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THE GOODIES STILL ALIVE ON STAGE – THE SECOND INNINGS
(Tim and Graeme in person, plus Bill via pre-recorded video)
MELBOURNE (4TH NOV 2005) & ALBURY (23RD NOV 2005)
(by Brett Allender, with contributions from Kristen Allender, who attended Melbourne)
(from C&G Second Tour - December 2005)
I was lucky enough to get to see two Goodies performances this time around - and in two completely different venues and cities which greatly added to the overall experience. Firstly it was back to the vast surrounds of Hamer Hall in bustling metropolitan Melbourne for an encore of the unforgettable show from eight months earlier, and the buzz of almost 3000 excited Goodies fans. Then a few short weeks later it was over to the more easy-paced provincial city environment of Albury and its far more compact and intimate Performing Arts Centre theatre, where 800 keen fans not only bubbled with enthusiasm, but also appreciation at being able to see a show of this calibre without having to make the long drive up or down the Hume Highway to one of the capital cities as is usually the case.
This is in some ways a shameless reworking of my original review from the Melbourne show of the March tour, as many of the memorable moments from the first tour were recreated in near-identical format or subtly revised this time around. However I'll certainly attempt to highlight the main differences between the shows of the first and second tours for those fans who only saw the initial version, and also cover a few of the slight changes of content between the Albury and Melbourne shows on the latest tour.
The sense of anticipation among the audience started to build up steadily as the theatres filled and the starting time grew closer. This was helped by various Goodies songs being piped through the speakers, though both venues were playing the songs so quietly that it was difficult to pick up many of the lyrics - maybe Mrs Carthorse had lodged a complaint after the first tour about excessive noise levels! Her gripe would have been in vain anyway, as the noise factor 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 Tim, Graeme and a stuffed dummy of Bill 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 (moreso at Albury) and Tim and Graeme stumbled back onto the stage, with Graeme less-than-convincingly moaning, "Ow, that hurt!". A hilarious start which really warmed the audience up and got them 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 Tim pointed out, seemingly neither had Graeme, who was still sporting a luxuriant head of wavy hair and those legendary fuzzy chops sideburns. Tim suspected that Graeme had "a koala on his head ... and look at those baby wombats on his cheeks!", and for the Albury audience, a topical reference to Graeme having a big (Bogong) moth on his head! A peeved Graeme barked, "It's perfectly natural. Feel it!" and handed his wig to Tim, with instructions to "Be careful with it. It has to be back on Bert Newton's head by dawn!", which brought delirious laughter from the audience. Tim carted the wig back to his chair, while Graeme removed his "wombat" whiskers and forlornly told them "You're orphans now. Oh well, it's back to the pits with you!". Classic stuff indeed!
Graeme then provided a proper introduction for Tim (again to the most tremendous clatter of applause - no need for any clap gas here; David Frost would have been most envious!) as the man with the Union Jack waistcoat, shiny shoes and various other nice and virtuous attributes, only for Tim to sit in Bill's scruffy sunflower and peace symbol-clad chair instead of his own neat, noble Union Jack-clad one. Upon Graeme pointing out his mistake, Tim leapt to his feet in horror and disgust, gave everything a mighty blast of disinfectant and responded to Graeme's command to wear a pair of Union Jack undies by promptly putting them on his head!
Following these antics, Graeme then dedicated the show to Bill, telling us that Bill was "still alive, but not here". The reasons given for Bill's absence differed at Melbourne and Albury, but choice lines included: "It's not the season for him to migrate south", "He was nominated by his fellow Goodies and voted out by the public", "We decided to Kill Bill 3 and leave him at home" and plain old "We didn't want him out here with us!" The overriding sentiment was that they had decided that the best way to improve the show from first time around was to get rid of Bill, so they did!
All the while during this insult-fest, photos of Bill in a myriad of silly poses and facial expressions were being beamed onto a large screen mounted in the centre of the back of the stage. To everyone's surprise and delight, an on-screen image of Bill in a loud Hawaiian-style shirt suddenly came to life and he stared down at Tim and Graeme, demanding to know where they were. Tim tried to tell him that they were in Austria, but Bill deduced from the cackling of the audience that they were really in Australia again. He was extremely miffed by this, as he thought that they'd gone on one last grand glorious Goodies tour of Antarctica, and he hadn't joined them because he couldn't stand the cold, preferring to remain in balmy England instead! His indignant ranting was rapidly silenced by Tim zapping him off the screen with a remote control, while smirking "I knew that this would come in handy!"
