Tag Archives: Chris Tarrant

My surprising top ten blogs of last year

(Photograph by Ariane Sherine)

I started this blog in 2010 and it is usually referred-to as a “comedy blog” but, just out of quirky interest, here is a list of what were my Top Ten blogs in terms of hits last year.

This list is obviously more a reflection of who my readers are than anything else…

1) Where the Kray Twins gangster film “Legend” got it all so very badly wrong

2) The practicalities of putting your head in a gas oven: my 2nd suicide attempt

3) Krayzy Days – Why London gangster Ronnie Kray really shot George Cornell inside the Blind Beggar pub in 1966

4) What the REAL Swinging Sixties were like – gangsters and police corruption

5) Hello to the Bye Bye Girls – Ruby Wax’s offspring – two Siblings on the Fringe

6) Creating a Legend – The Krays and the killing of ‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell

7) What it is like to be on the jury of a murder case at the Old Bailey in London

8) Why Chris Tarrant’s TV show OTT was taken off air – a naked Malcolm Hardee

9) Edinburgh Fringe, Day 12: How to destroy a comedy career & other news

10) The death of an Italian archaeologist who knew so many 20th century secrets

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Festive farting, yet another West End theatre dud + Northern transvestite nun

Great Britain - Emperor’s New Clothes

Great Britain – Emperor’s New Clothes

Chris Tarrant once told me: “You are on your own planet. Stay there.”

I have never been sure whether this showed admiration or contempt.

But last night, I felt I was on my own planet.

I saw the play Great Britain (about national newspapers hacking telephones) at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, in London.

It was written by the same man who wrote the West End and Broadway triumph One Man, Two Guvnors and current London success Made in Dagenham.

The Evening Standard called it “a timely look at the tangled relationship between the press, politicians and the police”.

I would say more succinctly “trite, obvious and nothing new to say.”

The Sunday Times, Guardian and Independent gave it 4-star reviews.

According to the Daily Telegraph’s 4-star review, it had “a triumphant premiere at the National Theatre” and the audience last night seemed to enjoy it.

There had been a lot of work put into it but, to my mind, it sank tediously and disastrously amid a tsunami of atmospheric detail and mis-delivered jokes because it largely ignored the building of any rising linear plot and had no doubt fine actors attempting to deliver funny lines and failing because they were actors not comics.

It was a comedy show for people who never go to live comedy.

It was like watching university students at the Edinburgh Fringe perform a series of potentially funny self-contained sketches about the same subject which failed to gel into a single unified whole.

At the end of Act 1 – an act bereft of the build-up of any strong linear plot – my eternally-un-named friend and I were on the verge of ordering strychnine at the bar and could only admire one line each from the whole hour-plus performance. Both lines were about pandas in Scotland – nothing to do with the play’s subject.

Act II seemed better, but this may have been because my expectations were several levels below zero.

It was like listening to people farting around with words.

I would rather have the real thing.

I may or may not be spending New Year’s Eve with my chum Mr Methane (the world’s only professionally performing farter). A foreign film crew might or might not be coming over to shoot him… with cameras.

He is one of the least self-centred of performers.

Last night, I came home to a message from him saying:

“I have just discovered Musical Ruth on YouTube.

Musical Ruth - better than a West End play

Musical Ruth – nun can out-perform in public areas Up North

“She is Nuntastic!

“She/he seems to get paid by local Councils – mainly in the North and Midlands of England – to go around town centres gently harassing what is left of their dwindling consumer base. He is a quality performer/showman. We may actually know him. He/she does look a bit like Adrian Edmondson. Definitely a character for your blog I think.”

Mr Methane has a point but – hey! – it is almost Christmas and I can’t be bothered to contact Musical Ruth.

A very quick check round, though, unearths the fact that I do not have my finger anywhere near the pulse on eccentric performers because Derby-born Matthew Hunt (aka Musical Ruth) has been performing for 20 years, became a Nun act in 2006 and is now based in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire – somewhere I suspect is a hotbed of oddity.

