» Tim Interview
AN INTERVIEW WITH TIM BROOKE-TAYLOR – PART ONE
(by Kay Dickinson)
(from C&G 73 – January 2002)
On the 24th November 2001, a number of Goodies fans assembled at Nottingham's Bar Oz, not to partake of a few tinnies, or to have a rendition of Rolf Harris's Greatest Hits, or even to check their stock of homing kangaroos for the Christmas parcel post. Not a bit of it. We were there for a Goodie fest, a day of unbridled silliness, when we were determined to watch the Goodies episodes the BBC had so long denied us until it sent us raving mad. As several of us are halfway there already, it wasn't long before the bar manager was phoning the funny farm and measuring us up for straight jackets.
Not only were we there to watch the Superchaps Three, but one of them had also kindly (foolishly?) agreed to indulge our madness by coming along. Tim was in a play called Bedside Manners at the Theatre Royal that week and one of the GROK members, Claire Hobson, had sent me an e-mail saying how great it would be if we could arrange a Goodies screening to coincide with the tour, but thought it unlikely at such short notice. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained – Tim was asked and said "yes"!
And so I came to conduct my first ever interview – talk about in at the deep end! We started off by showing Linda Kay's fabulous Can-Can (if you've not seen it, you can now download it from the club's new site), which Tim was very impressed with, and a short clip from Comic Relief (in the late 80s) where the BBC allowed The Goodies a whole 85 seconds airtime! Wow!
The Can-Can brought back a lot of memories for Tim, but he admitted that some of it he couldn't remember at all, mentioning a clip of him in naval gear (from Lost Island of Munga) that he simply couldn't remember. The memories were mostly happy ones, except for when he'd thought, "oh, it was raining, or oh God it was cold, or Bill was being a real arsehole!"
He went on to talk a little about Bedside Manners and a Christmas Gala Concert he was taking part in, with a full orchestra, back in Nottingham on the 23rd December. He did admit though, that "Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me" might not really work in it!
The day after he was with us, he was heading down to Bristol to record two programmes of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, with Andy Hamilton as his guest. The programme will be in its 30th year next year, although Tim says that the danger of people realising that it's been going that long is that they'll think it's time to remove it – although he agreed with me that it was 'Just A Minute' that really should go, "or at least, its Chairman should!" [Nicholas Parsons, for the uninitiated] The very first episode of ISIHAC has recently been discovered, and Tim says that "it works, mainly because the audience is inherited from I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again and they were fanatical and they carried us through". They did a pilot for it and "Humphrey Lyttelton and I were so appalled by the pilot that he just turned to me and said 'Never again!' and I said 'certainly never again!'" He's looking forward to telling that story next year on the 30th anniversary! It's become a sort of superstition that they still say that after every series, but lately, Humph has started saying it after every show!
Bill Oddie and John Cleese were originally on the panel but Bill has said that it was "agony" and Tim remembers, "Bill actually threw up before the show, and after. I didn't think Bill had a nervous bone in his body!" We then played a clip of ISIHAC, from Bournemouth last year, when Tim, for 'One Song To The Tune Of Another' sang Funky Gibbon to the tune of Hey Jude… if you haven't heard it, let's just say he was much better at singing it to its original tune! In the middle of a lot of cringing and face-pulling, I was told I was being cruel! (sorry, Tim!)
Although the Funky Gibbon is the best remembered Goodies song, Tim pointed out that it was the one before that, The Inbetweenies, which sold more copies because of the B-side, "Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me" which he describes as "absolutely filthy!" and the BBC didn't realise. "The Inbetweenies was quite fun," says Tim, "because we wore this glitter on one side and tweed jackets the other and turned around in the middle of it and that worked on a 'poppy' level" – and their appearance doing that on Crackerjack led to the Top of the Pops appearances, "which was enormous fun". The send-ups The Goodies did of pop stars and their manipulative agents (Superstar) were based on fact – "they are exactly like that, they really are awful". Tim remembers going on Shang-a-lang with the Bay City Rollers – "it still makes me laugh, we were singing 'Wild Thing' sitting on toadstools! – I think they might have been magic mushrooms, come to think of it!"
Unfortunately, they didn't get their fair share of groupies out of the TOTP experience; although Bill claims to have done – "well, Bill would claim that," says Tim, "well, I have to say he did, to a certain extent – but I was very happily married!" – Tim tries (and fails) to look innocent at this point!
