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(contributed by Lisa Manekofsky - 14th May 2013)
Here's a great interview with Bill Oddie from Time Out Sydney, in which he
talks about his upcoming Australian shows and more.
Bill Oddie: An Oldie but a Goodie
Fri 21 Jun, Chatswood, Comedy
First published on 14 May 2013. Updated on 14 May 2013
The Goodie and wildlife buff invites you to choose your own adventure when
appears Down Under
As the phone rings out in Bill Oddie's house, I find myself sitting on the
other end wondering if the man who picks up will be one of those comedians
who are huffingly terse in real life. And so when he reveals that he'd
turned in for the night an hour earlier, it would be understandable if my
fears were confirmed.
Instead, Oddie apologises profusely that I may have felt unwelcome and pads
off to an opposite corner of the house so that he doesn't wake anybody up.
He proceeds to talk with great aplomb at whatever fanciful question I fling
at him, with the vim of a man at the very peak of his circadian rhythm.
Oddie's legacy with The Goodies - the comedy trio he formed with Tim Brooke
Taylor and Graeme Garden in 1970 - has gone on to influence great British
talent like the Mighty Boosh, the Young Ones and Bill Bailey, as well as
Australia's own Chaser team. (Oddie in turn rates our man Adam Hills.) In
the UK The Goodieswas aired on the BBC in the adults-only zone after 9pm,
yet in Australia they were given a long-running kids' TV slot, with their
surreal humour and slapstick antics appealing to the younger audience.
"We never thought of it as a children's programme," Oddie says. "We got
hauled into the BBC office more than once for being subversive. Some critics
said, it's not childish, but childlike - in the same way you could say South
Park or Beavis and Butthead or The Simpsons are childlike. but if you listen
to what's going on they ain't."
It was in Australia that The Goodies had something of a comeback, being
invited out to Sydney's Big Laugh Comedy Festival in 2005 and reforming for
a nationwide tour.
"It started off as an invitation to just be there as some strange act of
nostalgia, and became a 'my god, they're still alive!'," reflects Oddie. "It
was just nice to be wanted. The Australian audience is so much more
affectionate because the show was aired at a time that was really seminal in
people's lives, whereas in the UK I don't think it stuck in people minds in
quite the same way because the people who were originally into it can barely
remember it anymore."
Oddie originally met Brooke-Taylor and Garden through Cambridge University's
Footlights Dramatic Club. British universities have traditionally been a
breeding ground for comedic talent, but none more so than the Oxbridge pair.
"It was almost why you went there in the first place," he says. "It wasn't
quite as calculated as that, but I must admit it didn't take long to get
involved in my case and I think both Tim and Graeme and some of the [Monty]
Pythons who were there realised it was almost a less embarrassing version of
"Really the history goes back even further than one realises. Most people
think of Peter Cook and um Jonathan Miller and Toby Moore and Alan Bennett
who came out of Oxford and Cambridge, but in fact Cambridge in particular
had a reputation going right back to the thirties and forties. It was this
rather more polite kind of comedy, with songs about bumping up and down on
the river on balmy days with a straw boater and a lovely girl and all that
sort of thing."
The 1960s proved to be a most fortuitous time for Oddie and his comedy
peers. They were able to ride a wave from stage, to radio, to TV at a period
when the mediums garnered a lot of excitement.
"We were very lucky, because it was a natural progression," he agrees,
"although there is a final step that we never got to do - which was to get a
movie. But it doesn't necessarily mean that you enjoy television more than
any of the other things. In many ways radio shows are the most fun to do.
and the biggest buzzes are inevitably from doing the live shows. But look at
it this way - if you're not on the telly, by and large 90 percent of people
won't have clue who you are. And even if you have been on the telly for a
long time... I haven't really done any major television for a couple of
years due to health reasons and various other things, and it's amazing -
amazing is probably not the word; let's say sad, tragic - how quickly you
get people coming up to you and saying, 'Oh god, are you still alive?'"
As a form of profile maintenance, Oddie pops up on many British game shows
and panel shows, although only the sort you would actually admit to
watching. "There are several that I won't do, the main one being I'm a
Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, which I think is filmed in the gardens of a
hotel in Queensland. I mean, I've turned that down three times now. And
also, do you get that bloody ballroom dancing show, Strictly Come Dancing?
I've declined that more than three times as well. I'm not just being prissy
about it - I actually cannot think of a single type of entertainment, or
whatever ballroom is called, that I hate more. I absolutely loathe it and
always have, so I'd just be really bad and grumpy and get thrown out or hurt
myself very badly."
