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A Tall Story

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It’s an hour before the recording and David is late. He unties his scarf as he steps into the building, sending some of the tiny raindrops that sit on the outside of his clothes fly in all directions. Some hit his face and he is wiping them away when a nervous runner ushers him along towards the costume and make-up people. One of them instantly starts to fuss about David’s hair, which is damp and certainly not ready to be on tv.

Lee is in his chair, which means he must have been late too and David starts to feel a bit better. Not good but definitely better. When Lee sees David’s face he says: “Don’t worry, Rob’s also not here yet.”

David is about to give Lee a grateful nod but stops when he sees the grin hidden behind Lee’s smile.

David’s eyes grow wide. “What have you done?”

Lee swings around in his chair to protests of a young man who manages to hold more brushes and other utensils between his fingers than anyone else David has ever seen.

“Done?” Lee manages to slip an innocent tone into his voice but the muscles of his face betray him, pulling the corners of his mouth upwards. “Why do you assume I’ve done anything?”

David just looks at him with one eyebrow raised and his lips pressed together.

“I haven’t done anything, I swear,” comes Lee’s next attempt at convincing David but his eyes have a certain glint that he wouldn’t be able hide no matter how hard he tried.

“I know you, Lee,” David tells him while the woman responsible for his hair silently commands him to sit down already so she can get started.

“You aren’t usually that bad a liar. Even this hair dryer here can tell you’re up to something.” He gestures to the brightly coloured gadget with which the woman has started to blow hot air into his face. What good that’ll do in regard to his hair he has no idea but he knows better than to question the team’s ability to make him look more presentable than he’d ever manage on his own.

“They make psychic hair dryers now, do they?” Lee shouts over the noise.

“Psychic hair dryers? Don’t be an idiot, Lee. Of course the hair dryer isn’t psychic.” David shouts back. “But they come with a device that can detect bullshit molecules in the air. It’s a marvellous new piece of technology. They are very sensitive usually; the smallest amount can tip them off. Frankly, I’m surprised this one hasn’t exploded yet.”

Lee gives him a fond smile and gets out of his chair because the make-up man is apparently finished with him now.

David eyes him suspiciously. “Just tell me, what have you done?”
“Let’s just say I’ve arranged a little something for our friend Rob.” Lee answers mysteriously. David’s eyes are closed because the woman has started to torch his face again but in his mind he can clearly see Lee rubbing his hands together.

-

When the woman is done with him, David sets out to find Lee. Something seems odd though and the feeling is bugging him until he realises he hasn’t run into any of the guests for tonight’s show. In fact, he has no idea who the guests for this show are supposed to be. He finds Lee on the phone in a small hallway and decides to corner him. There are only a few things David likes less than physical confrontation but one of them is feeling left out of the loop by someone he considers a friend. David tries to block the exit and glares at Lee.

“Tell me what’s going on.”

“Or what?” Lee shoots back but there isn’t menace behind any of the words.

“Or I’ll have to use my secret martial arts skills.” David threatens but doesn’t change his stance at all. If anything, his pose has become stiffer. Something Lee picks up on immediately.

“I’m scared to death, I tell you. Got taught those skills by all the ninjas that famously tend to hang around all the posh schools?”

“Who told you about that?” David gasps in mock surprise.

“You’ll be surprised to learn, David, that blokes all dressed in black with swords and little sandals aren’t blending as much into the background as you might suspect. Especially when they clock off early in the morning and order pizzas- ”

“Don’t tell me you saw them with their mentor, too! The one with the sort of rat-like face? Wearing a bathrobe?” David throws his hands into the air. “Oh no, we’ve been discovered!”

“Yes. Now that we’ve established that – and your habit to watch too many cartoons – can you let me through, please? There are things I have to do before the cameras start to roll.” Lee asks and checks his phone again.

“Only if you tell me what’s going on.” David demands.

“Look- “

“I’m serious, Lee.” David tells him and crosses his arms in front of his chest.

“Okay, but you can’t say a word.”

“Okay.”

“Swear it.”

“Lee- “

“David!”

“I swear.” David says while rolling his eyes but it seems good enough for Lee who comes closer in a conspiratorial way.

“I arranged for Rob to be late so he doesn’t get to see the guests beforehand because I want to get him back for something he did a while ago.” Lee confesses.

David gives him a look.

“Just a little something. Or not so little, actually. You’ll see.”

David is still just looking at Lee, hoping for further explanations.

“It’s nothing bad. It’s just- There was a bet and he made me feel a bit stupid and.. small. So that’s what he’s getting back.”

“Who are the guests then?” David finally asks.

“I can’t tell you. It’s a surprise. Just trust me on this.” Lee pleads and David goes with it because, really, what else can he do.

-

Ten minutes later they sit in their chairs opposite each other. The audience are a bit confused as to why there are no guests yet and the confusion is equally evident in Rob’s face when he takes his place. He is a bit out of breath and apologises for being late, telling the story of how the taxi took him to the other side of town trying to avoid road works. David catches Lee’s eye and Lee just shrugs.

Before Rob can ask any questions, Lee stands up and says that he feels so bad for Rob that he will take over the announcing of the guests and make it a very special show. Rob senses that something must be up but Lee isn’t leaving him any time to react.

“Welcome to Would I Lie To You?, the show that is all about spotting lies and telling the lies from the truth. On my team tonight- “

The lights get dimmed until only shadows are visible. Everyone watches in anticipation and claps when Lee announces Miranda Hart, followed by Greg Davies. They enter the stage and stand next to Rob.

“And on David Mitchell’s Team- “

The lights are slowly turned on again as Richard Osman and David Morrissey join the other guests. The audience draws in a collective breath at their sight and Rob let’s out a very high-pitched scream.

