On my radar: Paul Feig’s cultural highlights

The American comedian and director on feeling at home in Claridge’s, being moved by Bob Marley’s wife, and drinking with London’s king of the martini

Born in Michigan in 1962, director Paul Feig is known for films such as Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters, A Simple Favour, Spy and Last Christmas. On the small screen, he created the comedy series Freaks and Geeks and directed episodes of shows including The Office, Mad Men and Arrested Development; his most recent show is Welcome to Flatch, a US adaption of the BBC series This Country. He is also an actor and starred in the sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Feig has recently launched his own gin brand, Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin, in his quest to create the perfect martini. He lives in Chelsea with his wife.

1. Film

Tick, Tick... Boom! (Dir Lin-Manuel Miranda, 2021)

Man in open-necked shirt holds a microphone
Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson. Photograph: Entertainment Pictures/Alamy

Last year was an interesting one for movies, but this was the one that really got me. It’s based on Jonathan Larson, who wrote Rent – he was a struggling songwriter who wanted to write musical theatre so he put together this stage show based on his struggles. Andrew Garfield turned in a great performance. There’s a whole sequence about people who have Sunday brunch in New York that I thought was one of the most cleverly shot things I’ve ever seen. I was really affected by the film – it was emotional but very uplifting.

2. Theatre

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical

Actor with long dreadlocks dancing in front of a microphone, with female singers in the background
Arinzé Kene as Bob Marley in Get Up, Stand Up! in 2021. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

This is so much fun. Obviously I’m a big fan of Bob Marley – most people are. But you hear his music so much on the radio that you forget the live power it has. It makes you want to move: every time I’ve seen it, people are up in the audience, dancing and going crazy. It tells his life story, going from song to song, with these great performances. There’s a scene where the woman who plays Rita Marley sings No Woman, No Cry to him almost angrily. It’s really powerful for a woman to sing that song – it brings the house down.

3. Place

Claridge’s, London W1

View down the carpeted staircase with decorative ironwork, into the black and white floored foyer, with high arches and chandeliers
The staircase leading down to the foyer of Claridge’s hotel in Mayfair, London. Photograph: Rumbush888/Stockimo/Alamy

My mum’s side of the family was British, so I love traditional stuff: Anderson & Sheppard suits, Savile Row. Claridge’s is a happy place for me, because it represents everything I like about London glamour. It’s so well run, and their attention to service is great. I go there to have breakfast, and we have Christmas dinner there when we’re in town. I walk down that curving staircase that goes into the lobby, wearing my finest, and feel like “Hey, I belong here”. For an anglophile who grew up in Detroit, Michigan, it’s a fairytale dream come true.

4. Podcast

Disaster Girls

Shark flies towards a man waving a huge chainsaw in a city street
The Disaster Girls ‘really do love disaster movies’ – such as Sharknado 2 (2014).
Photograph: The Asylum/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

I love this podcast by two hilarious young women, Jordan Crucchiola and Amanda Smith. Every episode is about a disaster movie – some are terrible, some are actually good – and they go really deep into it and have an interesting perspective on everything.They don’t go in cynically, they really do love disaster movies: anything from Sharknado to a giant Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson movie to Roland Emmerich. They have so much fun doing it and it really makes me laugh. It’s a delightful way to spend a walk.

5. Bar

Dukes London, SW1

Smiling man in white jacket and black tie prepares a martini at a trolley in front of a bar
Alessandro Palazzi, head barman at the Dukes bar in Dukes hotel, London. Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

Dukes bar is my favourite – I’ve been going there for 25 years. Alessandro Palazzi, the bartender there who’s the king of the martini, started around then too, so I’ve befriended him. I’m a cocktail enthusiast, let’s say. When I was a kid I didn’t want to be a kid, I just wanted to be grown up, and the martini always represented that to me. I love the pageantry of it: Alessandro will roll up a cart, frozen glass, frozen bottle, and make it right in front of you with a lemon peel from the Amalfi coast. It’s just this beautiful, classy place – it’s my Valhalla.

6. TV


Man and woman sitting on armchairs in booklined room and making faces
Giles and Mary on Gogglebox in 2018 Photograph: Jude Edginton/Channel 4

This is my favourite show anywhere. I love Gogglebox – it’s got me through so many times. When I first heard about it I thought it sounded like the worst idea for a TV show ever. And literally within five minutes I thought, this is comfort food for me. Everybody on it is so incredibly funny, and it just cheers me up. As an American it gives me the chance to catch up on current British TV – it’s a great highlight reel for the week. Giles and Mary just destroy me.

Book jacket

7. Book

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

I really like thrillers – Patricia Highsmith is one of my favourite authors. This is a book that came out a few years ago, which is a very affecting story of this woman whose sister is murdered and she’s trying to figure out who did it. It hits a lot of topics about violence against women and sexism and how the legal system is stacked against victims of domestic crime and sexual assault. But then on top of that it’s a cracking good mystery, with twists and turns and a very unexpected ending. Whenever I can’t predict what the ending is, I’m really happy.


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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