» 1st Aust Tour
THE GOODIES STILL RULE OK - 1ST AUSTRALIAN TOUR
(with Tim, Graeme and Bill in person)
MELBOURNE - 8TH MARCH 2005
(by Brett Allender, with contributions from Kristen Allender and Lisa Manekofsky)
(From C&G Tour - March 2005)
As I took my seat inside the elegant surroundings of Hamer Hall, I couldn't help but marvel at the expectant buzz among the capacity 2600-strong audience. Although many of those present, particularly GROK fan club members, still had wonderful memories of Tim Brooke-Taylor's visit to Melbourne for Kitten Kon five years ago, this was something even more special - the opportunity to see all three Goodies in person and Still A-live on stage. The level of excitement and anticipation among those present - many proudly wearing their Goodies t-shirts - was really something incredible to be a part of.
The buzz kept building while everyone was getting seated, thanks to the various Goodies songs piping through the speakers, and it soon grew to an enthusiastic burst of approval and laughter as the Goodies theme song rang out and the title clips were displayed on the screen.
The announcement of the arrival of The Goodies saw the noise level escalate to an almighty roar as the superchaps three entered the picture resplendent in their Ecky Thump flat hats; not aboard the trusty trandem bike, but astride a three-man zimmer frame complete with Goodies flag. Half way across the stage the zimmer frame got up a better burst of speed than Black And White Beauty and the panicking Goodies went careering out of sight. Seconds later there was a loud crash, Ecky Thump hats went flying in all directions and the three Goodies stumbled back onto the stage, with Bill derisively yelling, "How convincing!". A hilarious start which really got the audience into the spirit of things straight away.
Graeme was first to the lectern and kindly told the audience, "You haven't changed a bit.", but as a scornful Bill pointed out, seemingly neither had Graeme, who was still sporting a luxuriant head of wavy hair and those legendary fuzzy chops sideburns. Bill suspected that Graeme had "a koala on his head ... and look at those baby wombats on his cheeks!", to which a peeved Graeme said, "It's perfectly natural. Feel it!" and handed his wig to Bill. To delirious laughter from the audience, Bill took the wig back to his chair and sat it beside a saucer of milk on the floor, (even patting it periodically during the remainder of the evening), while Graeme removed his "wombat" whiskers and forlornly told them "You're orphans now". Classic stuff!
Graeme then told us that The Goodies were an agency who were "willing to do anything, anytime, anywhere" and what they were going to do that evening was to answer questions sent to them by fans; the first one being "Why have you come to Australia?", which he struggled to find a non-aggressive inflection for, before providing the following answer, "Because we were asked ... asked to leave Britain!" in his trademark deadpan delivery, to another burst of laughter from everyone.
According to Graeme, it seemed as though the Goodies had been forgotten by people in Britain for 25 years, but then suddenly the British remembered who the Goodies were and told them to get out! Luckily the Goodies had heard of a little island in the South Seas (possibly named Munga!) where the natives worship Prince Philip, or "Him Bigfella Greek Twit Blong Missy Kwin, as Prince Charles calls him!" They had also heard of a slightly larger island where the natives just might worship The Goodies as if they were gods; a line which drew a rapturous ovation - you've come to the right island, fellas! Graeme also cunningly revealed that the Goodies were here because: "if we're going to do a show like this, and embarrass ourselves, we might as well do it as far away as possible from anyone we know!"
Having been treated to a few minutes of vintage Graeme, it was time for Bill and Tim to be properly introduced; again to the most tremendous clatter of applause (no need for any clap gas here - David Frost would have been most envious!). Tim looked as though he had just walked off the set of the show, resplendent in his Union Jack waistcoat, though seemingly not wearing his shiny shoes, and responded to Bill's command to wear a pair of Union Jack undies by promptly putting them on his head! Bill proudly told us that he was wearing the Australian national costume: a Wallabies t-shirt (over a pot belly), shorts and a baseball cap on backwards. He quipped, "I look like Lleyton Hewitt's Dad!"
The most frequently recurring questions sent in by Goodies fans seemed to be about the trandem and how awkward it was to ride on their various adventures. Tim introduced an excellent video compilation of trandem highlights from the Goodies' first tumble from it in "Beefeaters" through to the abstract mess left at the end of the energetic "Greased Cycling" routine from "Saturday Night Grease", commenting that the bike was always more popular with fans than the Goodies themselves, before Bill provided the definitive answer to the trandem's whereabouts by triumphantly holding aloft a little chunk of compressed scrap metal and grumbling, "And that's just the way we like it! I still hate that bike. Hate it!" to more delighted cheers.
The Goodies' most painful moments while filming the show brought an amusing anecdote from Tim about badly cutting his hand while aboard the trandem when it was suspended from a balloon during the filming of "Kitten Kong". A burly stagehand took one look at the wound and promptly fainted, before Tim tried to explain the circumstances of the injury to the BBC's French nurse, only to be told abruptly to "piss off" when he started jabbering on about a giant kitten in French!
