anything you want. Okay. There is, there is nothing off limits today. So I’m just, I’m just thrilled that you asked me to minute Can I tell you? Cause I went through the long list of names of people you’ve had and the one, I mean, it’s a very impressive list. The one that made me go, oh, I’m definitely doing this. You’ve had Clive Bull on.

Paul Boross (01:32):

I have. And I know Clive.

Iain Lee (01:34):

I genuinely think, and I’ve said this, I dunno if I’ve said it to him, but this is not in any word of lie. I genuinely think Clive is Britain’s greatest radio broadcaster without, without a shadow of a doubt. I, he’s, he’s the best. He’s been such an inspiration for me and

Paul Boross (01:51):

Oh, that’s so sweet.

Iain Lee (01:52):

He’s just so good. And he can do any style. He can do the straight phone-in, you know, what’s your favourite sweet. He can do the surreal stupid stuff. He can do the heavy news stuff. You know, the Sven from Swiss Cottage Cook

Paul Boross (02:08):

Oh, Peter Cook. Yeah.

Iain Lee (02:09):

Honestly, I really think at some point everyone will recognise Clive is the best. The best.

Paul Boross (02:17):

No, well, I agree. I think he’s absolutely superb. And also nothing phases him. You came round to the studio with him. Yeah. He’s just, you know, yeah. We were doing something once and somebody did that thing of ringing in and taking you way down the line. Yeah. before they pulled the rug from under you. And, uh, he just didn’t miss a beat and he just went, well, he’s da, da da da.

Iain Lee (02:41):

So good. So good. Yeah.

Paul Boross (02:42):

I think it’s always nice to, to say nice things to people and, and actually, I mean, I’m really, really keen that we just have a nice chat. Yeah. But I honestly, I’m really interested in the fact that you are now going over to counselling, because obviously I’ve, I do a lot of training and a lot of executive coaching, uh, now, and I came from that show business background and made that big leap. So it’s just really interesting for me that you are, you are doing that.

Iain Lee (03:13):

A lot of people, People do it. A lot of people go get either jaded or, you know, showbiz is fashion. So some people have a career that lasts forever. Some people have 5, 10, 15, 20 years, and then they get, you know, that, that no one wants to employ them anymore. And that’s, that’s okay.

Paul Boross (03:31):

I think there will be, uh, people knocking at your door because what you do is so unique that people will come back to you. But we can talk about this. And

Iain Lee (03:41):

We started yet, are we in?

Paul Boross (03:42):

No, we <laugh>.

Iain Lee (03:43):

I’ll shut up. I’ll shut up then. Let’s go. I’ll shut up. Here we go,

David Rose (03:47):

<laugh>. We’re

Paul Boross (03:47):

Gonna have fun. So anyway, I’ll do a thing. Welcome to the Humourology podcast. Then I’m gonna go, my guest on this edition is Iain Lee but my outline will be Iain Lee. Welcome to the Humourology Podcast

Iain Lee (04:00):


Paul Boross (04:02):

My guest on this edition of the Humourology Podcast is a broadcaster, an award-winning radio presenter. He’s presented shows such as the 11 o’clock Show, Rise and Big Brothers Bit on the Psych. Whilst his work on BBC Radio, LBC and Talk Radio has earned him national renowned as a captivating and comedic radio personality. In 2017, he appeared on, I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. Where he went from a vote of no confidence from his fellow camp mates all the way to the final where he finished third, he has recently shifted his focus from his radio career into a life of counselling. His long list of credits on radio and TV is very impressive, but not as impressive as his newfound passion for mental health and helping others. Iain Lee, welcome to the Humourology podcast.

Iain Lee (04:57):

Stewart Lee. That’s why he said Stewart.

Paul Boross (05:00):

Now, I think he did.

Iain Lee (05:01):

Now I’ve got it. Okay. Alright.

David Rose (05:03):

I do apologise. I put you on <laugh>.

Iain Lee (05:09):

I’ve been called so much worse, David, so

David Rose (05:13):


Iain Lee (05:14):

Fingers on lips.

David Rose (05:16):


Paul Boross (05:17):

Ian Lee, welcome to the Humourology Podcast.

Iain Lee (05:19):

Hello, Paul. It’s nice, nice to meet you. I’m giggling the listener won’t know this, but we’ve had 30 minutes of technical issues, that’s why cause <laugh>, so I feel silly pretending that we’ve just met, we’ve been in each other’s company for a while, <laugh>, while you’ve been fiddling with a computer. It’s been nice to see cuz I do the same thing.

Paul Boross (05:39):

Well, yeah. Well, the, the truth is, dear listener, that we’re, we lost all the notes to everything we’ve done. So we’re now just gonna have a fun chat around things

Iain Lee (05:50):

I, which I think is nice, you know, notes are great and all of that. But let you know, let’s just, let’s just talk and see what happens. Could be a, could be wonderful or it could be a disaster. You’re, you’re in for a ride, dear. Listen, now I’ll tell you that <laugh>,

Paul Boross (06:03):

And by the way, I couldn’t be taking a ride with anybody better because You were the king of turning up with nothing to say and managing to fill three hours beautifully

Iain Lee (06:16):

On a good day. yeah. My, for those who don’t know, I’ve done phoney shows for the last, geez, over 20 years. And, yeah, my shtick was eventually not, you know, what do you think about Brexit or, or getting too opposing people on to argue? I would go in, as you say, with nothing. I, I didn’t know what the word prep meant or preparation, you know, and I would go in with nothing generally and would open up the phone lines and would get some wonderful, wonderful calls. I remember once Paul, I worked, uh, um, BBCWM and I was doing a show on a Friday afternoon about two o’clock, and there was a new boss had taken over and she said, Ian, what’s on your show today? I said, I have absolutely no idea. This was 10 minutes before the show.


She said, well, you’re about to go on. What, how are you gonna do it? I said, something will happen when I put that fader up. Something will strike and will have a show. And she and a lot of other people couldn’t comprehend how that works. How are you not going into a studio with copious notes? How are you not going into the studio with, you know, full-on newspapers and stuff? So, yes. Um, I’m just turning my heated blanket off cause I’m getting quite warm. Um, and I’m an old man, so Yes, Paul, I will go in. Oh, as you can see, I’ve this, I’ve taken 10 minutes to answer a question that should have taken 30 seconds. You’re gonna get a lot of that today, I’m afraid.

