» Tim Q&A Interview C...
THE TIM BROOKE-TAYLOR INTERVIEW
(from C&G #23 October 1997)
As you probably know, Tim Brooke-Taylor contacted the club by e-mail last month and has kindly allowed us to bombard him with any questions we have. And since you sent us so many questions for him to answer, we will be publishing his answers to your questions over the next couple of months. Here's the first lot:
WHO OR WHAT WERE YOUR EARLY FILM, RADIO AND TV INFLUENCES? AND WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE COMEDIANS?
I'll take "influences" as referring to comedy. My love for Grace Kelly is and was a personal thing and has nothing to do with anyone but me and my probation officer.
As a little person I loved all cartoons, especially Bugs Bunny. Still do. Buster Keaton was big visual influence, subtle and funny. Not so Charlie Chaplin. Jaques Tati's 'Monsieur Hulot's Holiday' was for years my favourite film.
Radio comedy was important, from 'Much Binding In The Marsh', via 'Take It From Here', to 'Round the Horne'. I "quite liked" the Goons, but only quite.
But my biggest hero by far was Peter Cook. Quite simply, for me, the funniest and most creative person that has ever lived.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE DELETING OF EPISODES OF THE GOODIES AND AT LAST THE 1948 SHOW AND THE WHOLE SERIES OF BROADEN YOUR MIND?
Very sad about the 1948 Show as the only copies I have seen are some sort of tele-cine which makes it look as if it was made in the silent film era.
There was an accountant at the BBC who thought that by taping over programmes he would save money. By this time the tapes were only 50 pounds. We were always having arguments with him about budgets. Somebody has to
keep an eye on the books but he was a prat. I didn't know that any of the Goodies had been wiped. Which were they?*
I'd love to see Broaden Your Mind again. At least I think I would.
I've just remembered another comic influence. Alan Bennett whose brilliant series 'On The Margin" was also wiped.
(* The episodes of The Goodies which were deleted by the BBC are 1.4 'Caught In The Act', 2.2 'The Commonwealth Games', 2.7 'Kitten Kong' [original version] and 2.8 'Wicked Waltzing'. Black and white copies of 1.4, 2.2 and 2.8 have since been found in Australia and were returned to the BBC. 2.2 and 2.8 have since been broadcast on cable TV in Australia and the UK. 1.4 has not been broadcast since the early 70s - Ed.)
DID YOU KEEP COPIES OF YOUR WORK IN SHOWS LIKE AT LAST THE 1948 SHOW AND BROADEN YOUR MIND?
Sadly there were no personal video recorders then. I do now have some aforementioned 1948 shows, but the quality is appalling.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE GOODIES EPISODE (OR EPISODES)?
This keeps changing. But at the moment it's The End and Ecky Thump. But I saw String the other day, which made me laugh, as did Scoutrageous. You must remember I am not sad enough to watch them very often and some of them I have not seen since they originally went out. I've only just (in the last 12 months) got copies.
At the time I was very proud of Kitten Kong and The Beanstalk. And I have soft spots for Pirate Radio (a walk in the Black Forest). I'd love to re-edit some shows now. Some of the speeded up sequences go on a bit I think. And I am not proud of some of my haircuts.
DID YOU EVER GET ANY FEEDBACK FROM THE GOODIES' CHIEF TARGETS LIKE ROLF HARRIS, MAX BYGRAVES, DAVID FROST, NICHOLAS PARSONS AND THE OSMONDS? WHAT DID THEY THINK ABOUT BEING LAMPOONED ON THE SHOW? OBVIOUSLY OTHER ONES LIKE TONY BLACKBURN AND EDDIE WARING MUST HAVE ENJOYED IT, AS THEY ACTUALLY APPEARED IN EPISODES.
Rolf Harris lives near me and we meet occasionally at fairly large gatherings. We talked about it years ago. He wasn't a very happy bunny. Nicholas Parsons I know very well and I honestly don't think it occurs to him that we were being rude. But we certainly were. He is like a BBC accountant. See above.
David Frost gave me my first break. He backed At Last The 1948 Show. John Cleese and I were editors (smart word for researchers ) of his live chat show in the mid sixties. They were brilliant. But it gave me an ulcer. We made fun of his self importance but we liked him. Still do. The Osmonds would probably not have known and everyone attacked Max Bygraves, quite rightly.