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?". He firstly struggled to find a non-aggressive inflection for it, with "Why have YOU come to Australia?!" being one of several Pirate Post Office-like efforts, before finally getting it right and 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 Camilla 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 several minutes of vintage Graeme, it was Tim's turn to shine. Looking as though he had just walked off the set of the show, resplendent in his Union Jack waistcoat and shiny shoes, he dealt with the most frequently recurring questions sent in by Goodies fans: where was the trandem and how awkward was it 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. Graeme then 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!" 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 inside his bush jacket that "could have" stung him but he was too busy doing his David Attenborough impersonation at the time to notice! Tim also chimed in with the comment that Graeme would be watching a family of Oddies rather than Bellamys nowadays. Bill reappeared on the big screen at this point and 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, with his colourful description of the ambiguous anatomy of spacehoppers also drawing plenty of laughter. 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!"
Bill had turned away from the audience at that stage, but wheeled around, glared and hissed "Bastards!" at Tim and Graeme. He soon had his revenge, however, by replaying the final scenes of "Bunfight At The OK Tea Rooms" which showed Graeme taking one of his most spectacular tumbles 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! Tim then added to Graeme's misery by saying that while he was laying on the ground at the Bunfight waiting for Graeme to snuff it, "a wasp, three bees and a spider crawled up my leg, but I didn't think that it was worth mentioning!"
The topic of how the Goodies first got together saw us 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 told how they met again as part of the Cambridge University Light Entertainment Society, or CULES, leaving him very grateful that they hadn't joined the university's National Trust Society instead!! At Cambridge, he got to don his prized smoking jacket and audition Bill and Graeme for the Footlights in the early 1960s, so Bill popped up again on-screen and performed the song that he sang back then which was meant to spell out his love for his girlfriend, only to spell out the rather unromantic word, "BLIMPHT" instead. This sequence actually provided one of really neat visual tricks of the night, with Bill wanting Tim to read out letters from a piece of paper as cues for his song, so he tossed the paper from his hand and it then dropped down from the base of the screen to the stage floor at Melbourne with precision timing for Tim to pick up. Unfortunately this didn't work at Albury, so Tim scooted around behind the stage curtain and re-emerged holding the piece of paper aloft, which was still quite amusing in its own right.
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 Saharan rabbit which ran up and down his jumper before it was unfortunately squashed in his hand and callously thrown away. The lesser spotted wood 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 after much procrastination from Graeme, the release of the vampire bat saw it go for his 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 although I've now seen this sequence on four occasions, it hasn't lost an ounce of its magic, even though Tim did farewell Graeme with a somewhat sarcastic "Thank you, Eric Idle!".
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. A new anecdote since the first tour was Graeme suggesting that they also thought of calling themselves The Wiggles, but "Nobody would earn a living with a silly name like that!"
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, creating a whole new language in the process! 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 in the later episodes he got to play all of those roles himself! At Albury, Tim said that he had even contemplated telling Prince William that "I could have been your mother!" after nearly getting the chance to "marry" the real Prince Charles in Scatty Safari, and also told us that someone at the recent Goodies night in England had criticised him for never playing any butch masculine parts in the show, to which he replied "Yes I did. I played Margaret Thatcher!"
The issue of censorship arose, and with it, the spectre 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". The screening of the "How To Make Babies By Doing Dirty Things" sequence from this episode brought fits of laughter from the audience, especially when Tim claimed that the film was now being used to instruct the kids who were participating in Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast!