Paul Boross (07:39):

Well, no, that’s perfect because what, what you are talking about is a kind of a trust exercise. And when I talk to audiences, I always say that the best speakers in the world are the ones who just engage with the other person. Yeah. Or the microphone in your case and speak. Because the difference between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind, as you will know cuz you’re now studied counselling, is that the conscious mind can hold, only hold between five and nine pieces of information. Yeah. But the unconscious can hold millions. Yeah. Yeah. And so what you are doing is, what you’re doing is just allowing the unconscious to come forward, isn’t it?

Iain Lee (08:22):

It is, you know, I got diagnosed, if that’s the right word, as a, a couple of years ago as bipolar and ADHD and the ADHD was a revelation, first of all, it explained, explained my struggle to, you know, keep relationships going. It explained why I was considered thick and naughty at school just cause I couldn’t focus. But it also explained my style of radio because I will go off on a, you know, I will start a sentence talking about, um, oh, do you believe in ghosts? Let’s, let’s put that out. And five minutes later I’m talking about having a fist fight with Paul McCartney. And one of the joys about my radio career is I’ve had some wonderfully generous bosses that have let me go off on those tangents that have, have, let me go on those flights of fancy. And I can trace that back to the fact that I am ADHD and I’ve got, you know, I’m struggling a little bit to stay focused in this conversation with you and not, you know, fire off in a thousand directions.

Paul Boross (09:26):

Well, you see, I think that all these things that people are, given, you know, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia and everything, I think they’re very often talents. Yeah, yeah. It’s just a different way that the brain’s coding, but the system’s never built for the people who are outliers. The system’s built for everybody, you know, to sit in rows in, in schools and everything. Yeah. Whereas the really creative people are a bit outlier.

Iain Lee (09:57):

Society is not built for neurodiversity. Um, and, you know, I was a teenager. I was a kid in the late seventies and the eighties. We didn’t even know what dyslexia was there, you know, so let alone ADHD. But now… schools now are so much better at recognising neurodiversity, ADHD, I’ve got a cat climbing on me, ignore her, you know, dyspraxia, dyslexia, all of these things. And quite often there is accommodation for those things. I didn’t have that, you know, school was really, really tough for me. Nevermind I’m, I’m where I am now. but yeah, for me the ADHD is kind of a superpower. Now. I know what it is. Now I know how to utilise it. Yeah. Love it.

Paul Boross (10:43):

Well, you talked about school. Let’s go just back slightly. Yes. I know that you were brought up with two parents who got divorced quite early, as did mine. Yeah. And so that may, for psychologist out there, explain why we both have what your mate, James O’Brien used to call the ‘show off gene’. Yes. is, it’s maybe about, you know, having to get attention, but the Jesuits say, give me a child of seven and I will give you the man. Yeah. Is, would that be true of you? At seven at school?

Iain Lee (11:17):

When I look back on my school, I’m not very proud of it. Okay. Throughout, from about seven onwards, I was bullied. So the way I dealt with that was to also bully other people. My school record is not… behaviour is not something I’m particularly proud of. And it’s something I’m addressing as I get older and making amends wherever it’s possible. I’m gonna, you know, 12 step recovery programme. So that, so there is an element of that but it’s that thing Paul, that people don’t often understand. Right. I was really shy and insecure and self-loathing is probably a little bit strong for seven, but I didn’t like myself. So to compensate for that shyness, I would go extrovert and I would go loud. Now that sounds counterintuitive. Well, how can you do that if you’re shy? But it’s a coping mechanism that my brain created. You don’t like yourself. You feel inadequate. You can’t make eye contact with people. So just be really, really loud and outrageous. And, and that’s kind of where that came

Paul Boross (12:17):

From. There is a phrase, I dunno if you’ve heard it, it that, shyness is… performance rather is the shy person’s revenge on the world.

Iain Lee (12:27):

Ooh. I’ve not heard that. But that’s good. I like that. Yeah.

Paul Boross (12:30):

That sometimes that you have to get it out in different places. And it reminds me of that whole Billy Crystal thing where he said about Robin Williams, that, that he needed those extra little hugs that he could only get from strangers. Yeah,

Iain Lee (12:46):


Paul Boross (12:46):

And I was like, God, that’s so profound. Yeah. That you can’t find it. Cause I, I think I’ve heard you talk about that you sometimes feel awkward in one-to-one or in rooms of people. Yeah. But radio you feel comfortable in.

Iain Lee (13:03):

I’ve stood on the, the royal, the stage of the, one of the coolest things I ever did was standing on the stage at the Royal Albert Hall and saying, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Who. And I got to introduce The Who. Right. That’s in front of 5,000 people. And there were people being idiots in there and I could tell them to shut up. That’s not a problem cuz I’ve got a microphone. But this is not a problem because it’s performative because I’m sat in front of a microphone. If we were sat in a coffee shop, Paul, just having a chat, I would struggle with that. I would feel very, very uncomfortable. I would be thinking, right, what is the earliest I can get out of this and not look rude? You know, I, I’m getting better at it as I get older, but it is not a natural thing for me.


And sitting in a radio studio, you know, I can be in an office and there’s people there and I can’t look or talk talk to them. But as soon as I get into the studio and the fader goes on, boom. We’re in performance mode. This is really, really easy. I know what to do with a microphone. I know how to get people excited or angry or upset or emotional or whatever. And to then persuade those people to call in. That was my trick. I didn’t really like doing music radio the few times I did it. My favourite radio is 10 till one at night. Because something magic happens around about half past 11 on radio. Something magic happens that you can’t do on a breakfast show or a drive show. And I like people to call in and talk to me cuz it takes something very special for someone at quarter past 12 in the morning or at night to think, I’m gonna phone up this guy I’ve never spoken to on the radio and tell him about the time I nearly ran over Elton John as a real call or the, or the, or tell him the I can’t stop drinking or, you know, whatever.