They were very much out on their own in the pop industry, as they didn't have agents or a fan club, "we were scared stiff" says Tim, "the minute an official fan club was announced, we were inundated, so we just had to push that to one side so there wasn't that sort of meeting up with people" although he does remember a book signing at Stretford in Manchester where he says "it was frightening, there were just too many people in too small a place, all these people trying to get to the front and bookshelves falling down all over the place and the police had to be called in." Coming out of Shang-a-lang was frightening too – "they attacked the car, not knowing who was in it, so we all went like that [covers head with arms] so they immediately assumed we were the Bay City Rollers so they all climbed, like Graeme climbing over that car [from 'That Old Black Magic' shown in Can-Can], all over it."
We then talked a little about the relationship between The Goodies and Monty Python, "we were all friends working together, and I could have been in Python, in fact I actually had the choice at one stage and I'm glad I didn't in the end, I don't think I'm a good enough writer for Python but we're still good friends and we started together. At Last The 1948 Show is still one of the best things I've ever been in, and that was with John Cleese and Graham Chapman and of course, Marty Feldman." There was never any rivalry between Python and The Goodies, "people tried to, like – putting ourselves on a high level – like the Stones and the Beatles, there's no need to compare. If you're a 15, 16, 17 year old then you do, because you basically want the one your parents don't like, but the show was aimed at the parents. That's pretty much disappeared now but the press keep bringing it up, you see them writing it and realise they were 9 when it was happening so they were taking on this role, of the Pythons being these 'naughty boys' and they weren't naughty at all. Pathetic really!"
The Goodies had some wonderful guest stars and Tim is now a near neighbour of one of them, Michael Barratt, (the Nationwide presenter in Ecky Thump, Rule OK, Scoutrageous and Punky Business/Punkarella) – "The good ones are the ones that don't try to be funny, the danger is that if you get a newscaster on, they try and be funny and of course the best ones do it absolutely straight, like Raymond Baxter (String, Tomorrow's World presenter), he did it brilliantly and the other Baxter, Stanley Baxter (Scottish shopkeeper in Loch Ness Monster) was, I think, one of the great comedians of our time… we did a send up and he had to be a mean Scotsman – that was tough enough for him – but then he had to pronounce 'pounds' as 'poonds' and he kept saying 'nobody actually says 'poonds' in Scotland' so we had to say 'could you just force yourself?' and he did but that's the sign of a really great man I think, to send yourself up wrongly."
Beryl Reid was another great guest star, playing Mrs Desiree Carthorse, "you have to be careful" said Tim, "cos Mary Whitehouse died yesterday, I won't say anything nasty about her. But yes, she did play her brilliantly. I only saw it recently and there's a great moment when Mrs Desiree Carthorse is leaving the room and Bill says, 'What does your husband do?' and she says, 'He keeps his distance!' and she delivers it brilliantly! But she was actually, and I am going to be, not being nasty about her but about what she did, she really caused havoc in television in the 70s and people got so scared and were cutting things when the audience laughed, literally our producer would cut something and I would say 'why are you cutting that?' and he said 'well, the audience laughed' and I'd say, 'what do you mean?' 'well I didn't know what it meant so I thought it was filthy!' and the BBC were genuinely scared of her, and it was a great day when she criticised us and wrote to the Director General…. Yes!!" [punches air!]
"She thought we were a wonderful family show and we were going out at 10.30 at night, but we got our own back." As we had just watched Saturday Night Grease prior to Tim's interview, I reminded him of the scene that Mary Whitehouse had objected to so strongly, the underpants with the carrot motif on the front, "yes, it leaves little to the imagination" [looks slightly embarrassed at this point!]
There were people that Tim, Bill and Graeme admired and would have loved to have had on the show, but would not have been right, "like Peter Cook, who was a god to me, but he just wouldn't have been right, we'd all just have gone [makes noise of adoration] or like Morecambe and Wise – Eric Morecambe became a good friend but it was impossible because he could never have just played a part. Someone who was good, but was actually very bad on the show but we liked him very much, was Roy Kinnear – he was always such a generous performer, he had to give a different performance every time and the camera never knew where he was going but he was just such a great performer – John le Mesurier was another, he was terrific. I was watching the other day, Richard Wattis, he was in all those black and white films, he was in the Mary Whitehouse one again, he was the man who wanted us to be outrageous, he was terrific. We used to ask for these stars and the BBC would say 'no, they can't do it' and then we sussed out eventually to go straight to them – the BBC thought they were too expensive and wouldn't even ask them! And they would have done it for nothing, and virtually did do it for nothing – they just wanted to be on the show, which was great – a bit like I'd die to be on the Simpsons!"
