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(contributed by Lisa Manekofsky)
The following article appeared in the TVTimes issue dated 23 February – 1 March 1985.
Blushing Tim cracks it as a nut
by Malcolm Macallister Hall
As one of the gang of talented comics who emerged with formidable degrees from Oxford of Cambridge in the Sixties, Tim Brooke-Taylor muses occasionally on the strange hand life has dealt him.
'There are moments, such as when I'm standing in the middle of some High Street dressed as a rabbit, when I say to myself, "I've not only got a degree, but I'm an honorary Doctor of Laws. What am I doing, hopping down this High Street in floppy ears and a fluffy tail?"'
A genial and youthful-looking 44, Tim Brooke-Taylor long ago gave up looking for a sensible answer. But he does know that even years of buffoonery with Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie in "The Goodies" hasn't quite cured him of blushing at the embarrassments of his profession.
On ITV with Richards O'Sullivan for a second series of "Me & My Girl", he bravely appeared in one episode as a turkey. But guaranteed to raises the 'squirm-factor' even higher is Channel Four's "Assaulted Nuts", the anarchic, off-the-wall sketch show which he describes cautiously as 'quite a bit ruder than "The Goodies"'. Among his co-stars is the dazzlingly pretty – and pretty provocative – Cleo Rocos. Schooled in Kenny Everett's shows, she appears regularly in flimsy underwear. But the awful truth is that Tim Brooke-Taylor, who also hosts ITV's "The Fame Game", appears in flimsy underwear, too.
'It was incredibly embarrassing – and it wasn't a pretty sight,' he grins. 'In one sketch I have to go into a shop and whip off my coat to reveal frilly French knickers and suspenders. That was a horrendous moment – I wanted the set cleared when we were filming it so that I'd look a complete fool in front of as few people as possible. However, the medieval vasectomy sketch was even worse.'
For this barbaric operation, the hapless Brooke-Taylor was required to stand, back to camera, with his medieval trousers round his ankles, while a knight on a charger rushed towards him, a lance aimed at his unprotected nether regions.
'He got within inches!' recalls Brooke-Taylor with a subdued shriek. 'It was very, very frightening indeed, and it was also a very cold day. There I was, standing in a park outside London with my trousers down. There were some very blue cheeks around that day, I can tell you!'
These, though, are merely the latest in a long line of indignities and terrors which Tim Brooke-Taylor has suffered in the name of comedy. 'Other people make cars or cardboard boxes for a living,' he says. "I make a fool of myself.' And for a modest, self-deprecating and essentially shy, ex-Cambridge law student, that hasn't always been easy to cope with.
He was intending to become a lawyer, until lured into the unrelated field of satire by the glow of the Cambridge Footlights. He had been born in Buxton, Derbyshire, into a family which had produced a long line of solicitors. 'We'd all been lawyers for so long that I felt it was high time one of us wasn't.' he says. Among his Oxbridge contemporaries were some of the brainy stalwarts of English comedy and satire – John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Graham Chapman. Between them, they're qualified to take out your appendix, defend you in court, and give you a lecture on history.
Appearing first on television in "On the Braden Beat" in the Sixties, he went on to "At Last the 1948 Show", with John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman, and scored an early high mark in the silliness stakes when he played Feldman's wife in the TV comedy show "Marty".
'It sounds stupid,' he says, 'but being basically a shy person you've just to to throw yourself into it and try not to worry.'
At home in Berkshire, with his wife Christine, can be found two of his sternest critics – his sons Ben, 15, and Edward, 13.
"The loved "Assaulted Nuts" – but occasionally I do feel quite sorry for them,' he admits. 'What I get up to is embarrassing for them sometimes, and they certainly tell me in no uncertain terms - often, they're quite right!' But in the hazardous and nerve-racking business of comedy – 'if you fail, you really fail' – his family, he says, is his principal prop.
"They're very supportive of me – they get hurt if I'm criticized, and Ben and Edward know I'm vulnerable. If I'm a bit bad-tempered, they realise that it's because I'm nervous and worried about a show. Christine is very good at building my morale; because I'm still constantly amazed that I can make anybody laugh at all. So my family is a very precious support – and I hope, in turn, I'm supportive to them'.
His very first meeting with Christine was conducted in typically Goodies fashion. Spotting her on an Alpine ski slope, he decided that the surest way to meet her was to crash into her and knock her over. 'So we bumped into each other, and we've been slipping around happily ever since.' he says.
As a more day-to-day respite from being very silly, he plays cricket and golf; both for recreation and for charity. He also describes himself as a 'lifelong fan and ex-director' of Derby County Football Club.
'I adore cricket, too – though after poor Lennie Bennett had his teeth knocked out I'm a bit frightened of it. I think golf is safer. As least the ball doesn't come towards you. Although, I must admit that in my case it sometimes doesn't even go away from me. I'm afraid I can be pretty silly almost anywhere – and that includes the golf course.'