That for me is where the magic is.

Paul Boross (14:47):

That to me is bizarre because, uh, obviously my background in sort of psychology and NLP. I’m always thinking like, why would somebody not be able to take that performative thing and use it in a coffee shop?

Iain Lee (15:03):

It really feels like I missed the day at school where everyone was taught how to do small talk and how to interact with people. So I am learning to do it. A lot of it is faking it to make it, you know and I’ve kind of learned the script of small talk. Oh, I’m supposed to ask you what you do for a living and if you have family and I’m supposed to nod. And, you know, and I think, I think it is for me, I think it’s the ADHD side of me. And I’ve spoken to, I’ve worked with a lot of people who are, ADHD and I think that is part of it. There will be people who aren’t ADHD that still struggle with that. But for me it’s that thing of, I, I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to you.


And that’s weird. And that for a long time kept me isolated. I wouldn’t put myself in those positions where I might be in a conversation with someone that, uh, uh, uh, I don’t know. Because, because I dunno what to say. Here’s another thing, Paul. I don’t recognise faces and I never remember names. So I really, really struggle with faces. And it’s down to my partner to go. Someone will come and I’ll say, someone’s walking towards me. Do I know them? Yes. You work with them. Okay. Hey. And she will remember their name. And I, I, I struggle with faces. There’s a, there’s a word for it. Can never remember what the word is. Matt Lucas has it as well. So I did it once with one of my kids. I was this was a couple of years ago, so Kim would’ve been about nine. And I parked the car and there’s a kid and I start waving at this kid Right. And pulling silly faces. And as I get close, I think, oh God, I don’t think that’s my son. And I had to get up right. Really close before it clicked. Yes. It was my son. So it was okay. Yeah. But yeah, faces and names I, I really, really struggle with.

Paul Boross (16:47):

But is that what started to fascinate you with the counselling? Is, was it partly about working out who you were and if you could help other people

Iain Lee (17:00):

That you know what, that’s a really good thing working out who you were. And I hadn’t thought of it that way. And yes, I have been very lucky that on my radio shows I have been allowed to grow and learn about myself as part of the show. Right. So I’m a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. And I was able to discuss that on the show. I was able to talk about relapses on the show a few years ago during some intense therapy. It, I’ve worked out that I’m bisexual and I was able to announce that on, you know, to discuss that on the show. Not announce it sounds pompous, but discuss that. And, and other people would phone in and share their, their stories. There. There have been some people in my life who’d rather I’d not revealed as much. And as I get older, I look back and think, oh, maybe I should have, you know, my kids are approaching teenage years and at some point they will go through that stuff and go, why did you say that?


But that’s the cross after to carry. So there was a lot of self-discovery on the show. The, the one point where I… do you wanna know that? There was a big turning point where I thought, actually maybe counselling is a thing. Late one night, it was just before Christmas, gosh, seven years ago. Um, I do the show with my friend Catherine Boyle, who was producer, and we had a phone call from someone who sounded drunk. And he was quite, he was quite upbeat. We were having a little bit of fun with him. How much have you drunk? And then a few minutes into it, he said, I’ve taken an overdose and I’m killing myself and I’m outside and I have no idea where I am. Boom. Suddenly, you know, emergency procedure. Catherine went out of the studio to get on the phone to get to dial 999.


I then had to spend the next 10 minutes trying to work out where he was. Okay. He was somewhere near Plymouth. All right. What can you see? I can see this, I can see this. I can see this. A few people phoned up and said, I think he’s here. Katherine’s on the phone to the emergency services. There is a man who is dying here. And I had to keep him on the phone for 30 minutes before the police turned up. And I was just chatting to him. I was asking him what he was do, why he did it. I was talking rubbish to him. I remember we got to one point where I was asking him what his favourite Die Hard movie was. And then I realised actually talking about films with the word die in when he’s, you know, it was that. Yeah.


And there was one bit where he went quiet for six minutes and I thought he died, really thought he died. And then he came back after six minutes, all slurred, half an hour, the police rocked up, took the phone, we’ve got him now, we’ll deal with this. And I burst into tears. I burst into tears. The little follow up to that story. He went to hospital. He went to ICU. He’s a alive, he certainly lived through that. He died and they brought him back to life. So it was a proper thing. And I spoke to him a couple of times afterwards and he’s a very troubled gentleman. I don’t know if he’s still with us. But after that call, I kept thinking, what did I do right? And what did I do wrong? What could I have done differently if I’d have had some training, you know, it was just instinct. I was working on. What could I have done differently if I’d have had some training. And that was the seed that grew into a few years later when the opportunity arose, I thought, I’m gonna sign up for a diploma in counselling.

Paul Boross (20:15):

Well, no, that’s fascinating. And, and how has show business prepared you for counselling

Iain Lee (20:25):

<laugh>? Um, I was gonna say something rude and I won’t, so I’m bring I’m coming back from

Paul Boross (20:31):

That. Please. You can <laugh>. Well,

Iain Lee (20:33):

Um, yeah, no, no, how has it prepared me for it? It’s really interesting. It’s prepared me for long periods of being outta work and, and, you know, and worry about money. That’s, that’s, that’s something. It’s, it has, I have worked with so many from every walk of life. You know, I have worked with homeless people up to some of, you know, like the biggest rock stars in the world and everybody in between. And I have learned that everybody is just as valid. Doesn’t matter if you’re, you know, you’re sleeping in a doorway. Doesn’t matter if you’re living in a mansion. We are all the same. We’re all open to depression, to anxiety, to addiction, to loneliness, to inability to sustain relationships. And it has taught me to treat everybody absolutely equal. I mean, that sounds like an obvious thing, but I I didn’t have that.


It’s taught me that it’s taught me not to be afraid of anybody. And the, I tell you, when I learned not to be afraid of anybody, I got to interview Ray Davis of the Kinks. Right. Flipping love The Kinks. He’s, oh, he’s well known for being a tricky interviewer. And I was terrified. And his people came in and said, you must not ask him about The Kinks <laugh>. I thought, come on, he had a new album out. You must only talk about the new album. You must not ask him about The Kinks. And I was terrified. Right. Cuz of his reputation, cuz of that. And he came in and it was a really crap interview. And then we had to stop. There were technicals Paul, which is something I know you know about <laugh>. And my producer Eloise said, we’re gonna have to stop because we… and during the break, I lived in Muswell Hill, which is where he’s from.