MARY WHITEHOUSE CRITICIZED THE UNDERPANTS, WITH THE CARROT MOTIF, WHICH YOU WORE IN 'SATURDAY NIGHT GREASE'. BUT WHAT DID SHE THINK ABOUT THE EPISODE 'SEX AND VIOLENCE' WHICH SATIRIZED HER CLEAN UP TV CAMPAIGN?
The most painful moments of our lives was when, at the party at the end of the first series, our producer stood up and read out a telegram from Mary Whitehouse congratulating us on making a good, clean show, or words to that effect. We were deeply ashamed and never made the same mistake again. She was a very bad influence on British TV and I certainly hope the episode upset her.
THE BBC ORIGINALLY DIDN'T WANT TO MAKE THE PUNK EPISODE, BUT THEY AGREED TO
A RE-WRITTEN VERSION. WHAT CUTS WERE MADE TO MAKE IT ACCEPTABLE?
I don't remember this being so. I'll ask Bill and Graeme, they might remember.
We were censored on our South Africa show. Believe it or not they thought we were too tough on the South African police! My character was beaten up for being anti apart height (standing up for short people e.g. Bill). They said the audience would not like to see me beaten up. We had recorded the show and the audience were screaming with laughter. They said it was nothing to do with politics. So we rewrote it and made it more of an attack on the pro apartheid SA government. This went out.
IN THE 1980S THE AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION BROADCAST REPEATS OF THE GOODIES IN THE CHILDREN'S HOURS. FOR THIS THEY DELETED SUCH THINGS AS BILL SAYING "BLOODY", THE DODO'S FARTS IN DODONUTS AND ANY SEQUENCE REMOTELY INVOLVING THE DISCUSSION OF SEX. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF THIS SORT OF THING? AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE GOODIES BEING EDITED DOWN TO 22 MINUTE SHOWS FOR BROADCAST ON AUSTRALIAN COMMERCIAL TELEVISION?
I think you can imagine my reaction to this, especially cutting shows down to fit a slot. It's not Shakespeare, but the shows were carefully constructed. When I went to Australia to promote the Goodies, in 1976, I said that 6 o'clock was too early for the show because a lot of kids would not understand it. We're having the same problem here with The Simpsons which is being put out too early as a kid's show.
I went on the Norman Gunston show and managed to protect myself, until I got to the bit when I said 6 o'clock was too early, as only kids would watch it. Gunston turned to his personal camera and said "He hates kids". Which was brilliant and made me laugh.
The BBC made me re dub a bloody to ruddy, and the whole point of my saying bloody in the first place was because Bill and Graeme had never heard me say anything so naughty. Oh dear. The best time in England for us, was when it went out at 9 o'clock. Kids (I hate the word kids, but it's a useful short cut) could then 'stay up to watch'. Kids enjoyed it on one level and adults on two, that was our theory.
Having said all that I'm grateful to Australian TV for putting it out at all. At least it's more than here.
IF YOU WERE STILL DOING THE GOODIES TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO A SHOW ABOUT?
That's a very good question and deserves a good answer in time. Off the top of my head I think joining up with Europe would be a useful topic. And I dare say there'd be the Spice Boys. Boys!
HOW DID THE SERIES 'ASSAULTED NUTS' EVER GET OFF THE GROUND? WAS IT
DIFFICULT DOING A UK/US CO-PRODUCTION WITH TWO VERY DIFFERENT STYLES OF
It was an American cable company who set it up at HBO. It was difficult as everything had to fit American taste and knowledge And the fact that we had no audience, which is vital for me. It could have been very good. I did a lot of sketches by David Renwick and Andrew Marshall (Who wrote 'One Foot In The Grave' and '2.4 Children'), but they always seemed to be edited out. I couldn't do the second series and was replaced by Emma Thompson (natch), but that series was never shown in England. We got on very well with the American performers though. One of them incidentally was the interrogator of Sharon Stone in the 'Is she wearing them or not' . The name of the film escapes me.
I replaced Olivia Newton-John in a Cliff Richard 'made for TV' film. So everything is equal. And does this explain why I play the women's parts? No.
DO YOU HAVE ANY WARNING ABOUT WHAT THE ROUND WILL BE ON 'I'M SORRY I HAVEN'T A CLUE?', AS IT ALWAYS SEEMS THAT YOU ARE BEING VERY FUNNY ON THE SPOT?
A little on some rounds, but not enough. A little warning for the late Arrivals for example.
HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THAT PROGRAMMES LIKE 'WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?' HAVE BEEN INFLUENCED BY 'I'M SORRY I HAVEN'T A CLUE?'