I have now seen three West End Theatre duds in a row.

And Musical Ruth.

Bring Musical Ruth to the West End.

Or take me back to my own planet.

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Filed under Eccentrics, Theatre

Nudity on ITV, balloons & how Malcolm Hardee fell out with OTT Chris Tarrant

Malcolm Hardee with Jo Brand (pholograph by Steve Taylor)

Malcolm Hardee in Alternative Comedy’s early days with his protégée comedian Jo Brand (pholograph by Steve Taylor)

As I have very little time to write a blog today and as yesterday’s blog was about the ‘old’ ITV, here is an extract from comedy icon Malcolm Hardee’s increasingly prestigious autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake. It is about his participation in Martin Soan’s comedy group The Greatest Show On Legs and refers to OTT, the adult TV series produced by Chris Tarrant after his success with children’s series Tiswas.

At this time, I was working on the continuing Tiswas series.

Because ATV/Central messed-up and did not at first give the OTT team their own office, Tarrant squatted in our Tiswas office for around (if memory serves me) a month. I later worked on the LWT series Game For a Laugh, but not at this point.

This is Malcolm Hardee’s story…


The Greatest Show on Legs in the Fringe Programme

The Greatest Show on Legs perform the Balloon Dance (from left) Malcolm Hardee, Martin Clarke, Martin Soan

The Greatest Show on Legs’ breakthrough was doing The Balloon Dance on ITV.

Dave ‘Bagpipes’ Brooks was supposed to be with The Greatest Show on Legs on the OTT pilot, but he’d buggered off to Cornwall. He’d had enough.

This was right in the middle of The Mad Show.

So, at about 6.30am one morning, I knocked-up Martin Potter who used to operate our tapes and he came out with us and did  the pilot for OTT and the audition for Game For a Laugh.

We needed someone permanent and Martin Potter wasn’t interested, so we recruited Martin Clarke from Brighton, who’d been in a theatre group called Cliffhanger. He had quite a posh voice and looked a bit like Tony Blackburn, so we called him ‘Sir Ralph’.

We were invited to do The Balloon Dance first on Game For a Laugh but, when we got to the LWT studios, the producer wouldn’t let us do it naked. He said the show was for family viewing.

“But that’s how we do it,” I said. “That’s the whole humour of it.”

He sent researchers out to get smaller and smaller items of underwear – even going into sex shops to get us jockstraps. But we held out and said:

“We’re not doing it with our pants on”.

We partly held out because we knew that OTT also wanted us on ITV in a month’s time and they would let us do it naked. In the end, we did the Scottish sword dance on Game For a Laugh. We used the show’s co-presenter Matthew Kelly as the crossed swords. He had a broken leg at the time. So we kept our clothes on but terrorised Matthew Kelly in exchange.

A month later, we finally got naked on TV when we performed The Balloon Dance on OTT. (The video is on YouTube) That was in January 1981. It was one of the first programmes made by Central, who had taken over from ATV as the Birmingham ITV station.

OTT was meant to be the all new, very daring adult version of Chris Tarrant’s anarchic children’s show Tiswas. Alexei Sayle performed on it every week and still no-one understood his humour. Lenny Henry, Bob Carolgees and Helen Atkinson-Wood were the other OTT regulars.

On the first night we were there, the studio audience didn’t react very well to the over-all show but, when we came on, we set the place alight – figuratively speaking – and afterwards there was a furore in the press, which we wanted. Mary Whitehouse complained about it, which is always a good thing.

We got on very well with Chris Tarrant but, two or three years later, we did the Balloon Dance on another late-night TV show created by him (Saturday Stayback – there is a video not including Malcolm on YouTube). It was shot in a pub and he was desperate for ratings, because they hadn’t been very good. So he got us in to do the last show in the series.