And I said, oh, I’m from Muswell Hill. I live on this road. He said, all right, do you know this pub? I said, no, I don’t. But do you know this curry house? He went, oh yeah, no, it’s a great curry house. And we bonded over a curry house in Muswell Hill. And just before we were about to start, he said, Iain, you can ask me anything you want. And it, I mean, it sou it, it sounds really silly that I was scared, but that moment I completely relaxed. I went, oh my God, he’s just a human being. He’s just a human being. All these PR people are making this myth. And yes he’s a little bit grumpy. But that’s cuz he’s wary of his history and he doesn’t want his history to be sullied. And that was a real moment, Paul, when I got it. Oh my God they’re just humans. <laugh>, they’re just humans. Everybody is the same. We’re all gonna die one day, <laugh>. There’s a joke. We’re all gonna die one day.

Paul Boross (22:52):


Iain Lee (22:52):

You know, and that’s it. And that is the great leveller.

Paul Boross (22:55):

Well, I’m essentially, cuz when I was uh, uh, doing some research on you and you were talking about when you were doing The 11 O’clock Show. Yeah. And you had such imposter syndrome. And I think you’ve just explained what I thought when I was hearing you say that, which was we’ve all got imposter syndrome. Yeah. And well actually no, probably the only people who haven’t got in imposter syndrome are psychopaths.

Iain Lee (23:20):

I would agree. Yeah. Yeah. Uh,

Paul Boross (23:22):

And so once you realise that everybody is the same and the great thing about what you and I have done, which kind of I think answers the question is we’ve met the highest people in inverted commerce in the land. Yes. And the lowest. And we treat those two imposters the same. Yeah. Don’t we?

Iain Lee (23:43):

Yeah. I went… I’m in 12 step recovery and I went to a men’s retrea- and it was like, oh my God, I gotta spend the whole day with a group of 50 men. This is, this is awful. I cannot do this. And I said to a friend, I said, I’m terrified. He said, Ian, look around at everyone here. They are all terrified. They are all terrified, and they’re pretending they’re not. And once I got that, once I looked around and I realised, oh shoot, they, they are again, it was another level. And that’s a great thing. I can go into like public places and parties and stuff. I choose not to. Cause I don’t enjoy them. But I can, and I can look around and I can see that most people, a lot of people are scared.


And a lot of people don’t quite know what they’re doing. Humans are fascinating. Paul, you know, we’re all so vulnerable. We’re also fragile. And there’ll be some people that style it out. You’re right. I think psychopaths are, are slightly different in that respect. Uh, and some neurodiversity is is also slightly different. It takes away some of the fear. Um, but you know, the thing I’ve got from <laugh>, the thing I’ve got from counselling, I said again, is that we are all gonna die. And at some point we all worry about that and we all consider that. And we all think, well, what will my death look like? What will my legacy be? I don’t want to die. What can I do to stretch this, this, this game out even longer? Um, and there’s not a lot, there’s not a lot we can do. Maybe, maybe eat well exercise, don’t smoke that might buy you a couple of years, but, you know, you might get hit by the buzz.

Paul Boross (25:17):

There’s no guarentee.

Iain Lee (25:18):

There’s no guarantee. There’s no guarantee. Um, gosh, that’s a little bit morbid, – we’re all gonna die, Paul. Welcome to the podcast.

Paul Boross (25:25):

This is the Humourology podcast, ladies and gentlemen, <laugh>.

Iain Lee (25:30):

And we, we’ve both died a few times on stage. I can guarantee it.

Paul Boross (25:33):

Well, by the way, you’re not a comedian until you’ve died. And Well, you know that I spent 10 years at the Comedy Store. You you did a lot of standup in the early days but actually every comedian has died at some time, I’ve seen pretty much everybody die. Yeah, yeah. You know, on the, on the circuit at some stage or the other. Yeah. And the idea that that doesn’t happen, but that is, it’s kind of the analogy for life. And if we’re talking about, humour is that it’s not what happens. It’s how you bounce back. It’s also how you frame it. Because by the way, comedians, as you know, we love talking about the times we died on stage.

Iain Lee (26:19):

Oh, the war story. Yeah, of course.

Paul Boross (26:21):

The war story. Yeah, it’s,

Iain Lee (26:23):

Go on. Sorry.

Paul Boross (26:24):

No, but I was just going to take that in sense of the, in the sense of why the, the whole Humourology project is about, is about how can we use humour to make our lives better. Mm-hmm. and that, uh, comedians and people with funny minds are reframing constantly, aren’t they

Iain Lee (26:46):

Great standups. I, I was never a great standup. I did it. And as a means to an end, I couldn’t get any acting work. So I thought, well, let’s do some standup. And as soon as I got The 11 o’clock show, I stopped doing the standup. Cause I was not great. I’d have good nights, but I was not, I was not great material wasn’t very good. But, uh, comedians are great because they, you know, I’ve seen, I’ve been roaring with laughter, with comedians joking about illness, disease, and death. You know, and a really great comedian can look at the mundanity and the fears and the tragedy of the world and make it humorous. Not everyone’s gonna, I also think the great comedians are, are the ones that are the most divisive. Where people either really love them or really, really hate them.


