Another new article (they are busy boys aren't they!) This time it's a nice chat with Graeme.
Birmingham Post - March 28, 2007
HEADLINE: Back from the wilderness;
Alison Jones brushes up on her ecky thump with Graeme Garden
It has long been a bone of contention among fans of The Goodies that they have been unable to enjoy their brand of surreal 70s slapstick through repeat vie wings.
That while shows like Only Fools and Horses, Last of the Summer Wine and even Porridge seem stuck on a permanent loop on cable and satellite channels, iconic comic moments featuring characters like Kitten Kong and the Lancastrian martial art of ecky thump remain locked deep in a BBC vault. Graeme Garden, the sensible bespectacled one of the trio, shares the audience's frustration.
"We have asked many times why they have never been repeated and never really had an answer that was consistent or plausible. Even on our 30th anniversary they didn't repeat a show, let alone give us an evening or anything, which is the normal thing."
When a DVD showing episodes was finally released and Graeme and his fellow Goodies, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke Taylor, were asked to provide commentary, they found themselves struggling to remember the sketches.
"We hadn't seen them for 30 years so we were like three old codgers watching going 'what's he doing?'."
The antics of the trio, who styled themselves as sort of handyman/superheroes who would tackle anything/any time/anywhere ("the idea for the name was basically we were the Goodies vs the Baddies," reveals Graeme. "At one time Bill did try to push for the name Superchaps Three"), remain a fond but distant memory in Britain.
However, in Australia they were hugely popular as episodes were run regularly on television in the tea-time slot.
"We were staple fodder for a long time for a lot of kids. We were an institution. Every evening for about 30 years it was Doctor Who followed by The Goodies.
"Because it was on early they censored quite a bit of it, some quite tame stuff, like the word 'knackered'."
It was the Australians that brought The Goodies back together for the first time since an attempt to transfer the series to ITV flopped in the early 80s -allegedly due to economic reasons as the sketches and stunts, while not exactly state of the art, were expensive to stage - when they were invited to take part in the Big Laugh Festival.
They put together a show celebrating the series and featuring favourite sketches, reminiscences and behind the scenes tales. It sold out two tours in Australia and earned them enthusiastic reviews when they took it to the Edinburgh Festival last summer and now it comes to the Alexandra Theatre for one night in April 6.
Filming commitments meant that Bill, who is probably television's most famous twitcher and is kept busy making nature programmes, was only able to join them for one tour and so his part has been recorded and is beamed on screen.
"We wanted Bill to have some personal input even though he wasn't there himself," says Graeme.
"He has recorded it specially for the theatrical performance so it is not just cobbled together out of old clips of him.
"We are not very nice to him, but we weren't during the series so we keep up the spirit of it."
Because The Goodies episodes have existed in a kind of time capsule there was a curiousity whether the comedy would still stand up.
"It was quite a relief that most of it still worked, though there were odd bits that made you wince. We were always very liberal, left wing and right on but we did tackle some touchy subjects and the attitudes were very much of their day.
"For instance we did one on apartheid, and while the programme had its heart in absolutely the right place it was made at a time when the BBC's top variety show was the Black and White Minstrels, and that was considered amusing on a Saturday night.
"So within that context we were really being quite daring, but it is not very comfortable to see it."
Inspired by the slapstick comedy of the silent era as well as the cartoons of Tom and Jerry, the stunts and special effects still raise a laugh, even though they are so obviously faked.
"I think the old tricks, where you could see the wires and where the dummy is placed in the shot, were quite charming," says Graeme.
"Obviously if we'd had CGI it would have been much slicker. But I think if it had been brilliantly convincing the audience would have been 'so what?'
"While what we were doing wasn't that dangerous and we always had stunt men around to tell us what not to attempt, I think today health and safety would prevent us doing most of what we did then.
"A few years ago we did a Christmas show where they rebuilt the old set and had brought along the old three seater bike. We absolutely dreaded that because it was such a horrible thing to ride. Then the studio manager came along and said 'for God's sake don't get on the bike, we can't get insurance for it'.
"Those bikes still turn up now and again. Three years ago three blokes cycled across Africa on one. There are three authentic ones and every now and then one appears on eBay, though I don't know what you'd do with one. I would imagine anyone who bought one probably hasn't got two friends to ride it with."
It could, of course have been a very different passenger on the back of the bike, Graham Chapman for instance rather than Bill - the lesser tutted scruff pot.
The Goodies first met when they were at Cambridge and became friends with John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle who went on to form Monty Python's Flying Circus.
They were members of Footlights and collaborated on various comedy proj ects including the radio show I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, Cambridge Circus and At Last the 1948 Show.
Though they are from a similar era and were both pioneering in their forms of comedy, The Goodies have never been revered in quite the same way that Python has, though Graeme does not begrudge his old friends their success.
"At the time there were meant to be two camps, you were either supposed to like The Goodies or Python. I don't see why that should be. I think it should be possible to like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.
"I think Python was very different, it was beyond comedy in a way. They didn't do nearly as many television programmes - I think because they were so mould-breaking they had nothing left to do - and they were successful at doing stage shows and making movies.
"They were much more of a business than we were. Tim, Bill and I never felt the need to form a company it is almost as if the Python boys didn't really trust each other and felt they needed to form a company to protect themselves.
"I don't know whether there are many programmes today that you could describe as being Python-esque but there are quite a lot that are sort of like The Goodies - Mike Myers, The Mighty Boosh, League of Gentleman and even Little Britain to some extent."
Graeme, Bill and Tim have all remained friends. Bill and he used to write together "before he disappeared into the undergrowth" and Tim and Graeme are regular panellists on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue on Radio Four and co-presented the Channel Four game show Beat the Nation.
None of them have pursued the careers they were studying for at Cambridge - Graeme is a qualified medical doctor, Tim did Law and Bill, English.
Graeme, who wrote scripts for Doctor in the House, only ever intended to pursue comedy as a hobby before knuckling down to a career in medicine.
"It was only when we were all in a show called Cambridge Circus which went round the world that it really took off, then people started writing for radio and television.
"I don't think any of us would have gone into showbusiness on our own but because we were all in a group we had the courage of each others convictions.
"My father was a surgeon and I think he had his qualms about me taking this leap in the dark, but he was never openly dismayed, at least, not in my presence.
"He was very supportive. He didn't want me to do what I felt I ought to be doing, but rather what I wanted to do and enjoyed doing."
This paternal understanding helped Graeme when he watched his own son John struggling to make it as a musician before finding success as a keyboard player with the Scissor Sisters.
"I've got three children, a daughter who is a teacher and a younger son who does graphics and editing. John has adored music all his life. He was desperate to get on Top of the Pops younger than I was (The Goodies had five hit singles and reached number four with The Funky Gibbon) and before it was axed he just made it."