Halfway through our interview with Dean Dobbs at Summer in the City, he opened up about how his teachers perceived him at school.
“A teacher thought there was something wrong with me, because I drew monsters all the time,” he revealed. “I loved drawing them. Still do. But I remember I went to the headteacher’s office once with my parents, and she put out drawings and just went, ‘I think there’s something up with your child’. And they were like, ‘No, that’s just the shit he likes’. It was very, very peculiar.”
It’s a sad, touching, and relatable story about how hard it can be for creatively-minded pupils to flourish in an inflexible academic system. It’s also the sort of powerful insight you should definitely include in the writeup of an interview.
So obviously we’ve cut it out. Instead, here’s Dean talking about what he’d do if Woolworths came back, what really happens down the back of Argos, and the version of Oscar Isaac he’s built in his head.
Hello Dean. When was the last time you used a kitchen utensil in an unorthodox way?
DEAN: “I used a spatula to clean out my hoover not too long ago, cos we had this— Oh, it’s such a tale! My hoover wasn’t working, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to use my hands’, but I also didn’t have any gloves, so I just scooped it out and sort of just left it in the middle of the room for ages.”
If the human race ran out of conventional food, but discovered a way of transforming YouTube content into edible pellets and had to eat them in order to survive, what would Jack and Dean videos taste like and how nutritious would they be?
DEAN: “Haha, I like this. Jack and Dean… I mean, you want it to taste like a Sunday roast or something – you know, something quite hearty, and kind of full? – but it’s not. It’s probably like a ready meal or something. One of those frozen chicken kievs, something like that.”
One of those Iceland party platters with suspicious names like “Sticky Chicken Discs”.
DEAN: “Yeah, one of the Iceland platters – something like that, where it looks like food, but like, not.”
What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with someone else’s mum?
DEAN: “I had a friend’s mum back in my early uni days who quite fancied me. That was quite weird. I just remember I was playing Metal Gear Solid, and she sat down and sort of hit on me, and I was like, ‘I’ve just completed Metal Gear Solid, that’s wild, bye’.”
If you were a scented candle, what would you smell like?
DEAN: “This is so weird.”
DEAN: “Mulled wine and sadness, I would say. Can you imagine that? Like, you cry into a flannel and smell your tears.”
What’s a piece of merch you wish you could sell but think might be too strange?
DEAN: “Little guitar plectrums that are my head. That would be quite fun. Shaped like my head – little guitar plectrums so you can be strumming along.”
You have a hot air balloon. If you could take anyone with you to travel the world in it, who would it be?
DEAN: “Oscar Isaac. I feel like me and Oscar Isaac would get on quite well. Or at least the version of Oscar Isaac that I’ve built in my head – we would connect.”
Hang on, I need to know more about the version of Oscar Isaac that you’ve built in your head.
DEAN: “He’s like me, but better in every single way. He’s the most charming man in the world. He can open champagne bottles with just his thumbs – he don’t need a towel, he don’t need nothing. He’s just brilliant. He’s just amazing. He’d probably be flying the hot air balloon. He’d be teaching me, if anything. So while it might [nominally] be mine, it’s not. It’s very much his.”
If you were trapped in a toilet with no means of escape, who would you call for help?
DEAN: “I would call my version of Oscar Isaac, because he would know exactly what to do. He’d already be there. He would have been like, ‘I sensed something was wrong and my babe Dean was trapped in a toilet’, and I would be like, ‘Classic me!’, and he’d go, ‘Classic you!’, and then he’d hand me a screwdriver underneath the door, and I’d be like, ‘Thanks’. I don’t know how I’m trapped in this. Is it, like, a rock? Is there a rock in the way? Because if so, he’d lift that up.”
If anything ever happened to Jack Howard, would the version of Oscar Isaac you’ve built in your head make a good comedy partner?
DEAN: “Do you know what, probably. Because if he’s better than me in every way, he’s definitely funnier than me, and like I say about him picking up boulders – it would just be him picking up my jokes and making them even better.”
When was the last time you got a dead arm?
DEAN (recoiling): “Why, are you going to…?”
No, we just want to know. For journalism.
DEAN: “I don’t know, maybe at school?”
Do you want to make up an anecdote about the last time you got a dead arm, and we’ll use that?
DEAN: “Yeah, sure, why not? I was busy grafting in my shed, and I thought to myself, ‘How long can I put this anvil on my arm?’ Not very long, it turns out. It made short work of my entire left arm. This arm isn’t real.”
Tell us about a weird belief you had as a child.
DEAN: “What happens in the back of Argos. For some reason, I had this really weird fantasy version of when you go to Argos and you hand in your little slip to get your gift. I always thought that behind it was this miraculous contraption of conveyor belts and gears and shit, but it’s not – it’s some uni students who don’t want to be there picking shit out of boxes and throwing it down a tube. My friend in college worked at Argos – he was the one who told me about it. We were just sat in Art, and he went, ‘Oh, did I tell you, I work at Argos?’, and he just told me. It was rubbish.”
What’s your favourite kind of cheese?
DEAN: “I can’t eat cheese, I’m lactose-intolerant. But if I could, it would be all of it.”
What was your favourite kind of cheese before you found out you were lactose-intolerant?
DEAN: “Mozzarella. I was always big on pizzas and stuff. That’s how I found out, pretty much – I found out the hard way.”
If Woolworths came back, what would you buy?
DEAN: “I’d buy Bionicles, because that’s where I used to buy them. They used to sell them for six quid – it was a fucking bargain – and now they’re all crazy expensive. But yeah, embarrassingly, I was into Bionicle for a little bit longer than I should have been. Got all three movies. So I’d go back and buy Bionicles, because I’m a nostalgic person.”
Do you not own them anymore?
DEAN: “I think I do. I think they’re in an attic somewhere, in a big box, covered in spiders and shit. I don’t want to see my childhood heroes covered in spiders.”
Lego action figures were your “childhood heroes”?!
DEAN: “A little bit! This is just a serious answer, but they built, like, a world around those toys. In the canister there was a little disc, and you put that in, and it had a code, and I’d be trying to figure out this four-digit code. On the little tube it came in, there was a weird little mark with a snowflake next to it, and I went, ‘If I put this in the freezer, is something going to happen?’ And it did – all of a sudden, the code came up, and I went, ‘No. No! No way!’ And I did it, and it played this cutscene, and I just went, ‘I feel like I’ve found a secret world or some shit’. Anyway, I found out what my initials spell, because I had to put in my initials for a game that was on there – it was ‘Dean Anthony Dobbs’, which obviously spells ‘dad’, and my dad’s name is Anthony. It took me too long to figure that out.”
Did he do that on purpose?
DEAN: “Yes, he did. He was like, ‘This will be amazing’. Every time I see him, he’s like, ‘I saw an opportunity!’ I was like, ‘Did you do that on purpose?’, and he was like, ‘Are you serious? You didn’t clock that yet?’ [pause] So there’s my story about my initials and Bionicle. It’s been a lot, today.”