They’re the ones for me that do it. But you talk about dying on stage, it took me a long time to embrace failure. I learn more from failure than I do from success. You know, if I’m just having good radio shows all the time, I’m not pushing myself. I’m not learning anything. I could go in, always go in the radio and do something really safe. Let’s do a phone in about old sweets or whatever. Really, really safe. But I would go in and I would, I would push it, I would, I would try things and if they didn’t work, I would be able to go home and go, right what didn’t work there? What was wrong with that? What if I tinkered with it a little bit and did it slightly differently? But we don’t like failure. There’s a great book by Brene Brown. I dunno if you wear a Brene Brown. I do. I dunno. Yeah. Wrote a brilliant book called Daring Greatly. Yeah. And it’s about having the confidence to step out of your comfort zone, go and stand in the middle of the arena, get dirt on your face and try stuff. Partly because it might be really successful in work. Also, Paul, you really feel alive when you’re out of your comfort zone. You really feel alive. And yeah, I’m a big fan of trying stuff and, and it, it may not, it may not work

Paul Boross (28:42):

Well, yeah, I mean I, I love the whole thing about, which is very important for everyone. If you want to grow, you have to be prepared to fail. Yeah. I always say, if you’re gonna fail, fail funny. And what I mean by that is you kind of have to reframe it and go, one of the things about human beings I find is nobody really likes you telling them the stories of how you were brilliant. Let me tell you a story about when I was really successful and I did this. Isn’t that true? It humanises you. Yeah. And I dunno about you with your mates and everything, but they love a story about when you died on your ass. Yeah, yeah. Or, you tried to get off with that girl or boy or whatever and it didn’t work. That to them is great. <laugh>

Iain Lee (29:32):

What’s that? There’s, there’s an old Chinese proverb. I can, you know, there’s nothing funnier than your neighbour falling off a roof, you know? And it is. We like that. Is that, I was thinking the other day, you know, the cruellest people in television, the cruellest people in television are the producer and the cameraman that when it’s been snowing and it’s really icy, set up their camera at the end of the street cuz they know people are gonna fall over. And they, and we see it every year. You see it on news and it’s, it’s funny, but it’s really really cruel. But it’s funny, you know, people falling over on, on the ice,

Paul Boross (30:04):

You know what, you want to be the person falling over as long as it doesn’t make you go, I’m never going out again. Yeah, yeah. Because of the humiliation that, that occurs. And don’t you think that, I mean, that’s one of the tricks is to keep on doing stuff that puts you out of your comfort zone that makes you feel a bit awkward. Yeah. And you were, you were saying something to me that was very interesting from a psychological thing that you are working on being able to do this better Yeah. In real life as well.

Iain Lee (30:42):

Yeah. Every day’s a lesson for me. I’m so lucky that I’ve, I’ve had so many tools, you know, I say I worked the 12 steps in the AA and NA programme, completely life changing because we look at our history about what we have done wrong, but people we have, we have wronged what was my part in that? Instead of going, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, but the reason I did that is because he said, no, no, no. What was my part in this? So there’s a real looking at that historically and also looking at in the presence. So every day I go to be a right, what did, how did I interact with people? Could I have done anything better? You know? So, so there’s that. So I’m learning through that. I’m also learning through. We talk about taking brave steps.


Two and a half years ago, I lost my job on talk radio during the pandemic. And everyone, oh, you’ll get another job. You are Iain Lee. But you know, Paul Showbiz doesn’t work like that. You, you, you, you, you’re only as good as your current job. So I had, I was faced with having no work, doing some stuff online for a few quid, but not having, I’d always defined myself by my job because I’m, because I’m not, I don’t like myself. So I’m Ian, I’m a radio presenter. I always defined myself as that. So when that job ended, I was lost. I didn’t know what I was. But it came at a great time, um, because it was a couple of years after we’d had that guy taken his own life, trying to take his own life. And it suddenly, I had some time on my hands and someone mentioned to me a course about counselling and everything just aligned at the right moment.


And I thought, well, I’m in my late forties. I was never very academic. I was terrible at school. Terrible exams. I’m gonna take a punt and sign up for this course. And it was, it was terrifying. You know? It was, it was, it was so out of my comfort zone. It was a two year diploma, really kind of intense course. Normally these are over a few years. This was, this was quite intense. And I did it. And I would drive every Thursday I would drive for two hours down to East Sussex to go into this college and sit in this college with lots of other wonderful, talented people. And I would, I was making myself vulnerable. I was daring greatly. And so many times I wanted to quit so many times, you know, I I was not very good at the essays. And when I’d get a failed essay back that I had to rewrite, it was devastating.


But I did it. I did it. I wrote my own script, um, as Fritz Pearl says. And I went and I passed and I came out of it, the other side, a different person. This course was life-changing. And, um, I’m just trying to remember what your question was. Oh, so <laugh>, God, that’s, that’s the ADHD and it has helped me and it is helping me on a daily basis look at my strengths and my weaknesses and ha what I can do to change some of those. So in answer to your question, yes. Don’t remember what, you just met ADHD then, Paul, you were just speaking to ADHD.

Paul Boross (33:43):

No, but it where Yeah, but it’s beautiful. It flows beautifully. I was really interested when you were talking in there about what your learning and what you were taking away from this, because I think it’s very relevant to the whole, uh, Humourology project. It is the whole thing about your attitude mm-hmm. <affirmative>,and getting your attitude right in order to change your life. And I, I love the phrase, which I think was originally coined by Dr. Richard Bandler was the meaning of your communication, right. Is the response you get. Yeah. So you really have to go, look, I can’t go round going, oh, those fuckers didn’t understand me because I was very clear and I didn’t everything. No. If they didn’t understand you, it’s your responsibility. Yeah. You have to take responsibility for everything, you know? And it sounds like you’ve been through that kind of route to sort of go, yeah, it’s down to me.

Iain Lee (34:41):

Why have all of my romantic relationships ended badly? It’s their fault was my thing -it was their fault. Oh, hang on a minute. What’s the common factor? Or the common factor is me. So is there a possibility it might have been my fault? You know,

Paul Boross (34:55):

And that is no way. And

Iain Lee (34:56):

Exactly. And that is the thing. You know, why, why do a lot of my jobs end badly? Those bloody bastard… no oh, hang on. I’m the common factor. Maybe it’s something not entirely necessarily, but something to do with me. And once I started looking inwards and looking at my part in society and my part in relationships and my part in arguments and fights and situations that have gone wrong, I was able to start shifting and changing that behaviour. I have to say, um, you know, the attitude is a big part of it. I have to say I’m helped significantly, but with my attitude, because I’m on some fantastic bipolar medication. I was on antidepressants for a long time, found out I was bipolar. And so I’m on some great medication, which helps me level out. I tend not to get the massive highs.