Afterwards, there was a big end-of-series party for everyone and we weren’t invited to it. So our roadie saw a massive bottle of champagne – a Jeroboam – and nicked it. We were giving Helen Atkinson-Wood a lift because she also had to miss the party to get back to London. We all got in our Luton Transit and suddenly Chris Tarrant came running out, mad, shouting:

“You’ve had my champagne!”

“No we haven’t!” I lied.

“You have!” he yelled. “You’ll never work on TV again!”

At this, Helen Atkinson-Wood jumped out of the van because she didn’t want to be associated with us and the roadie drove us off back to London.

I have heard since that Chris Tarrant says this incident involved the pub having some silvery cutlery nicked which had sentimental value to the landlord. If anything else was nicked, it wasn’t us; we just nicked one bottle of champagne.

Anyway it all ended in tears. But our first appearance on OTT was our big breakthrough and afterwards it was all congratulations.

As a result of our TV success, we ended up with an agent, Louis Parker, who treated us like The Chippendales.

We went mainstream. We were doing hen nights and End of The Pier variety shows for two or three years – not the University shows that we had done before. Literally end-of-the-pier. Colwyn Bay and Blackpool we did. We were a novelty act doing a 15-20 minute show for what was then an enormous amount of money: about £500-£600 a show. But there were three of us to pay, plus a roadie.

The Young Ones. Christopher Ryan (bottom_ replaced Pete Richardson

The Young Ones. Christopher Ryan (bottom_ replaced Pete Richardson, who clashed with the show’s BBC producer

While we were doing that, Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson went on to TV success in The Young Ones.

Pete Richardson (who went on to direct The Comic Strip) was meant to have been in that: he was meant to have been the one that no-one knows. They wanted a macho-man figure as a counter-balance to the others and Pete was replaced by someone they recruited out of a casting agency.

The Young Ones garnered all the credit for being clever comedians, while we were literally performing a dumb show. Our success was short-term, lowbrow and mainstream.

Margaret Thatcher meets The Greatest Show On Legs in a 1982 Sun newspaper cartoon

Margaret Thatcher meets The Greatest Show On Legs doing the Balloon Dance in a 1982 Sun newspaper cartoon

We even performed at a TUC Conference in Blackpool where Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dogs got booed off for being sexist: he was singing a song about a woman with tits and they didn’t like him. But they liked The Greatest Show on Legs naked with balloons. Except that we didn’t use balloons: we used photos of Mrs Thatcher to cover our genitalia and, after we turned round, our penises were sticking out of her mouth.

They loved it.

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The iconic comic Iceman grasses me up after stealing a duck and remembers TV shows & a tent vibrating at Glastonbury

Yesterday’s blog was a chat with bizarre comedian or performance artist – take your choice – The Iceman. This is the concluding part of that conversation.

The Iceman told me: “My latest development is filming my own wise sayings…”

“That sounds good,” I said.

“… with my duck.” he added.

“Has it surfaced online?” I asked.

“Yes,” said The Iceman. “It’s on YouTube.

I had no knowledge that this duck had been nicked from Southampton

From Southampton hotel to metal tank: sad descent of a duck

“My plastic duck comes from a hotel in Southampton when I think you booked me on a show,” said The Iceman.

“It was probably Prove It with Chris Tarrant?” I asked.

“I sent a letter to the hotel,” continued The Iceman, ignoring me. “I told them I had borrowed their duck.”

“You stole the duck?” I asked.

“I borrowed the duck from a hotel bathroom in Southampton,” admitted The Iceman, “while I was doing a TV show for you.”

“So,” I said, “you’re grassing me up as an accomplice before and after the fact?”

“You’re implicated,” said The Iceman.

“No-one likes a grass,” I told him. “How did you get into performing with ice anyway? I’ve forgotten.”

The Iceman looks through his block of ice in 2011

The Iceman looked through his ice in 2011 and saw what?

My website,” said The Iceman “has got a lot of what you might call ‘stuff’ connected to it. But it’s a bit arbitrary. What was the question?”