The guests are all wearing masks of one animal or another and although David has to admit that they are terrifying to look at, it’s also so surreal that a laughing fit catches him by surprise. It’s nothing compared to seeing Rob and Nick Hewer in a cuddle jumper and soon tears are streaming down his face. Meanwhile, Rob is looking up at the guests from under his desk, playing up his shock for the amusement of the audience.

The guests take off their masks and settle into their chairs as Rob is pretending to recover from a heart attack, placing a hand on his chest and wiping his forehead. When the laughter has died down, he turns to Lee.

“You are looking very pleased with yourself, I must say.”

“That’s because I am.” Lee tells him and shoots him a grin to let him know that they’re even now.

“I don’t know how you managed to convince these giants- Could you all stand up again?” Rob asks the guests.

Greg Davies and Miranda Hart each throw an arm around Lee’s shoulders while Richard Osman and David Morrissey just stand next to David Mitchell.

Rob takes in the view, shaking his head. “What on earth did they put in your food! You are all freaks of nature. Although I must say, David, you are looking positively dwarfed on at least one side as well.”

Looking up at Richard Osman, David says “Yes, well, I think anyone standing next to Richard would look small.”

“Not everyone though!” Greg declares and makes his way over to the other team.

He and Richard stand back to back and Rob plays along by joining them.

They all strike a sort of Bond pose and Rob says “We are like the world’s weirdest triplets.”

“Our poor mother,” Richard adds.

“Yeah, two giants and a dwarf. Well done, mum.” Greg says, then pauses for a few seconds. “Why are only two of us Welsh though?”

Richard looks straight into the camera, giving everyone his best puppy-dog eyes and asks “Mum?” to which the audience break into laughter.

-

The highlight of the first round is David Morrissey lying about a family pet and The Beatles. Then Rob gets them ready for round two.

“The next round is ‘This is my…’, where we bring on a mystery guest who has a close connection to one of our panelists. This week, each of Lee’s team will claim it’s them who has the genuine connection to the guest and it’s up to David’s team to spot who’s telling the truth. Please welcome this week’s special guest: Giles.”

A man around forty comes onto the stage, dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a casual plaid shirt.

Rob turns to Lee’s team and asks “Greg, what is Giles to you?”

“This is Giles. We used to be colleagues and I lost him in France.”

Miranda is next. “This is Giles. He is the son of a family friend who is an inventor. When I was young, we invented a Christmas cracker that sounded like someone breaking wind.”

“Lee.” Rob prompts.

“This is Giles. He works for theatres and specialises in making masks.”

The guests get out their masks again and Rob hides under the table. When the laughter has faded, he comes up until he can just look over the edge of the desk. He mimics a scared child’s voice and asks if the monsters have gone away, which earns him a big “aww” from the crowd.

David starts the questioning: “Okay, Miranda. You invented a Christmas cracker that sounded like-“

“ –Like someone breaking wind, yes.”

David Morrissey chips in “My first question would be why they aren’t available in stores today.”

Richard agrees with him “That’s what I thought. Surely farting Christmas crackers would sell very well.”

“Well, “ Miranda starts ”you see, neither of us were very marketing savvy. Because his father was an inventor and we were children.”

“Oh, that explains it!” David exclaims “But the real question here is how you would get a Christmas cracker to make a farting noise.”

“I can answer that!” Lee says and turns to Greg, holding out his hand.

“I’m not pulling your finger, mate.” Greg laughs.

Lee holds out his other hand to Miranda. “Pretend I’m a Christmas cracker,” he tells his team members, who pull on his arms while he presses his lips together and makes a farting noise that lasts for about half a minute.

“It’s all the stuffing and the gravy, sorry.”

David grins at Lee across the room “Who knew that a simple boy from the north could be blessed with such a plethora of hidden talent.”

“There is more where that came from.” Lee suggests.

“Please, no.” David replies, looking very alarmed. “Right, this still doesn’t answer my question.”

They debate how exactly Giles’s father could have used a whoopee cushion inside the crackers and how the air would have had to flow and how it would have had to break at the right point to sound like it is breaking wind. By the end of it, everyone is in stitches and not even Greg’s story about losing his colleague in France can compete.

After everyone’s told their story, David’s team vote for Lee’s story to be true - only to be told by a very gleeful Lee that it was a total lie. David secretly chides himself for being lured into the trap of choosing the (in hindsight too) plausible answer and the audience can’t believe how the mask story can’t be true.

Lee’s team high five each other and then get out the masks again. The show ends with Rob Brydon in the middle of the stage with the mask-wearing guests trapping him in a circle, where Rob falls onto his knees. He manages to escape through Richard Osman’s long legs but gets caught by Lee, who had anticipated that move.

Richard turns to Rob again “I don’t know if you’ve heard about those books.. they are fantasy, with people called hobbits.. I tell you, if they ever turn those books into films, not that that is likely, but if they should ever do that then you should apply for the role of Bilbo. I mean, it’s really not likely those films are ever going to be made but you never know.”

“I do have experience with dragons,” Rob tells him with a wink.

“And feet hairy enough for a dozen hobbits.” Lee says as they leave the stage to the final laughter from the audience.

-

David catches Lee in the dressing room before they all head out for drinks.

“That was quite something,” he starts.

Lee struggles with his jacket and smiles at David through the mirror.

“Was it worth all that trouble?” David continues.

“Of course! Did you not see his face?!”

The honest joy in Lee’s voice has David breaking into a grin as well. As they head out of the door he tells Lee “You know you still have to tell us how you got hold of those masks.”

“I will if you’re buying the first round,” Lee answers, giving David a quick slap on the shoulder.

They step out into the drizzle and David says “Deal” just as they join the rest.