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The Goodies

Tim Brooke-Taylor interview from The Telegraph, 9 Jan 2012
10/01/2012 00:48 GMT

Posted by lisa

An interview with Tim appeared in the 9 January 2012 edition of the Telegraph.  Below is a cut & paste of the article from online at

Tim Brooke-Taylor: 'Yes, I do miss Humphrey Lyttelton. He told the filthiest jokes’

The veteran comic broadcaster recalls his 40 years on Radio 4’s 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’.

By Neil Tweedie

7:00AM GMT 09 Jan 2012

There is that wonderful Monty Python sketch about the four, white-dinner-jacketed Yorkshiremen, whisky and cigars in hand, trying to outdo each other in the humbleness of their origins, trumping rival accounts of childhood deprivation with cries of “Luxury!”.

It ends with the winner living in a box in the middle of the road, getting up before he goes to bed, and being thrashed to within an inch of his life – “if we were lucky!” Except that it was actually pre-Python, and co-written by Tim Brooke-Taylor. He reminds me of this over lunch during a reluctant interview.

“Why are we doing this again?”

Well, he’s just received an OBE.

“That was months ago.”

What about the 40 years since he joined the team on Radio 4’s alternative panel game, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue? He’s not convinced.

“One of the reasons I was regretting agreeing to this interview was because I made a vow never to talk about my private life, because then you’re asking for it, aren’t you?

“There was a time in the mid-Seventies when it just got out of hand. I was in Weymouth with my family and the whole street just stopped and looked. It was bizarre. It was when The Goodies was at its peak. I remember being at an airport with a baby under one arm and holding the hand of a child in another, and somebody saying, 'Go on, give us your autograph’, and thinking: 'Bugger off.’”

Brooke-Taylor is 71 and has five grandchildren, but stopped growing up some time around the age of 17. To think that it is 40 years since he and his fellow Goodies, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, took to their “trandem” to battle Kitten Kong. He has bought himself a new jacket to be photographed in and has forgotten to remove the label stitched to the cuff, which he is now trying to do, furtively and unsuccessfully. Then he knocks over his coffee, a reassuringly human subject in these days of over-manicured celebrity.

“The thing I’m happiest about is doing comedy with other people,” he says, fiddling with his cuff. “I love team comedy – it’s fun bouncing off people.”

In I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, Brooke-Taylor partners a guest comedian opposite Garden and Barry Cryer, the fourth regular panellist, Willie Rushton, having died in 1996. There is no room for complacency.

“Every time we do a recording, I find myself thinking: 'Please God, just let me be funny one more time.’ You have to take risks now and then, and sometimes they don’t work.”

Are they all friends? Could he go on a caravanning holiday with Cryer? “I’d have to make sure I wasn’t told the same joke 49 times, but actually we do get on very well. Graeme and I have been working together for yonks and we could always part when we needed to and then come back. No hassle there at all. And that’s true of Barry, as well.

“Graeme is the most underrated comic I know. He has a lethal mind but he’s never really given the credit he deserves. It’s essential that we’re friends because you’re not trying to score off each other. You’re trying to get balls in the air.”

That collegiate approach to humour runs counter to today’s competitive, testosterone-driven shows such as Mock the Week. “I was thinking of that specifically. I hate that. I’ve never liked embarrassing humour. I’m one of the few people in the country who never liked The Office. I found it very difficult. I watch Strictly Come Dancing and can’t bear it when they get rid of someone. I go and make a cup of tea while they make the decision.”

Brooke-Taylor was raised in the genteel spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire. His father, a solicitor, was 59 when Tim, his third and final child, arrived. “I was a mistake as far as I can gather. My dad fought in the First World War, was injured and served in the Home Guard during the Second. He was speaking at a regimental gathering one day, sat down and died. I was 13. If you’re going to die, what a way to go. But you can understand why I’m not too keen on after-dinner speeches.”

Brooke-Taylor used to do a lot of after-dinner speaking. “It pays well, but I’ve made myself so expensive now that they don’t ask any more. Something of a relief, really. Very lonely things, after-dinner speeches. I had the Society of Sandwich-Makers once. One of my better evenings, actually. The sandwich-making awards. It’s hard making an original sandwich, you know. The best thing I learnt is not to do jokes about the profession you’re speaking to because they’ve heard them all before. I did one for podiatrists and they knew the lot.”

Brooke-Taylor’s mother was still in her forties when his father died, and took a job as a matron at a boarding school to make ends meet. “She was a very brave woman, very gutsy. Never remarried, though I wanted her to. I was the baby of the family and a bit spoilt. I remember just after the war and I’d never seen a banana and we got one, and I had to have it. I didn’t like it and threw it away. You can imagine the looks of horror.”

The young Tim was packed off to Winchester, where he did well at English but kept failing Latin. Law at Pembroke College, Cambridge followed, and with it the Footlights.

“Bill Oddie and I met within two weeks because we were in the same college. I went to lectures with John Cleese and shared digs with him and Graham Chapman. None of us thought about going into showbusiness. I would never have had the confidence on my own, but in that culture you bounce off other people and suddenly you are on Broadway, giggling together, thinking: 'Oh well, as long as it goes on like this for a few more weeks.’ ”

There were were other improbable encounters. “In New York, there was a woman who arrived at a show in a limo and wanted someone to go to a club with, and I found myself watching people dancing in cages and things. And then we went to a really special club where I was introduced to Salvador Dalí. He assumed I must be terribly important because I was with this woman, so started talking to me about art. Completely out of my depth.”

In 1970, the boy from Buxton found himself directing Orson Welles. “He’d seen something on the telly and wanted to work with me for some reason. It was a film called 12 Plus 1, and I spent about 15 days directing him because he didn’t trust the actual director. He used to get p-----, and the only way to get through to him was to be rude. In the film, he was a Jekyll and Hyde actor. But when we were filming he kept saying 'Jeekyll’, and I had to keep saying: 'It’s Jekyll, you fat poof…’”

Some thought I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue should have been given a decent burial following the death in 2008 of Humphrey Lyttelton, the programme’s chairman and matchless master of the dry put-down. Brooke-Taylor disagrees, citing the show’s continuing success under the doleful management of Jack Dee. But he misses his Humph.

“He was able to do the filthiest jokes and maintain the deadpan look. He did one about a girl in the butcher’s and the butcher asks would she like her beef in gravy and she says, no, she’d like his tongue in cider. And he looks at you like: 'What on earth are you laughing at?’”

So how long will he continue with Clue?

“Until I drop. My wife prefers me out of the kitchen, so she very much encourages it.”

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