I tend not to get the sweeping lows. They still come sometimes. So it is easier for me to look at my part and look at my behaviour and shape the way I behave. Partly because of medication that, um, I’m on. And cause I’ve got a great psychiatrist that can help with those things. If I was not on that medication, I would be in a significantly worse place. I just think it’s important to mention that I know not everyone’s into medication. And I do think perhaps antidepressants are over-prescribed and, you know, GPs are not necessarily the best people to administer those because you’ve got seven minute consultation and they don’t know the latest science and all of this. And I’ve been very lucky that I could afford to go private. Um, but yeah, I think it’s, I would like people to know that a lot of the reason I feel so sorted now is partly because of finally getting the right combination of meds.

Paul Boross (36:42):

Uh, I’m interested in the whole medical thing because I do think it is very useful. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, I’m always questioning, not sceptical. I’m questioning of whether our brain can then work to those meds Yeah. Without the meds, if you know what I mean. Is it just, does it teach us how to the, because I think there’s an element whereby the brain could remember we’re going really off, off, off.

Iain Lee (37:12):

Let’s, let’s go

Paul Boross (37:12):

Off <laugh>, but the brain can remember how it works. Yeah. And so can trigger those things. And I just wonder, uh, when people are on meds for the whole of their lives Yeah. If there, if there is like an argument for going, we’ve taught the brain how to do that now. Can we pair it back? Yeah. Until we can do that naturally anyway.

Iain Lee (37:36):

That’s interesting. I don’t know. I don’t know if the brain can learn that. I do. Yeah. I do think antidepressants are over-prescribed. It’s a, it’s a quick, easy thing to do so I think there’s too many of those. I do think that sometimes people do only need antidepressants for a short time, a few months, maybe a year to help them, uh, uh, uh, overcome something. And I would suggest that that short period of antidepressants coupled with talking therapy, I think those two, I think if you just… I do think I would highly recommend if people are on antidepressants to also engage in talking therapy. So there is some kind of rewiring of the neural system going on. I do think I have accepted that I’m gonna be on these bipolar meds for the rest of my life. Bipolar is slightly different to depression.


Um, but I’ve accepted I’m gonna be on these meds for the rest of my life. Cause when I come off them, I’m fucked. You know, it, I get those swings, I get suicidal, I get, you know, I, I start buying expensive cars, whatever I swing up and down. So I think it’s different for different people. But I don’t think we stand much of a chance when, you know, psychiatry is so out of the reach of most people. Cuz psychiatrists, what’s that? 300 quid an hour if you’re lucky. Um, and GPs are great. They’re not trained in neuropharmacology, you know, it’s,they can’t be. And they’ve got seven minutes to assess a mental health condition. Um, so what am I trying to say? I don’t know if your theory holds true. I don’t know enough about the brain – quite possibly. Um, I do think simply relying on antidepressants is wrong.


But again, Paul, you know, I’m a counsellor. I’m now a psychotherapist, and the people that come and see me are the people that can afford me. It’s, you know, it’s, it’s my job. And so I charge and if you go to your GP and ask for a talking therapy, it might take a year to get eight sessions booked in. And then it’s a very specific type of therapy that is not necessarily the right thing for the reason they’ve, they’ve approached. So I really think we want to have less people in antidepressants. Well then let’s invest way more into the National health service in terms of talking therapy. You know, it should be, it should be easy for people to get, you know, people who are suicidal might wait a y for them to get an NHS counsellor, which is incredible. It’s ridiculous.

Paul Boross (40:00):

No, I completely agree. And but that’s a whole other podcast. It is. I <laugh>

Iain Lee (40:09):

It’s always talking about humour. Let’s say, let’s do some jokes.

Paul Boross (40:12):

Well, yeah, but I’m interested because you are, are prone to self-deprecation. Yes. Is it, is it important to be able to laugh at yourself? But I sometimes think that you’ve taken self-deprecation to the nth degree. Yeah. Yeah. And, do you have to pull yourself back from that? And does it have an effect?

Iain Lee (40:37):

I am fucking brilliant. There you go. That’s turned it round.

Paul Boross (40:43):

<laugh>. There you go. <laugh>.

Iain Lee (40:45):

No, it’s, I’m, I’m getting better at it, but I, I do think there is, I do think it’s self-deprecation can be funny if it’s played right. I think it’s a funny thing to make jokes about one’s self and one’s own inadequacies. I think that’s great. I can’t make jokes about your inadequacies, Paul, but I can do it about me. And that’s okay. And I think that there is definitely humour in that. I think. Yeah. I, yeah, I’ve gone too far sometimes. It’s generally when I’m having a very low mental health swing. You know, I mean, flipping heck, I kind of had a breakdown on an ep, on a show, on talk radio where I just realised no one was listening. The, the whole show was pointless. And I’m a piece of shit. And that’s not a great thing to have when there’s a microphone on <laugh> in front of you. So yeah, I have been very down on myself and I am naturally very down on, you know, what people might call my achievements in show business and stuff like that. Yeah.

Paul Boross (41:40):

Well, it’s interesting for me because now you are counselling other people. I’m, I’m, I’m wondering if there’s a light bulb moment where you go actually because I, I have a belief system, and you may argue against this, but that if you say these things often enough, they become your reality. Yeah. Yeah. So even though you are, you are doing it in a jokey way and everything, I’m not sure that the psyche actually takes it in that way. Yeah. And it suddenly makes things worse on that level.

Iain Lee (42:11):

Yeah. Oh, I’m, I’m a big fan of affirmations. I think, well, if you repeat something enough it certainly has an impact. He, I am much better now, Paul. I, for most of the time, I know that I am enough. I know that I am enough. I don’t know, I don’t, I’ve always needed call it an external locus of evaluation. And I’ve always needed people to tell me I’m good, for me to feel good. How many people are watching this TV show? Oh, we’re over a million. I must be good. Oh, we’ve dipped a hundred a million – there’s something wrong with me. I need, you know, I need it, need to get a hundred likes on a tweet for it toregister. That’s historically, I am now better at being enough. I know I’m a good dad. I know I’m a good counsellor.


