The Londoner: See my funny side, asks William Sitwell

I'm funny I swear: former Waitrose editor William Sitwell (Getty)

William Sitwell’s biggest regret in the furore that saw him resign from Waitrose Food magazine after insulting vegans? It’s not that he caused such offence. It’s that his joke wasn’t funny enough.

“What was far more annoying [than unemployment] was to suffer the humiliation of hearing people discuss how bad my joke was,” Sitwell despairs.

Sitwell (right) caused uproar in October after a controversial reply to a freelance journalist was made public. She had pitched a vegan series for the magazine. He rejected the proposal, replying: “How about a series on killing vegans, one by one?”

After the email exchange was made public, Sitwell stepped down from his role and apologised for what he called an “ill-judged joke”.

Now he seems to think it was ill-judged from a comedic perspective but emphasises that he does have a funny bone. “I feel I’ve made some quite good jokes over the years,” he writes in the new issue of Boisdale Life magazine.

He has long pored over “the masters” to study “the craft of the comedian”, he says. “The set-up, the punchline, the very delivery. I have spent hours on YouTube watching the masters: Tommy Cooper, Michael McIntyre, Louis CK, Bill Hicks, the masterful mimicry of Rory Bremner.

“But now look... [I’m] known as the idiot who made an unfunny joke and lost his job.”

Sitwell, who previously worked at the Sunday Express, also admits to possessing “shocking timing”, as Waitrose was launching a new range of vegan food that very week. Worst of all, he laments, he wrote what he considered a funnier second email to the pitching journalist, that was never published.

“I suggested another variant of the plant-based series.

‘How about a column called The Honest Vegan,’ I wrote. ‘A millennial’s tale of earnest endeavour — and bacon sandwiches.’

“Now I reckon that’s quite funny. But as it is quite funny no one has remarked on it.”

Don’t give up the day job. Oh wait...

Remaining obstacle

Order, order: Speaker John Bercow (AFP/Getty Images)

The Speaker, John Bercow, has told his deputies that he wants to chair all five gruelling days of the Brexit debate, The Londoner understands. This puts him in pole position to influence the debate, which won’t please Julian Smith, the Chief Whip, who identified Bercow as a problem in behind-the-scenes ITV news footage of the whips’ desperate attempts to win the vote.

“We’re up against some other issues, like the Speaker has got a strong view on this [Brexit],” Smith was recorded saying.

Last year, Bercow told a group of students he voted Remain in the referendum.

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Let no one say Theresa May stage-manages her public appearances. Facing a Facebook Q&A on the Brexit Deal yesterday, the final question put to bed any suggestion that her press team had pre-chosen the questions: “When did you choose to become a dictator? John Richardson, Fife”.

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Australian comic Adam Hills, who has an artificial foot, revisited his favourite Prince Philip anecdote at a Christmas Without Tears fundraiser this week. The pair met at the Royal Variety Show a decade ago. “Do you fly home tomorrow?” Philip asked. “Yes, I will be, sir,” Hills replied. Philip: “You can smuggle something out of the country in that leg of yours.” Resourceful.

Close shave for 007

Actor Samantha Morton has her eyes on a major film role. “I’d love to play a baddie in James Bond,” she tells The Londoner.

“I’d never be cast as a Bond Girl,” she explains. “But I hold nothing against them — look at Grace Jones. As a young girl, she blew my mind.”

Morton’s newly shaved head may help land the role. The next 007 film is in pre-production.

“When you’re younger it’s cute and pixieish”, she explained at the British Independent Film Awards. “And now, I just look like a thug.”

AJ and Anaïs take up Reserved places at Oxford Street launch

In Vogue: AJ Odudu (Dave Benett/Getty Images )

Vogue celebrated the launch of its capsule partywear collection with fashion label Reserved on Oxford Street last night. Model and DJ Mary Charteris reclined, Geri Horner sparkled, while model Anaïs Gallagher — daughter of Noel Gallagher and Meg Mathews — embraced her boyfriend Kitt Sullivan. AJ Odudu was festive in green. The TV presenter may be looking forward to seeing her mum, Florence, this Christmas. Earlier this year, the pair made documentary Manhunting With My Mother, journeying to Nigeria to find love.

“It basically stemmed from the fact that I was turning 30,” she said. “I had a bit of a meltdown. I was questioning what did I want — I wanted a career, but I also thought I would be married by now, or at least have a boyfriend.” She has said she is still in touch with one of the “suitors” her mum set her up with. Elsewhere, Alexa Chung was at a party hosted by JW Anderson to celebrate the launch of a Gilbert & George capsule collection.

SW1A

Jeremy Corbyn is back on top: the Labour leader has been announced as the winner of the Parliamentary Beard of the Year Award. He has now won six times (including a joint victory tied with Tory John Randall in 2012) but was unseated last year by Mansfield MP Ben Bradley’s designer stubble. “The award is not about the politics of the beard wearer but about how well they have deployed their beard in public during the year,” a representative of the Beard Liberation Front says.

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Visiting the House of Commons yesterday for a parliamentary press gallery event, Tony Blair was approached by a member of the catering staff. “We miss you so much,” they were overheard saying.

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Work has taken Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson away from his family for two weeks. So what’s he most looking forward to getting back to? “Seven days of chocolate in your Advent calendar to eat.”

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Dame Joan Collins (Getty)

Dame Joan Collins switched on the Shepherd Market Christmas lights last night. Despite her feminine glamour, in this week’s Spectator the Dynasty actor referred to a teenage “tomboy phase” as a “potential transgender moment”. Hmm.