EXCLUSIVE: ALEXANDER ARMSTRONG – THE NOT-SO-POINTLESS DAD
Alexander Armstrong, comedian and presenter of BBC TV quiz show Pointless, talks to DAD.INFO about being a very modern father...
As one half of double act Armstrong and Miller, Alexander Armstrong has spent nearly 20 years at the forefront of British comedy. The presenter of Pointless has been married to event organiser, Hannah Bronwen-Snow, since August 2003, and the couple have four young sons, Rex (born 2007), Patrick (born 2009), Edward (born 2010), and Henry (born 2014).
Hi Alexander. You’re involved in a very family-orientated charity project called Mum’s Army. Can you tell us about that?
Yes, I’m a patron for a phenomenal charity called Just a Drop, a water charity helping people in developing countries to access clean, safe water. Village by village they are literally changing the world. The Mum’s Army is a dream idea, because mums have very strong networks of friends. They do stuff. They do stuff together. With mums it is usually around the school gate. I remember before we had kids, people said to us when your kids go to school you will make your absolute best friends. And I was like, “What? I already have my best friends, I’ll have none of this school-gatery nonsense!” And then your kids go to school and sure enough you make lifelong friends, make, and it’s through the mums. The Godparents of our children, we met them through the mum’s school network. So we’re going to use that network of close friendships to ask mums to raise a bit of money doing things they enjoy.
Is a Mum’s Army better than a Dad’s Army?
Yes, Dad’s Army has connotations as we know of being comical, but Mum’s Army, you’re not going to mess with that, are you? You’re just not!
The campaign has made a lot of the role of the mum at home - is that something you recognise from your own life?
Completely, yeah. Actually, my mother-in-law... ha, ha! When you’re a comedian, you can’t start a sentence [adopts Cockney accent] 'My mother-in-law...', can you? But anyway, my mother-in-law can’t believe how much her four sons-in-law roll up their sleeves and help out.
So are you the type of dad that gets involved and helps out around the house?
Definitely. Because that’s what we do now, thank God. We all get involved. As dads, we change nappies, we make bottles, we all do our share. And in fact we no longer see it as doing our share. It is just part of being a father. Being a father is being very much a participant in your children’s lives, in a way which I think that previous generations weren’t. My mother-in-law will turn up at home and sort of sit me down and say 'I’ll get you a cup of tea, let me do that, I can do that for you,' that sort of thing. It’s amazing from her generation to see how much things have changed. But there’s no doubt about it, mums are still in charge. We are mere foot soldiers. We are just NCOs in the Mum’s Army. We’re given small tasks. I’m not sure we are to be entrusted with too much, but we do our bit.
Do you find it easy to juggle your family life with your children and your work commitments?
Well, I’m very lucky that in my day job I don’t have to be there until mid-morning, so I get to do the morning stuff at home which is really nice. I can sometimes be home quite late, so I sometimes do miss out on bath time and bed time, but I get to do the morning – get them up, do breakfast, sometimes do the school run, which is really nice, you know? So I see them every day, meaningfully. Which is fantastic, because I know that a lot of dads only come home from work and kiss their kids on the forehead while they're asleep, and that is about as much as they see of them. So I'm very lucky in that regard.
How much consideration do you give your kids when you are choosing what work to take on? Does that come into it now?
Yes it does, it really does. I’m about to do something which I can’t talk about yet, but it’s going to involve me being away for quite a long stretch which is really, really hard. Hannah and me talked about it for a long time, because you sign up for one job and then you suddenly start getting offered things that turn out to be quite another, and I’ve got various friends that work in film, and that is a hardcore part of their job. The glamorous, fun side of the job on the red carpet is all well and good, but what people don’t always realise that with these big-budget blockbusters, actors can be filming six days a week for six or seven months, as that's the most cost-effective way to do it. And that means you’re just not home at all. Your family is the first thing to suffer. So I’m actually very grateful that I’m not a film star! I never thought I’d say that, but I’m genuinely grateful. It’s bloody hard work, and I would hate to be away from my kids for that length of time.
You’ve taken over as the voice of Danger Mouse – as children, we used to love that show. Do you and your kids feel the same?
Oh, definitely. The new one will never, will never, surpass the glory of Terry Scott and David Jason. For Heaven’s sake, they are – and always will be – the original Danger Mouse. But the new series has taken up the ball and sprinted with it. You know sometimes when you know something you love is going to remade and you’re a bit scared to watch? Well, a message to Danger Mouse fans: don’t worry!
Words: Shaun Curran
Alexander Armstrong is Patron of Just a Drop. The charity’s new campaign, Mums Army, is enlisting UK mums to help mothers in developing countries obtain clean, safe water.