At this stage Bill was supposed to reappear to describe Mary's response to this dastardly episode, however the screen remained blank and the Goodies were forced to revert to Plan B - a reluctant Graeme holding a little dummy of Bill (or was it Rolf Harris?!) and doing ventriloquism in the same way as he did with the Tony Blackburn doll in the "Chubby Chumps" episode. "Bill" was asked by Tim why he had such a high voice, and replied "You would too if his hand was up there!", then proceeded to tell us that Mary said nothing about this particular episode, but years later there was another episode which left her "ungegliegably shocked". Tim asked "Bill" to repeat that bit, much to Graeme's annoyance, for just as "bubblegum" became "gugglegum" in "Chubby Chumps", the challenge of saying "unbelievably" without moving his lips was obviously "ungegliegably" ruddy difficult!
Tim then took up the tale that many years after "Gender Education", 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 Tim was concerned that the wording of the complaint made it sound as though Mary must have been watching tv that night standing on her head, before rapidly banishing any mental images or explanations from his mind!
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. One such 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 brought Bill back up on the screen again (much to Graeme's relief) and he told us that the Goodies were in fact evil, wicked and cruel to animals on the show, except that they weren't real animals. This point was lost on a lady who wrote in complaining about the harsh treatment to an obviously-stuffed Black And White Beauty, although when she found out that Bill was really hitting Tim and Graeme inside a costume, she apparently asked to see a bit more whipping if she could!
This concept was then 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 (with a shuddering Tim saying "I use the word 'motion' advisedly!") were used to provide the evidence that Tim genuinely suffered for his art! As an extension of this theme from the first tour, we had Bill on-screen winding up the audience with a big spruik that for the very first time ever, Tim was about to do a special recreation of this amazing stunt right there in front of us on stage. However Tim flatly refused, and Graeme, who had walked out from off-stage carrying a plate with an enormous dog turd on it, said "Oh well, I suppose I'd better put this back in the fridge then!"
Tim switched Bill off and told Graeme that they'd need to resort to Plan B again, however Graeme couldn't find his ventriloquist doll anywhere. Bill popped up on the screen again, triumphantly waving the doll in his hand, and proceeded to stir the audience about England defeating Australia in the Ashes cricket series. Tim got fed up with Bill's antics and hit the heavy-duty switch on the remote, causing Bill to wail "I'm melting" as he vanished from the screen. Tim and Graeme then told of animals which were grateful to appear on the show, such as the two singing dogs from "Kitten Kong" whose performance was beamed up on the screen for all to enjoy.
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. At the conclusion, Tim remarked how politicially incorrect and shameful the "black boxer" was, to which Graeme tersely added "Yes, if I ever figure out who that was ...!", setting the audience into coronary mode all over again.
A question (from me, which was nice!) about which medium the Goodies most like to work in led to the response of radio, and a performance of the "Search For The Nile" sketch from "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again". This was a much more compact sketch than the rambling "Jack The Ripper" from the shows of the March tour, but was still laced with plenty of silly sound effects (like Graeme's whistle being out of sync with the storyline) and sick puns ("After a long march ... and a rather tedious April!") for our enjoyment. Again it was fun to hear the reappearance of Lady Constance de Coverlet, whose voice was also used for many of Tim's female roles in The Goodies, and the final line of the discovery of a giant bottle of ketchup being the "source of the Nile" provided a suitably groansome ending before a very catchy swanny kazoo rendition of the "Chinatown" theme music from "Jack The Ripper" by Tim and Graeme.
After a question from "Fred and Mary of Denmark" about their favourite Goodies episode, Tim and Graeme then asked the audience to nominate their favourite Goodies clip. At this point in the Albury show, the audience were privileged to be the first to see Graeme's frighteningly accurate impersonation of Prime Minister John Howard, helped by a giant pair of caterpillar-like eyebrows for good effect. His perfect takeoff of Howard's sly grimace would have no doubt left Opposition Leader Kim Beazley feeling very queasy at the thought of a second Little Johnny to contend with, especially as this newer version was taller, much funnier, infinitely more popular and already had experience at ruling the world (and indeed, even blowing it up) on his resume!
A mixed vote on favourite Goodies clips saw the audience eventually railroaded into watching the closing chase scene from "The Movies", which seemed to be an appropriately humourous way for the Goodies to conclude the show. Bill appeared on-screen bowing to the audience and waving his ventriloquist puppet double as Graeme and Tim also saluted the crowd, setting off a small firecracker in Melbourne and a party popper gun in Albury to fulfil their contractual obligations for an explosion. They were just about to leave the stage when an indignant Bill pulled them up and told them to take a closer look at the contract, as it stated that they must finish their performance with a song.