I mentioned that Prince Charles wanted to play himself (Scatty Safari) but that the plug was pulled at the last minute – "He wanted to marry you?" Tim laughs, "Yes, he can dream!!" He continues, "he was happy to do it… it got quite a long way because I coincidentally happened to know his equerry, but probably very wise counsel at the Palace stopped it, but he had an idea for us to make a private Royal Family one, and he had some quite good ideas – one which was, you see the sign that says 'Knighting Ceremony' and you pan over and see all these people coming out with bandages… and his mother coming out with this sword, blood all over it – it never happened but there was this very bizarre moment fairly recently. I was in a pantomime at Windsor and an old friend of mine was a Master [at the school] there and said 'could I bring three or four boys round the back, just to see what it was like' and one of them turned out to be Prince William, and I found myself gushing out and saying 'do you know, I actually played the part of your father's wife!' and he said, 'Oh, typical Dad!' and, 'he's got all the videos and things' – that's what he said but I don't know if he was just being nice or not. So every time he gets knocked and when I see us sending up his ears, I feel slightly guilty now!"
You never know, he could be a secret member of the fan club… (Hello, Sir! Isn't it about time they all got those O.B.E.s?)
Because they usually did most of their own stunts, they sustained quite a few injuries throughout the series. Tim recalls, "The trandem was originally a tandem on the first series, with an extra seat on the back and Bill had nothing to pedal and he'd lean one way as we leaned the other, not on purpose to be fair to him – although he probably did! There was no brake or freewheel - the freewheel was the awful thing, you had to backpedal for the brake so if you were going downhill… one of us ended up in hospital every single day – they weren't major injuries but they were nasty gashes and cuts. There are moments when you get very frightened… I think I was on a baked bean tin, as you are, and I was going down a ramp into the sea (Clown Virus) and you could see people going 'it's not safe, it could roll, it could break his ...' and I said 'just do it, now!' cos I was getting more and more scared. Graeme was a great faller, his falling is fantastic, he just knows how to fall – except that he always has to fall so that it hurts slightly, and there was a moment in Bunfight At The OK Tea-Rooms where he actually, for once, got some jockeys' padding on his back and elbows so that he could do the full fall and he leapt up in the air and if you notice, he comes down on his front!"
Tim recollects that the London To Brighton/Spacehopper episode was awful. "We were on spacehoppers, and we were in toothpaste tubes [promoting 'Sparklypegs Toothpaste'] and you've got this thing where there's a wooden piece and you bounce [mimes wooden head piece hitting head] and as Bill pointed out after about three weeks of this agony 'it doesn't have to be us in there!' We were very stupid!"
Also, in the Lips/Almighty Cod episode, Tim had to spend a lot of time in freezing cold water, "I'd literally completely gone and fortunately there was a nurse there, I was absolutely frozen. It was awful because my wife happened to be there with my two young sons of four and three, and they saw this giant cod and they saw me there – I think they've been twisted ever since!"
AN INTERVIEW WITH TIM BROOKE-TAYLOR – PART TWO
(by Kay Dickinson)
(from C&G 74 - Feb 2002)
Throughout the 9 series that The Goodies ran for, Graeme was always the one who could keep a straight face, no matter what was happening – Bill giggles incessantly and you could often see Tim beginning to go. "The highest praise we could get is that Bill, when he really found something funny would go like that [screws face up] and then suddenly fart! It was one of those things that obviously built up inside him, and phrrrt!! I must find it, because there is one where I'm doing the thing that's actually making him laugh and you can actually hear him out of shot! Now that's a test for anybody, if they can actually find that bit… but we used to think that that was the highest praise, if Bill farts, that's funny! So you can imagine all the West End, 'They were farting in the aisles!'
There were certain scenes throughout the shows, where Bill and Tim couldn't work together - they made one another giggle so much that they had to film at different times. "And the awful thing with giggling is that you've got all the cameramen and lighting men and sound, etc – thousands of pounds every minute and if you get to the end and giggle, you have to go again, and just the very fact that you weren't supposed to, it was, 'Now, please pull yourselves together' made you giggle twice as much. So we had to be led away…"
We then went on to Tim's rather wet, patriotic, cowardly character and he reckons that The Goodies probably stopped just in time, with regard to the image his character had, "The National Front were taking up the Union Jack and my whole idea was that I was this awful member of the establishment, aristocracy, he was a coward – I am a coward, that came easily!" People did, however, tend to think he was his character and sometimes treated him that way, "They go either way and either think that I'm very silly and no worry at all, or I really am that sort of person. I didn't like my character, I have to say, but it was fun playing it. We were all politically left of centre but for the sake of the programme, you have to have right, middle, left and it was a good thing being able to represent everybody."