Graeme's injury was very tame by comparison - a wasp that "could have" stung him but he was too busy doing his David Attenborough impersonation at the time to notice! - however Bill had everyone chuckling with his recollection of the Goodies being sandwiched into giant toothpaste tubes and repeatedly banging their heads on the metal caps while bouncing up and down on spacehoppers in the "London to Brighton" episode. He plaintively cursed the fact that the Goodies insisted on doing this stunt themselves despite no-one being able to tell who was inside the costumes, and this brought one of the best lines of the night from Graeme, "The sad part is that Bill still thinks it was Tim and I in the other two tubes!", to which Bill hissed, "Bastards!".
Bill soon had his revenge, however, by replaying the final scenes of "Bunfight At The OK Tea Rooms" which showed Graeme making one of his most spectacular death dives after squirting himself with lethal tomato sauce. Bill gleefully explained that Graeme had taken the precautions of placing foam padding all along his back, only to overdo the gymnastics and make an undignified (and unpadded) landing flat on his face! A slow motion replay confirmed this diagnosis, much to everyone's utter pleasure, except Graeme's of course!
The topic of how the Goodies first got together prompted some strange time travel courtesy of Tim and we were treated to some interesting photos on the screen supposedly of the three baby Goodies together, preparing for their first Vicars & Tarts Party among other things! Tim then recreated how he got to audition Bill and Graeme for the Cambridge Footlights in the early 1960s, with Bill singing a song which was meant to spell out his love for his girlfriend, only to spell out the rather unromantic word, "BLIMPHT" instead.
Graeme's Footlights audition was my own personal highlight of the night, and quite probably the highlight for many other fans too. Stating: "If this goes badly, I'm Eric Idle!" when asked his name by Tim, he brought in a collection of cardboard boxes and staged a "Pets Corner" segment which was a brilliant exhibition of the various "make a ball of fluff look like a real animal" scenes in many of our favourite Goodies episodes. There was the sabre-toothed mongoose which viciously shredded a rubber glove that Graeme had wisely put on his hand before opening its box, and the baby rabbit (Little Bunny?!) which ran up and down his jumper before it was unfortunately squashed in his hand and callously thrown away. The lesser tawny owl was also a cute specimen which wouldn't take its sharp claws out of Graeme's fingers despite several attempts to remove it, so it was subtly despatched with an almighty whack from a wooden mallet! And finally, the release of the vampire bat saw it go for Graeme's throat in a perfect copy of the sequences in "Kitten Kong" and "That Old Black Magic" only for it to be hastily shoved back in the box and kept at bay by Graeme holding a crucifix above it. The master at work, and it was a privilege to be there to see him first hand.
This led into interesting recollections of the Cambridge Circus tour to New Zealand in 1963 and the subsequent production of the much-loved radio comedy series "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again", which featured the three Goodies, John Cleese, Jo Kendall and David Hatch, who, Graeme dryly noted, has recently been knighted for his service to BBC radio by finally leaving it! Other collaborations between one or more Goodies such as "Twice A Fortnight", "At Last The 1948 Show" and the pivotal "Broaden Your Mind" were all discussed in an enjoyable history lesson before the formation of The Goodies was discussed, and in particular, the decision not to call the show "Superchaps Three" or "Narrow Your Mind', but rather something worthy of people who would be saving the world in the spirit of The Avengers or The Protectors. Just as well, I reckon, as a theme song of "Superchaps Three, Superchaps Superchaps Yum Yum" just wouldn't have cut the mustard!
A question regarding Jon Pertwee's guest role in "Wacky Wales" led to Graeme telling us about how Jon strictly managed to keep to the script by putting copies of his lines all over the set and only ad-libbing when Tim purposely stood on the bit of floor that had his next speech written on it. A series of clips featuring prominent female guest stars on The Goodies was also shown, with Graeme commenting about the good guest roles written into the show for women and Tim making a tongue-in-cheek remark that he should have got to play all of those roles himself!
The issue of censorship arose, and with it, the wet blanket of self-appointed moral guardian Mary Whitehouse from the Festival Of Light, or "The Reverend Fred Nile in drag", as Tim charmingly described her. He recalled how embarrassed the Goodies were to receive a letter from her congratulating them on making such a nice clean first series (she obviously wasn't watching her TV on the night that "Playgirl Club" was screened!) and so they tried to upset her by savagely sending her up as Desiree Carthorse in "Gender Education", with the screening of the "How To Make Babies By Doing Dirty Things" sequence from this episode bringing fits of laughter from the audience.
Bill related that there was no response from Mary Whitehouse at the time, however many years later The Goodies were summoned to the BBC Director General's office because Mary had sent a furious telegram of complaint about a scene in "Saturday Night Grease". On came the video screen and we were treated to the sight of Tim getting dressed in his disco gear before strutting down the street and shock, horror ... it was the sight of the large carrot motif on Tim's undies that finally proved too much for Mary's sensibilities. The Goodies couldn't have been more pleased either - redemption at last - though they were rather baffled as to why it was this particular scene that finally made her sufficiently appalled to fire in an official complaint after several further series of the show had passed since they first tried to offend her.