I know I’m a good partner. That’s good enough for me. But a lot of it came from Paul. Um, you know, very early on, my first sort of big job was The 11 O’clock Show. And I always thought that would be the start of me then going to America, doing a TV series in America and getting parts in movies. Right. And it didn’t happen, but it did happen for at least two other people on that, three people on that show, McKenzie Crook, Ricky Gervais, Sacha Baron Cohen, they went off and they had the careers that I thought I was entitled to. And as I saw them get bigger and my career kind of slowly working backwards, it confirmed to me that I was useless. It confirmed to me that I was no good. It confirmed to me that the, I had been right all the long, all along and I’m a piece of shit. And it took a long time for me to get out of that and to realise that’s their journey and the very best of luck to them. They’re having a great time. Congratulations. That’s not my journey. My journey is something different and I just have to go along with it. But for a long time, yeah, there was a lot of resentment around their success.

Paul Boross (43:58):

And how did that manifest itself? Was it anger? Was it…

Iain Lee (44:02):


Paul Boross (44:03):

Oh really.

Iain Lee (44:04):

It was, yeah, cocaine. It wasn’t the only reason. I mean, it wasn’t the only reason I became a drug addict. There were many other reasons, you know, stuff in childhood, all that kind of stuff. But yeah, it was, it was cocaine and, you know, and I think cocaine is such a horrible drug. And, and I think cocaine addicts, it is turning their anger at the world in on themselves. I was taking cocaine because I hated myself and it’s a very hateful drug. So yeah. And I kind of fucked up my career because of that anger and because of that drug abuse, I became unreliable. I became argumentative. I would, uh, you know, you’ve met people, Paul who’ve, who’ve been on that’s, it’s a horrible, horrible, horrible drug. No one, no one has ever become a better person because they’ve done a bump of coke. It just doesn’t happen. <laugh>. And, and I pretty much ruined my career through that, a addiction. Part of which was inspired by the resentment of, of my peers who had become more successful than me.

Paul Boross (45:05):

And so that added to your self-loathing Yeah. And your low self-esteem. Yeah. And, and I’m interested in what got you out of that. Was humour part of the, did you see the ridiculousness of it or, oh, the funny side of it,

Iain Lee (45:22):

When boy oh boy, I do now, boy, oh boy. I look back on some of that. You know, you go into a 12 step meeting and the thing that strikes people is the laughter. Is the laughter. And you think, well, you can’t, why are these alkies laughing? Why are these drugies? Why are they laughing? What’s funny? And it is sharing what we call war stories. And yeah, I look back on it now and a lot of it was really tragic and really sad. Lot of it was funny, you know, like just I mean, uh, you know, some of the stuff we do to get drugs and, and the, the, the constantly losing them, you know, where I’ve hidden them and I cannot remember where I’ve been. Yeah. I look back and it was, it, a lot of it was funny. And I can say that cuz I survived and I’m clean and sober now. But a lot of it is funny, you know, and, and you are absolutely right. What’s the point in getting sober? What is the point in living if you can’t have a laugh at stuff? And if we can’t have a laugc hatour selves, and as long as my behaviour is improving, I can laugh at what I did when I was a kid. I can laugh at what, uh, you know, I did when I was high. Um, yeah. Humour is, is a huge part. I don’t get people who don’t laugh don’t get it. Something’s missing.

Paul Boross (46:33):

So do you think that that period after the 11 o’clock show where you were looking at Sasha Barron Cohen and Ricky Gervais and Mackenzie Crook, you lost your sense of humour in one sense? And cocaine replaced it? Oh, internal sense of humour maybe.

Iain Lee (46:51):

Yeah. Cocaine knocks any sense of humour outta the park? Yeah, I’d lost my sense of humour. I was taking everything way too seriously. I was taking myself way too seriously. And I look back and think, oh God, why didn’t I just relax? Why, you know, why, what a waste of time, what a waste of money, what a waste of all these fun things. But I do remember working with Ricky on The 11 O’clock Show, and we got quite close. And he, he was, he was almost gonna be the co-presenter with me. But then they got the brilliant Daisy Donovan and there was a real debate, uh, before he came on the show, do we want him on the show? Channel four didn’t want him and The Office, the 11 o’clock show office, remember we all went into the producer’s room to watch a video going, right.


Is this funny? And half of us went, this is the greatest thing we’ve ever seen. And the other half went, it’s shit. And it, he almost didn’t get on that show. And I’m so glad he did. I have never laughed as hard. It’s not quite true. But my kind of presenting partner now, Catherine Boyle makes me laugh a lot. But up until that point, I had never laughed as hard as I had sat next to Ricky Gervais. Even just this, this will mean nothing. But we were in my dressing room once and there was a Venetian blind and he just was waving it and he just started going, Ooh, snakey lady. Right. Absolute nonsense means nothing. I was pissing myself a ooh Snakey lady. Honestly, I have never, he made me laugh so hard. He’s one of those people, I’ve not really followed his career recently, but he’s one of those people who’s just funny bones is what they call it. And you would just sit in a room with him and you could not breathe. You know, you’d be begging him to stop so that you could catch your breath. Wonderful.

Paul Boross (48:29):

With your psychology hat on, why do we love people so much who make us laugh?

Iain Lee (48:37):

Because it makes us feel good, I guess. It makes us feel, it makes us feel good. It makes us feel part of a community perhaps. Um, you know, I probably had a bit of a man crush on Ricky and I probably wanted to to to be him. So I kind of had a bit of a man crush. Um, you know, the chemical stuff for laughter, endorphins and all of that stuff, that’s always good. Life can be really shit. Right. And it’s nice to be taken out of that, you know, uh, I’ve got the heating off cuz I’m, I don’t want the heating bills on, you know, I don’t, I don’t want the heating bills. I put the heating on when the kids come and stay. And that’s the true situation of where I am. If I think about that the whole time, I’m gonna go crazy.