The Goodies, as well as the visual, cartoon-like sequences, also tackled a lot of topical and political issues such as police brutality and racism. "I think that's why some people who only saw it when they were small assume it's all the running around, which is fine, I like the visual stuff, but that was only a part of it. The cartoons were great, I loved it, and there was one of those silly moments when, as in Roadrunner, when they run over the top of a cliff and they look down and suddenly realise they're suspended in thin air and drop. We did that with Kitten Kong and we got to the stage that we were trying to get back projection and curving wires and it got so complicated in our minds that someone said, 'well it doesn't have to be far off the floor' and Bill said, 'oh, well if it's only six feet off the floor then I don't need anything, I can just do it!' – I know how he got to that, but still, Bill, you're not going to be suspended in mid-air! But we did it! It was a miracle!"
It's a great shame that with the attitude of the BBC in the UK, we have to arrange special showings of The Goodies and can't just switch on the TV and see it all again. "I like the idea of the Police breaking in," says Tim, "This is illegal, the BBC have sent us and you can't be watching this stuff! I blame Jane Root." He has no idea why she is so opposed to the show, "I don't know. Even the people at the BBC are amazed and people that are senior to her at the BBC are amazed." The clip we showed at the beginning of the interview from Comic Relief was 85 seconds long and it seems that the BBC aren't willing to give them more than that, "That was actually edited down, too, it wasn't the full script… and it was 3.30 in the morning!"
"I hate Comic Relief anyway, I like some of it, it's just these smug comedians saying, 'I'm doing this for charity and it's just oh" [puts head in hands]
Bill and Graeme took part in a recent Comic Relief, in an 'Eastenders' spoof – Tim wasn't asked but thinks he was on tour at the time anyway, "but I would have found it quite difficult to know what to do, but because there were some quite good people around, I probably would have done it, and then said 'Oh, look at me, how smug I am!'"
We then went on to the Question and Answer session. I don't know who asked each question, so apologies for lack of namechecks, and the camera stopped with two or three questions to go, so the last few questions are recalled from memory.
The first questioner congratulated Tim on actually looking younger than him! "Well, you're a sweet talker and I love you!" said Tim. He was then asked whether there were any plans for the three Goodies to work together in the future. "There have been one or two ideas put up for radio – calling us 'The Baddies' and doing something rather similar but we've gone wrong. I'd like the three of us to work together, I don't think there probably will be, but given half a chance… I've always said that if the BBC said 'do a special' we'd do it, as old as we are now, because we always did it our actual age, and that would be fun to do, to go back and send ourselves up and do it again so yes, given half a chance. But they won't repeat us, and we're cheap, apparently!" Although, if they were doing a special with the speeded up film, Tim says, "they probably couldn't speed it up fast enough, now!"
Tim was then asked who owned the rights to The Goodies. "Very good question. We own the rights to the name and anything that shoots off from that, and funnily enough, Graeme has just had it that we now own everything on that, but the BBC own the shows, because I do know that a couple of people have actually tried to get the DVD rights – they won't release them. They won't show them, but they're hanging onto them. That's what I'm hoping, is that somebody outside will make them an offer they can't refuse!" "Could there be an independent production?" "That probably would be the answer, but if it's an independent production, it's got to go out somewhere and ideally you want the BBC behind you. Paul Jackson, the Head of Comedy, who's sadly left there now, he did The Young Ones, he put it forward 'we'll do this, we'll do it cheap' and that's when Jane Root said, 'No I don't think so'. So there are enough good people who want it to be done. The danger with me talking about it is that I begin to sound bitter. And I am! But having gone to Australia for the convention last year, it was actually fascinating because I hadn't seen the shows because we didn't have video recorders in the 70s. And so I was able to watch them more dispassionately, and I found to my embarrassment that I was roaring with laughter! I'd forgotten what a variety it was, and there are bits of film that I regret now and I feel that go on a bit too long and you feel you want to edit it – and why not? Why not do the 'Director's cuts' – they say, 'well some of it's politically incorrect' and it probably is now but that's easily cut.