The censorship theme also extended to the re-enactment of some of the choice dialogue that the ABC had seen fit to remove before screening The Goodies at 6pm, with phrases like "I'm knackered" and "barbecued badger balls" seeming pretty tame by today's standards, although "Upside down with a goat" and "After the young maidens of the village have licked off his coating of porridge" would probably still fall foul of the ABC censors. Footage was shown of the shower scene from "Scoutrageous" and the Fairy Puff Detergent ad which had been completely cut from "Beefeaters". They also managed to find a spot for a favourite sketch from Tim and Graeme's classic radio comedy show "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue", with a horrified Graeme efficiently censoring a medley of supposedly bawdy Julie Andrews songs with the help of a loud buzzer to hide the rude words. The best example was a whole series of buzzes, followed by Julie warbling, "...tied up with string. These are a few of my favourite things."
A discussion about animal cruelty on the show, particularly a lady who wrote in complaining about the harsh treatment to an obviously-stuffed Black And White Beauty, was neatly turned around to prove that animals were also cruel to the Goodies, most notably to Tim during the filming of "Kitten Kong". The dog that Bill was walking decided to leave a big heap of barkers eggs on the exact line of the stop frame filming where Tim was being dragged along the ground by the kitten, but rather than mess up several hours of filming, Tim nobly kept sliding on straight through the fresh steaming pile of dog poo. Again, slow motion video replays were used to provide the evidence that Tim genuinely suffered for his art!
The recollection of how t'ancient Lancastrian martial art of Ecky Thump really did turn out to be lethal after all in the mid '70s by causing a man to laugh himself to death while watching the battle scene drew one of the biggest laughs of the night, especially when Graeme mentioned that the man's widow had later written to the Goodies thanking them for making her husband's final moments so happy! The screening of this offending battle scene almost produced another en-masse kicking of the bucket, judging by the shrieks of laughter from the audience, as Bill despatched allcomers with his deadly black pudding.
A question (from me, much to my surprise!) about which medium the Goodies most like to work in led to the response of radio, and a performance of the "Jack The Ripper" sketch from "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again". I felt that this section probably went on a bit too long, but it was still very enjoyable; laced with puns and silly sound effects (cue Bill's hilarious Chinatown sections) and worth it just to hear the reappearance of Lady Constance de Coverlet, whose voice was also used for many of Tim's female roles in The Goodies. Attempts had been made to modernise the script with mentions of Kylie Minogue, and also Lady Constance "having a rump so laden with blubber that Greenpeace would send a boat to protect it!"
The Goodies then asked the audience to nominate their favourite Goodies clip and a mixed vote was eventually coerced into watching the closing chase scene from "The Movies", which seemed to be an appropriately humourous way for the Goodies to conclude the show and leave the stage to a great ovation. However a few seconds later they were back, carefully checking their tour conditions brochure to ensure that they had done everything that they were supposed to do.
A feeble firecracker fulfilled their obligations for an explosion, but then they realised that there had been no musical performances, so after training the audience to provide the backing vocals of "ooh, ooh, ooh!", the Goodies provided a satisfying rendition of the Funky Gibbon before departing the stage to a proper burst of fireworks and another huge ovation and farewell worthy of any rock stars that you care to name.
Upon filing out of Hamer Hall, I overheard literally dozens of conversations between excited Goodies fans and not a single negative word about what they had just been treated to onstage, which was a pretty good testament to the brilliance of the show. Tim, Graeme and Bill also proved that they're not just a class act on stage either by appearing at the stage door after the second show and happily mingling with fans for photos and autographs until close to midnight, which really made the night even more memorable for those who stayed on afterwards.
Highlights for me? As mentioned earlier, Graeme's "Pet's Corner" was just superb, the slow motion replays of Graeme's death dive and Tim's doggy-doo experience were fascinating, and the chance to laugh until I cried at many of my favourite Goodies scenes in the company of more than two thousand fellow fans was a wonderful experience. Another interesting thing was observing the reactions of some of the young kids sitting nearby - the delight on their faces at the visual sequences and contrasting blank looks after some of the verbal material proved that while there are certainly two different levels to The Goodies, it's definitely a show for the whole family to enjoy. The mix of clips from the episodes, anecdotes from behind the scenes, verbal and visual sketches and new linking material was extremely good and well balanced, which was a credit to all concerned with the planning of the event.
And as for a score on my patented Black Pudding Ratings System, well, not even a covert after-hours raid on Peckinpah's Perfect Puddings None Blacker would procure enough black puds for me to give The Goodies Still Alive On Stage a high enough rating. I had previously considered the Kitten Kon video night linkup between Tim, Graeme and Bill in 2000 to be the most memorable 100 minutes of my life, but this magic night in Melbourne was even more brilliant than that.
Here's hoping that "Missy Kwin" gets the distraction of Prince Charles' wedding out of the way and gets on with the really important stuff - giving Tim and Graeme their OBEs to go with the one that Bill has received already. Maybe she could make them an Earl and an OBE ... you know the rest of it! Otherwise we'll happily take up Tim's offer to become our King Tim the First and then he and the other two Goodies can provide us with such royal entertainment more often. Congratulations Tim, Graeme and Bill, and please come back for an encore soon!