Bill urged them to sing the "Funky Gibbon", even telling the audience that he wanted them to provide the backing "ooo's" and exhorting "Come on everybody, it's gibbon time!" Tim and Graeme objected to this silliness, so we saw Graeme exit stage right and suddenly reappear on-screen with Bill. He gestured to Bill to "shhh" and then clipped him over the ear to shut him up (to a huge burst of laughter from everyone) before re-emerging on stage rubbing his hands together with satisfaction to another gale of audience glee.
Tim and Graeme then asked everyone to provide the backing words for "Wild Thing" ("la la la la la la" - very difficult!) and we were treated to the wonderful version from the "Goodies Rule OK" special, with Bill and puppet wailing away on-screen and Tim and Graeme providing enthusiastic backup from the stage. Tim even reprised some of his wardrobe from their concert to the police force by trotting out a sparkling gold jacket and straggly Rod Stewart-like blond mullet wig towards the end of the song.
They finally departed the stage to a proper burst of eyebrow-scorching fireworks at Melbourne and a big volley of party popper streamers at Albury, and huge ovation and farewells at both venues which were worthy of the performances that they had delivered. Tim and Graeme again proved that they're not just a class act on stage either by appearing at the stage door at both venues afterwards and happily mingling with all fans present for photos and autographs, again making the night even more memorable for those who stayed on afterwards.
The inevitable question was always going to be "Is the show as good this time around without Bill there in person?", and my answer has differed after watching firstly the Melbourne show and then the Albury one. My first impression after Melbourne was that while Tim and Graeme had done an exceptional job in making the show work so well, nothing could quite replicate the thrill of seeing all three Goodies on stage together in person as was the case on the first tour in March. However getting to see the new show a second time around in Albury really gave me an opportunity to appreciate its strengths even more.
Although Bill wasn't on stage this tour, the segments which he filmed obviously came from the heart with enthusiasm and good humour, and still provided most of the great anecdotes that he delivered in person last time, while opening up new possibilities for Tim and Graeme to poke fun at his absence. This also brought Tim and Graeme's amazingly impeccable senses of comic timing into sharper focus, as they had the ability to interact with the footage of Bill so skilfully that it would have been no surprise to see Bill jump out of the screen and appear on the stage in real-life. This was helped by Tim generally working from the left side of the stage near the Goodies' chairs and Graeme working from the lectern on the right hand side so that it seemed as though Bill was really making eye contact with them and talking to them individually, which worked an absolute treat.
The other main strength was that with each performance of Still Alive On Stage that I've seen on both tours, the material has got funnier with new anecdotes and jokes, the overall production has flowed better and the bonds of friendship, Goodies-style comedy and familiarity with the script between Tim and Graeme have got stronger every time. Certainly the combination of "Search For The Nile" and "Wild Thing" at the end of the second tour shows was a much stronger and less rambling conclusion than "Jack The Ripper" and "Funky Gibbon" from the shows in March.
Once again, 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, with the inserts that Bill recorded and the blending of these into the show providing top-class entertainment. Yes it would have been nice having Bill there again in person, but overall the show didn't lose anything second time around and those who only got to see the latest tour should not feel as though they missed out on any of the best bits of Still Alive On Stage - in fact they probably got to see and hear an even better Goodies experience in a number of ways. The shows of the two tours had their differences, but "Viva la difference" in this case in my opinion.
"Missy Kwin" still hasn't got around to giving Tim and Graeme their OBEs to go with the one that Bill has received already, even though the distraction of Prince Charles' wedding is now well and truly out of the way. Never mind that though, as thousands of happy Aussies who attended Still Alive On Stage in all corners of this great southern land would be delighted to crown Tim and Graeme as our Kings Of Comedy for providing us with such a royal Goodies treat. Come to think of it, Tim could even be our Queen Of Comedy if he can still squeeze into that blue dress and sensible hat, and remember how to do the "My husband and I" voice properly! Congratulations Tim and Graeme (and Bill too!) and hopefully there will be a "Still Still Alive On Stage - The Third Gasp" to look forward to some time in the future!