I refuse to be bitter.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN MORNINGTON CRESCENT TO US? OR IS IT A CLOSELY GUARDED SECRET?
Oh come on, everyone knows the original rules. Didn't you play it at Christmas when you were little. Have you seen the Mornington Crescent web pages?
DO YOU REMEMBER APPEARING ON KENNY EVERETT'S 'WHAT DO YOU GOO' SEGMENT?
Certainly, the goo was disgusting.
IS THERE ANY CHANCE OF A REUNION SPECIAL, SERIES OR FILM?
We would love to do one if offered. Probably just a one-off Christmas special.
* Bonus Question for English Football Fans *
ARE YOU STILL A BIG DERBY COUNTY FAN AND IF SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THEIR NEW STADIUM AND WERE YOU SORRY TO SEE THE END OF THE BASEBALL GROUND?
Of course. The Rams are simply the best. Actually they are pretty damn useful at the moment. And I bought a Derby County Lavatory lid a few weeks ago and it is splendid. I'm thinking of having the bowl painted red - Forest's colours.
I was at the opening of Pride Park by the Queen. It's wonderful.
I do miss the Baseball Ground and wish we could have retained the name at least. But this is all pure sentiment. The new ground is a fabulous leap forward. Up the Rams.
THE TIM BROOKE-TAYLOR INTERVIEW
(from C&G #24 .. November 1997)
More fascinating answers to your questions from the man who Vic and Bob described as "so preposterously handsome that he is often forced to hang olives on his pecker to fend off his armies of lustful female admirers".
WHAT WAS IT LIKE AS A YOUNG MAN TO SUDDENLY FIND YOURSELF PLAYING THE WEST END AND BROADWAY (AND NEW ZEALAND) IN CAMBRIDGE CIRCUS?
Terrific fun. You've got to bear in mind that Cambridge Circus (originally called A Clump of Plinths) was just an end of the year student revue. OK the Footlights had a sort of reputation then, but the most we were going to do was tour in a few minor venues and then at the York and Edinburgh festivals. After that we were going to get proper jobs. Then someone said I'll put you on in the West End in a tiny theatre for three weeks. It was well received by the press and an album was produced. The producer of the album brought out two albums within a week. One of the biggest selling albums ever and one of the lowest. He was George Martin and his 'With the Beatles' was the bigger seller I believe. Then we were moved to a bigger theatre, then New Zealand then Broadway. The point is we felt it was something that wasn't real, and a wonderful extension of our student days. Now, in many ways, it would be more nerve wracking. We were just very lucky, very talented and extremely modest…!
AT WHICH POINT OF YOUR CAREER DID YOU DECIDE TO ABANDON THE LAW FOR GOOD?
Towards the end of my time at Cambridge. I liked law and all my family were lawyers, my brother, my father etc, and most of them were frustrated actors. I got a job with an advertising agency, but before I could do that we did Cambridge Circus and during this run I was offered a job as researcher at a TV company. By then my law was only very useful for contracts (still is).
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO LOCATE THE GOODIES' OFFICE IN CRICKLEWOOD?
Graeme and I lived in Cricklewood and Bill was not far away in posh Hampstead. However when I eventually sold my house it was advertised as Hampstead Environs (i.e. Cricklewood).
HOW SIMILAR ARE YOU TO YOUR GOODIES CHARACTER?
I like to think not a lot. But there are some similarities. The name for a start. I am patriotic and sometimes a coward. But I wouldn't have been seen dead in a suit at the time, nor even a tie. We were all pretty anti-establishment then, and the establishment was ripe for satire. It's not quite so easy now.
WHAT SORT OF THINGS DID THE GOODIES DO IN THE SEGMENTS RECORDED FOR ENGELBERT AND THE YOUNG GENERATION?
They were five minute pieces on film. Some were parodies. e.g. WE were Pan's Grannies'. The regular, all girl, 'coo er' dancers on Top of the Pops were called Pan's People and we did a Granny version. We did a collection of these items which I cobbled together as a one-off called a Collection of Goodies. It might have been a Selection of.
IN THE ECKY THUMP EPISODE THERE IS A MARVELLOUS LINE WHERE THE GRAND MASTER SAYS "THERE'S NOUGHT WRONG WITHOUT WHEN MARVIN CLUTTERBUCKS DON'T BARLEY GRUMMIT". WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DOES THIS MEAN? AND WHAT ABOUT "HOOTS TOOTS OCH AYE THE NOO" IN THE LOCH NESS EPISODE?
