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The comedic life of pop legend George Michael

George Michael, the frontman of 1980s pop icons Wham!, gave the world of entertainment some of the most cherished and comedically brilliant moments contemporary culture has ever seen. Whilst in Wham!, he and his musical partner in crime, Andrew Ridgeley, created pop music that was light, sunny, and all about having a great time. The music provided a sharp antidote to the many horrors of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and the humdrum inertia of everyday life. Associated with the ‘Second British Invasion’, the duo took America by storm with anthems such as ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’, ‘Club Tropicana’, and of course the festive classic, ‘Last Christmas’.

The minute Michael wore the ‘Choose Life’ T-shirt while filming the ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ video, his status as an icon was cemented. However, Michael was so much more than purely the Wham! frontman. After his time in the band, the singer’s solo career was also stellar. Kicking off with 1984’s enduring ballad ‘Careless Whisper’, he dueted with Aretha Franklin on 1987’s ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)’, he continued to hit stratospheric heights with singles such as ‘Faith’ and ‘Freedom!’. Additionally, I don’t think anybody is in a rush to forget his timeless duet with Elton John, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’, one of the most emotive number one single’s ever released.

However, despite his achievements, it was his character outside of music that truly endeared George Michael to fans. The musician had a huge heart and was unwavering in his commitment to just causes. Parts of his life were incredibly challenging, such as the fact that he hid his sexuality from his mother, who he loved dearly, and didn’t come out until 1998. He was a proactive LGBT rights campaigner and constantly helped to raise awareness and funds for the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Michael struggled with personal demons throughout his life, and during the turn of the millennium, it appeared as though he’d ‘just become another washed-up pop star’ – but he hadn’t. Michael continued to use his status for good, a factor that made his tragic death on Christmas Day 2016 one of the most heartbreaking celebrity deaths of all time. A legend in life and death, George Michael really did choose life, and the fact he continued to be such a three dimensional, down to earth person whilst balancing such massive fame is something that all stars could learn from.

Aside from the music, and his near-constant donations to charity, another facet of his life that sticks in the memory, is the amount of hilarious moments George Michael gave his fans. Either self-deprecating or just out and out funny, Michael was something of a comedy genius, a key element of his personality that cropped up time and time again. To hang out with George Michael sounded like a blast, and there’s no surprise he counted a whole host of figures as friends, including Princess Diana.

So, on the fifth anniversary of his passing, join us as we list five moments where George Michael proved that he was a comedic genius.

George Michael’s funniest moments:

Thoughts on Joy Division book

This interview from 1984 gives us a candid image of Michael at the height of Wham!’s fame, a time when he was perhaps the biggest pop star in Britain. Appearing on the BBC2 programme 8 Days a Week, alongside Morrissey and Tony Blackburn, Michael gives his thoughts on the new Joy Division biography, An Ideal For Living. Clearly, all involved have a lot to say on Joy Division, with Morrissey going as far as to call them “symbolists”.

Then, after Morrissey does his typical thing of ripping into the band, and Tony Blackburn pleasantly passes off the band’s work, Michael gives his two cents. The presenter says that “he might be wrong” for not thinking Michael a Joy Division fan before the Wham! frontman wags his finger in slapstick style and says sarcastically, “You might be wrong!”. He discusses his love for Joy Division at length but then takes to calling the work of journalist Paul Morley “pretentious”. A sardonic tour de force, this was George Michael at his finest. 

This Morning phone call

It’s no secret that George Michael loved the ITV flagship programme This Morning, who spent almost every day watching the show for over ten years. It got him through the day, and he’d often donate to causes that were highlighted on the show, including when he made headlines in 2001 for donating £50,000 to help the show take children in need on holiday to Lapland.

That same year, he called the show on the last day of husband and wife presenting team Richard and Judy and stunned us all with some quick one-liners. Michael wanted to keep his identity hidden after the donation, but the Madeley’s were having none of it. After revealing him to be the mystery doner, they welcomed him on the show with a phone call. He says thank you to the pair for “easing him into the day”. 

Michael then asks to be passed to the show’s old darling, the agony aunt Denise Robertson. He says to her, “I’ve never met you, but I’d just like to tell you I think you’re a real diamond. You’ve had your work cut out for you, haven’t you, over the years? You’ve always got Richard sitting next to you talking rubbish”. Incredible.

Comic Relief sketch

This is just brilliant. Aired on Big Red Nose Day 2011, George Michael joined James Corden’s character Smithy from Gavin and Stacey in the car on the way to the BBC Headquarters in London to help secure more people for that year’s Comic Relief.

Michael plays an accentuated, over the top version of himself, and it really is genius. He jokingly calls Smithy out for a variety of faux pas’ and his line about Gavin and Smithy being “closeted bummers” will leave you in stitches. His delivery is perfect, and it makes us wish he actually went into comedy. Additionally, when the two sing Wham! it is an uplifting treat.

Extras cameo

This cameo is pure Ricky Gervais. Appearing as himself on the show that made its name for making celebrities star as the most ridiculous versions of themselves, Michael’s appearance at a cruising spot, and inference that he is a regular was a great way of dispelling the media circus that followed him following his arrest in 2006 for the same thing. As the protagonist, Andy Millman, sits down at the park bench, he finds his old acquaintance Mr. Bunny, who is currently on the lookout for a hookup.

Then Michael appears smoking a joint, looking incognito with a pair of sunglasses and a cap. He asks the pair, “any action?”, then checks his watch and says, “I’ve only got 20 minutes actually, I’m on my lunch break.” Michael then explains that he’s doing community service and says to Millman, “Oh no, not that one, I’m doing another one now”. Millman proceeds to ask him what offence he did “this time”. Michael replies that it was “fly-tipping” before spinning a yarn about helping Annie Lennox out with an old fridge-freezer and Sting being a “fuckin do-gooder”.

The way he turns Mr. Bunny down at the end is Ricky Gervais at his finest.

Reaction to 1998 arrest

Everyone remembers when Michael was arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom in Beverly Hills, California. The singer was arrested in a perverse act of subterfuge by undercover cop Marcelo Rodriguez, as part of a sting operation using the “pretty police”. Speaking to MTV, Michael said afterwards: “I got followed into the restroom and then this cop – I didn’t know it was a cop, obviously – he started playing this game, which I think is called, ‘I’ll show you mine, you show me yours, and then when you show me yours, I’m going to nick you’.”

Michael pleaded no contest to the charge and was fined and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. Not long after, he released the single ‘Outside’, which was accompanied by a parody music video directed by ‘Hüu Jarss’. It satirised the incident and featured the police stopping people from having sex, as well as policemen kissing. This line is pure gold: “I’d service the community (but I already have you see!)”. Rodriguez even tried to sue Michael for slander because of the video, but the court swiftly dismissed it.