So if there is something to take me out of that, if there is, you know, something that can make us laugh, that’s great. And I do look back on that, you know, Gervais plays arenas now. He plays 20,000 people a night. I had him in my dressing room, you know,con my own. I had that on my own for hours and hours and hours. And that is something I will always, always treasure. And also, you know, Sasha, the Ali G we kind of forget now what a phenomenon Ali G was. It was huge. It was the biggest comedy thing for a couple of years in this country. And then of course it went to the States. And, um, while I didn’t have that much to do with him, I was in the studio with 500 audience members when the Ali G films were being played out and being in a room of 500 people all laughing, you know, to the point of it hurting the, it’s great. There is something lovely about being in a communal environment where everybody is laughing. It’s, it’s joyous. It’s joyous. It’s a step closer to God, I think, you know, laughing, I think it, it takes us somewhere like that.

Paul Boross (50:26):

I call it state change. Go on. I dunno about you, but I, I think that it’s one of the underused things for whatever it is, counselling or psychotherapy and a thing. Yeah. Because it’s the way to get, if you can get somebody to laugh at their, their issues, you’ve already taken them to another place. Yeah, yeah. They’re already having to look at it from from the comedian’s angle. Yeah. What’s funny about that. Yeah. And so suddenly their state has changed and then you can stick some learning in and if they’re in a good state, the learning will stick. Yeah.

Iain Lee (51:08):

I think you’re right. Listen, when I’m, cuz I’ve retired from show business, now I don’t do it. And I’m suddenly, as soon as I said I’m quitting. I’m doing my last ever radio show. I got loads of invite for podcasts, <laugh>. So thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve, I’ve started turning them down. Now I’ve got a clutch I’m gonna do, but I’ve started turning them up. So thank you, Paul, for the opportunity. I really appreciate it. so I am not, when I’m counselling, I’m not in there cracking gags. And that was a lesson I had to learn, you know, because you, you know what it’s like, you hear, you hear the, you hear something, you think, oh, I can, I can make a gag there. Our natural instinct is to go for it. I had to learn in college, not with clients that you don’t go with it in the counselling room.


So I’m not there cracking gags, but there is a lot of laughter. And for me, the, you know, the laughter you’re right, suggests to me that some progress has been made with this issue, whatever this issue is. The fact that the client is now, you know, sometimes laughter is there because of shame or anger or fear, and that’s okay. And we can look at what that is. But sometimes you’re right. The, the laughter is fucking, I’m, I’m swearing too much. I do apologise. The laughter is bloody hell. I was carrying that thing around with me for years. But look how ridiculous is, look how silly it is. I’m holding it in my hand and it is ridiculous. And I can laugh at you now because you are, you have no power over me. So, yeah, you’re right. It is, you know, it. I think there, the laughter should be encouraged and welcomed in the counselling relationship. Definitely.

Paul Boross (52:37):

When you’ve got a counsellor, you have to trust that person. Yeah. And isn’t it one of those bonding things that builds trust quicker than anything else? Yeah. If you got, I mean, uh, you and I had never met before today and we’ve already,

Iain Lee (52:51):

And we’ll never meet again, Paul. I guarantee it. <laugh>.

Paul Boross (52:55):

Oh good, I’m glad I’ve made that impression. Yeah, but seriously, but really you were so understanding and then we had a laugh over the fact all the notes had gone to shit. Oh, and we’d done everything. That was the bonding point, wasn’t it? Where we were completely,

Iain Lee (53:16):

Where we were laughing for those who dunno, I, so we were supposed to meet half 11. I logged in and Paul went, I’ve lost all your notes, but we’ll carry on. And I said, look, if, if you want, I can go and make a coffee. I got nothing today. I’ll go make a coffee and I’ll come back in 15 minutes. And you went, okay, that’s very, very kind. I came back in 15 minutes. You still didn’t have the bloody notes. Now <laugh>, do you know what me, 10 years ago, I might have got pissed off at that. I might have gone. Right. Well, do you know what? I’m not, I’m not doing it. You know, you know, and, and, and that shows where my head was at now I think it’s hilarious. And it, it was, and I was, it’s partly hilarious cuz it’s not my problem.


I know what technical issues are like, and I hate them when I’m in them, but it’s not my, it’s your problem. And it’s funny. And I genuinely found it funny. I genuinely have nothing to do for the rest of the day. So I’m, I was happy to go off, you know, um, but it was, it was, it was funny. You and your producer, your producer trying to talk you through how to access files on a computer. It’s funny, you know, no one’s, no one’s dying. You were cool had you been upset and stressed about it, I wouldn’t have laughed with you. Had you been, you know, really getting upset and worried. Oh my God, this is a disaster. I wouldn’t have laughed with you, but I could see that you and and David, your producer were both, you know, you, it was a ridiculous situation. It’s funny. Let’s have a laugh about it. It’s fine. And you’re right. Suddenly we have a connection. Suddenly. I’ve never met you before and I, and I’m joking, I would love to go out for a coffee with you, but we’ve never met before. But suddenly in the face of a mini disaster with a lowercase d suddenly we’ve got a connection going. And I think that’s, that’s really important to acknowledge those moments.

Paul Boross (54:55):

Before we just go on… this is a tape stop, would you want to close the curtains?

Iain Lee (54:59):

I’m being silhouetted out and I Yeah. I was given strict instructions do not have a light behind you. And I did not follow those instructions. David, Mr. Rose. I humbly apologise. There we go. Hey, this has been a great rehearsal. Paul, do you wanna start recording now? We do it for proper now?

Paul Boross (55:14):

Uh, we could do, couldn’t we?

Iain Lee (55:16):

<laugh>? I’ve had so much fun. Uh, sorry. I’ll shut up. Let me shut up. You, you do your business. And then I’ll…

Paul Boross (55:24):

Thank you for listening to part one with Iain Lee. Yep, that was just part one. He was so good that we had to make a part two. Listen out for it in the next podcast. The Humourology podcast was hosted by Paul Boross, produced by David Rose. Music by Steve Haworth, creative direction by Les Hughes, and additional research by Helen Sykes. Please remember to subscribe, like, and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a Big Sky production.

Listen & Subscribe where you enjoy your Podcasts

See also:

More Humourology highlights

Alastair sitting

Alastair Campbell – Punchline Politics

Author and Former Press Secretary to Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell shares his thoughts from years of experience working with world leaders with Paul Boross. How can humour help the House of Commons?