These mean nothing, but somehow they ought to. Perhaps they will.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE PERFORMING FUNKY GIBBON ON TOP OF THE POPS?
You must remember we were in our mid thirties and although that seems very young now we did feel very old. Almost as old as Mick Jagger seems now. Come to think of it no one could be that old. But if I'm honest I loved it. The records were a bonus and it allowed us to be pop stars for a little while. Something surely everyone has the odd daydream about.
DID YOU TAKE ANY SINGING OR DANCING LESSONS IN PREPARATION FOR RECORDING THE GOODIES RECORDS AND FOR PERFORMING THE SONGS IN THE GOODIES - ALMOST LIVE?
We didn't have any singing lessons, and we choreographed ourselves to start with. Later we were given help by Flick Hough the choreographer of the aforementioned Pan's People. But it's very kind of you to think that we might have had singing lessons. Or was that just a wish?
DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ON THE TONE OF BILL'S LINER NOTES ACCOMPANYING THE GOODIES CD?
That is such a good question. My first reaction was -'What?' Then - 'is this what happened?' Then 'bloody hell what's he on about?' I listened to the CD and was pleasantly surprised and still very proud of my version of Cricklewood, which I multi tracked, and there's quite a lot of Graeme and myself on all the tracks. Bill was a little sheepish when I mentioned it to him. Graeme's answer was 'I don't think Bill realises that irony doesn't work in print'. I'd go along with that. But Bill must take credit for the music. It would just be better if Graeme and I said it. A little bit of controversy, not bad.
WHY DID THE GOODIES GO TO LONDON WEEKEND TELEVISION IN 1981?
Bill and Graeme were going through divorces and LWT offered more money which they needed. At least that's my version. I was out voted, I wanted to stay with the BBC. The ultimate reason that I finally agreed was that the BBC kept postponing a new series. It was a mistake.
DID ANYTHING DANGEROUS EVER HAPPEN DURING THE FILMING OR REHEARSAL OF THE GOODIES?
All the time. The first series of filming we spent a great deal of time in various Hospitals' casualty departments. Never, ever ride a trandem. Fortunately nothing finally was life threatening. We also grew up a bit and realised that our pain wasn't actually funny, so try and do it without hurting.
DO YOU EVER LOOK BACK ON ANY OF THE GOODIES EPISODES AND REALLY CRINGE AND WISH YOU'D NEVER DONE SOME OF THAT STUFF?
Yes. But if we hadn't taken risks then we would never done some of the things that I'm proud of. There are some bits that just didn't translate from paper to screen. I saw a bit the other day where there was a cross between the Olympic Games and It's a Knockout and I was appalled.
HOW DID YOUR WORK WITH ORSON WELLES IN THE EARLY 70S COME ABOUT?
Graeme and I, before the Goodies, did a couple of series of a thing called 'Broaden Your Mind'. We nervously watched the first of the second series go out (I was always a nervous performer, still am). When the show ended the phone went and I said 'That'll be Hollywood'. Graeme answered it and started saying things like that's very kind. Of course we'd be delighted. 10 o'clock tomorrow then'. He put down the phone and said 'that was Orson Welles'. I said something along the lines of 'Of course it was and I'm the Pope's wife'. But it was Orson Welles who had seen some of the first series and got Graeme's number from his agent and wanted us to do some writing and performing with him for a TV special called Orson's Bag. Coincidentally I did a film in Italy with him later called 12+1, where he and I re wrote our bits together and I directed him. It was a very star studded and sadly not very good film. I played a gay character that I imagine will seem highly politically incorrect now (quite rightly), that a I shudder to think what it was like. But I directed Orson Welles AND sang on Top of the Pops. (see above)
IN A RECENT SERIES OF I'M SORRY I HAVEN'T A CLUE YOU SUNG A STUNNING VERSION OF BABYBIRD'S "YOU'RE GORGEOUS". ARE YOU PLANNING TO RELEASE THIS AS A SINGLE?
You smooth talking bastard. Even if you're taking the mick, I like it. In the latest series not yet transmitted, we recorded the first two programmes last week, the next two are in Newcastle next week, you should hear my Mr Boombastic. Fantastic.
HAVE YOU EVER DISCUSSED THE POSSIBILITY OF DOING A TV VERSION OF I'M SORRY I HAVEN'T A CLUE?
Yes and we did a pilot programme which we thought was pretty good. We're still a bit surprised there hasn't been one.