Because of the climate of political correctness, a lot of what the Goodies were trying to portray now comes across as exactly the opposite, "the danger is being too politically correct and there are moments, for example in "Black and White Beauty" – it's so outrageous and it still makes me laugh because it was meant to be outrageous at the time – we've got this black and white horse and I'm the girl who owns it, "Oh he's so black and he's such a beauty, I'll call him… 'Nigger'" and you know that's not anti-anybody, it's just anti the people who will be worried about it. I know it couldn't go out now and it's a shame because that was the joke."
Similarly, Warren Mitchell's character of Alf Garnett in 'Til Death Us Do Part" was outrageously racist to try to provoke the opposite reaction in its audience, but often backfired. Tim says, "I did a character for Braden Beat, which was a very, very right-wing person and I was actually in the pub when they were showing it and I was saying these outrageous things like, 'Oh, he works like a black… erm… a slave… erm, extremely hard' and there were guys going, 'he's talking a lot of sense there' and that's when I stopped doing it because I realised that if you do the extreme and they don't laugh at that, that's quite frightening."
Tim was then asked about the special effects people that worked on The Goodies. "The special effects were like the SAS in the BBC, they could do anything. They'd meet before the filming and spend three days going through the storyboards, and we would come out with a way of doing something which would throw down the gauntlet to them 'Oh, that's pathetic, we can do much better than that!' and they did some absolutely marvellous things". The things that they couldn't do ultimately came down to cost, 'we can do that amazing effect, or we can do those three quite good effects' so you had to barter. The guy who did the sets came to us at the end of every series and said 'I've enjoyed working with you but my marriage is ruined, I'm ruined and I'm never working with you again' – and he was always first up next series. They were very special people who worked very long hours and incredibly creative and that sadly has gone now."
A question was then asked about what Tim, Bill and Graeme had worked on together before The Goodies, and Tim mentioned Cambridge Circus, I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, "and then Graeme and I did a couple of series of a thing called 'Broaden Your Mind' which very much led off from the radio show and Bill came and sang songs and did bits from the radio show, and they asked us to do a third series and basically The Goodies came out from that, so yes, we were working together before the Goodies but it wasn't quite a group. Bill was asked in – and very lucky he was, too! His songs are still terrific, absolutely good fun on all levels." It was Bill's songs that got all the brilliant reviews when Cambridge Circus went to the West End and Broadway, "I get second best and John Cleese gets third, and I remember thinking at the time that John was the best thing, but it's how people perceive what's good."
The next question asked if Tim thought that the Universities now don't produce the same calibre of comedy that they used to. "The danger now is that they're expected to. When I was at University, it was a fun thing that you did but now they go to University to do it. They become mini-professionals and we were so frightened, we could hardly believe we were on stage."
The final question we have on tape asks about the rights to the LWT series. Tim doesn't know, but presumes that LWT have the rights, but as every television company gets taken over by another, he's no idea and they probably don't have the right to show it anymore, "they have to get our agreement to show it, ironically!"
Other questions one that asked if there were any plans to release any more of the Goodies songs onto CD but Tim said that, as far as he knew, there weren't any plans to release them, although there had been plans to release some of the songs from the episodes that hadn't got anywhere yet, and the cover of 'Run' was mentioned.
Another question asked about a sketch in which Tim and Marty Feldman appeared about how much they could buy for a small amount of money in the "old days" and it ended up with Marty saying something along the lines of "You could go to France and back for the day, have a meal on the ferry each way, buy as much wine as you liked – all for a halfpenny and still have change". Tim remembered the sketch and said he was fairly sure it was from "At Last The 1948 Show" and had been written by him and Marty Feldman, with John Cleese and Graham Chapman also starring.
Another question asked if there was likely to be a 40th Anniversary edition of I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, but Tim said that there probably wouldn't be as John isn't very keen on the idea. However, you never know…
Tim was also asked about his favourite Goodies scene, and said that he didn't really have any favourites. He said he remembered there being some episodes, like The Goodies Rule - OK? which he thought had scenes which went on a bit too long but, having seen the episode again more recently, he liked it much more than he'd remembered.
Tim then had to rush off for the matinee of Bedside Manners, but didn't leave without signing all sorts of Goodies and ISIRTA stuff for people and having his photograph taken with everyone. Our thanks go again to him for taking the time and trouble to come along and for such a funny and informative interview, and my personal thanks go to everyone who came along and especially to Claire Hobson for the Boffo Idea of the Year and to Lisa Manekofsky for helping out with equipment and the videotapes.