But on to the matter at hand, the Sydney show. Oddie is keen to have
guidance - via his Twitter - on what the audience would like to see and
"I haven't done anything quite like this," he admits. "I did that one tour
in Australia with Tim and Graeme, but then they came back twice without me
and also toured in Britain, and I didn't do those - not because I wasn't
interested but because I was busy doing wildlife programmes. That was my
main job and I was often away in another country. So most of the live shows
that I've done over the past few years have involved doing wildlife things;
I used to have a very strenuous one-man show with slides and audience
participation and impersonations of the breeding dances of birds, which
frankly would probably kill me if I tried to do it now because it really was
"I'd quite like to get some feedback about what people would like to know
about, because we did live through some scandalous times and I might be able
to come out with revelations that have never been made before. I'm working
on something that isn't just Goodies nostalgia. I was thinking today about
how people are always asking how much are the characters based on ourselves
and how much of ourselves is in the themes that we did... and I thought that
would be interesting because we always give a glib answer. Instead I thought
I'd look at the programmes and figure out where we used our own expertise or
obsessions and incorporated them."
WANT MORE? Here's Bill on.
...his secret hobbies
"Even though people probably don't go home musing on the lyrics of 'Funky
Gibbon', people might be surprised to know how much I know about music. Life
simply wouldn't exist without it. I've had a lot of Australian connections,
as most of the bands and the musical director I worked with around the
Goodies' Antipodean tour are from there or New Zealand. You might expect
people of my age to have mellowed into easy listening, but that's not the
case. [It's worth mentioning here that the White Stripes named their
albumIcky Thump in honour of The Goodies episode, 'Kung Fu Kapers'.] Most
recently I've been listening to the Waifs and Kasey Chambers."
...admiring the fauna of Australia
Oddie has always combined his musical talents with his comedy, but he
insists that if the comedy career hadn't taken off he'd have more likely
been an ornithologist than a rock star. "I'd actually booked myself up to be
the resident ornithologist on some cruise to Russia," he says. "I never got
to do it, unfortunately, as other things came along, but I wanted to be
With his programmes devoted to wildlife outnumbering his programmes devoted
to comedy, it's unsurprising that a visit to Australia usually means
factoring in some sightseeing of the fauna. "I did one trip way back in
1980, roughly speaking, and I said to a publisher who had an Australian
branch, 'Hey, instead of paying me an advance, is there any chance of
sending me to Australia so I can go birdwatching?' It was quite a memorable
trip really because I had a fairly long-haired hippy look so I got searched
at very single airport I went to. Especially when I got up to Queensland, it
was very much, 'What are you doing here? We don't like your type around
"I got in a lot of trouble. It was entirely unjustified, I might say - my
look was purely a style. But I did get to go out to the Barrier Reef and the
rainforests, and then later on I went over to spread the word of bird
watching for the Australasian Ornithology Student Organisation. In two and a
half weeks I didn't discover a single radio interviewer who could pronounce
that, so it changed to the Bird Society or something."
...writing his autobiography, One Flew into the Cuckoo's Egg
"I found it very easy to be absolutely honest, but there was an irony to
it, which is I wrote it incredibly quickly - it was about five years ago -
over a couple of months, and looking back I think it was actually the result
of a manic side of a bipolar nature, which at that point hadn't been
diagnosed correctly. I'd been having some shocking depression on and off
over the last 10 years. I understood the depression, but the manic thing is
very complicated. A lot of the time it is very productive - and so I dashed
the book off with a lot of enthusiasm. But I look back at it now and think,
bloody hell, you must have been on something. I have no objection at all to
talking about it and if somebody wants to bring the mood down and ask, 'How
easy is it to avoid committing suicide?' I'm quite happy to answer - because
it might help somebody.
"I've had a lot of organisations approach me to talk on the matter. MIND is
one of the obvious mental health ones. I've had the dubious pleasure of
talking to about 300 GPs in Birmingham, Manchester and London, which was
quite a revelation as to how many GPs still don't really take it seriously.
I very much try to be as available as I can for that area of things. My only
misgivings are that there are so few definitive answers, so I am conscious
that when somebody asks a question - they might say, 'Is it true that it
will help me if I did this?' - I can't answer definitively. For example, I
spend a lot of time in the countryside with nature, but whereas I know that
helps me, it might not be the answer somebody else wants, because even
though we may have roughly the same illness, or condition, or whatever it
is, it doesn't mean that the treatment should be the same, because you don't
lose your individuality."
Bill Oddie: An Oldie but a Goodie details
409 Victoria Ave
Telephone 02 9020 6968
Price from $55.00 to $106.40
Date Fri 21 Jun, Open 8pm
Bill Oddie: An Oldie but a Goodie website: http://www.billoddietour.com.au/
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