“When did you first think to yourself: I know what is going to make me famous and rich. I will melt ice on stage.

There was a long, long pause.

“Was fame and wealth my aim?” The Iceman mused. Eventually he said: “I think it was an attempt to publicly share my own feelings.”

“About…?” I asked.

“About my situation…” said The Iceman. Then he paused. “And my planetary life,” he continued.”

“Which is or was?” I asked.

“That’s why the audience started saying Deep! Deep!” said The Iceman.

“Did you study Marcel Duchamp?” I asked.

“I’ve always been aware of him, but I’m not sure he’s my main influence.”

“Who is?” I asked.

“This is the duck from Southampton,” said The Iceman

“This is the duck from Southampton” –  The Iceman via Skype

“This is the duck from Southampton,” said The Iceman, ignoring my question and holding up a Polaroid photo. “Do you remember that show?”

“Not specifically,” I said. “Describe what you do in your act – for people who have never seen it.”

“It’s not really an act,” said The Iceman. “I do it for real.”

The Iceman tries to melt a block of ice on stage in various increasingly desperate ways.

“Has the act changed over the years?” I asked.

“It’s got more reflective.”

“The ice?” I asked.

“The act,” said The Iceman.

“How?” I asked.

“More thoughtful,” said The Iceman.

“How?” I asked.

“At the Royal Festival Hall,” explained The Iceman, “I sat with the block of ice. Reflecting.

This week The Iceman showed me the ultimate aim of his acts

This week The Iceman showed me the ultimate aim of his acts

“Originally, the act was pretty straightforward: I put the duck under the ice and tried to use lots of different agents to melt the ice. I was the catalyst. Breath, friction, de-icer sprays, salt, money, a blow-torch, hammer, chisel, explosions… and the duck would usually still be not afloat. So, in a way, the whole thing was a study in failure. But then, as Simon Munnery said, we all knew the block of ice was going to melt in the end, so I could not help but be ultimately successful.

“Now, though, it’s… well… slower, really. There’s less emphasis on trying to melt it. I’m just being with the ice while it melts.”

“So basically,” I said, “the act is developing towards a point where you are going to sit by a block of ice and not do anything.”

“Yes,” agreed The Iceman. “At the Royal Festival Hall in 2011, I read the Financial Times while sitting next to the block of ice.”

“And did reading the Financial Times help?” I asked.

“Well, I think people thought I was trying to make a point,” said The Iceman. “The theme of Stewart Lee’s show there was Austerity. On my website, there’s quite a few photos of the block at the Royal Festival Hall and you’ll probably notice, if you’re kind enough to visit, that, in some of them, I’m looking very reflective. Very thoughtful.”

The Iceman with his ice and duck at Royal Festival Hall, 2011

The Iceman reflects with ice & duck at the Festival Hall, 2011

“What were you actually thinking?” I asked.

“That’s difficult to decipher,” said The Iceman. “Thinking about things like the history of the Universe. Have you read that they’ve just spotted some evidence of the original Big Bang?”

“I didn’t really understand it,” I said. “It seemed to say that everything expanded very quickly, faster than the speed of light. That’s what any Big Bang does, isn’t it? Did you understand it?”

“I’ve got a feeling I was there at the beginning,” said The Iceman. “I think we all were.”

“Well,” I said, “bits of us were. And we’ll all be there at the end. The Sun will expand and explode and everything will be stardust. We are stardust.”

“Do you sing?” asked The Iceman.

“No,” I told him.

“You’ve made Malcolm Hardee into more of a star than he was when he was alive,” said The Iceman. “He was a very funny man. I don’t think he ever reckoned me, though he was kind enough to book me.”

“Did he not reckon you?” I asked, surprised.

“Perhaps he did,” said The Iceman. “He did book me once on The Tube with Jools Holland.”

“Did the rock music fans of Newcastle like you?” I asked.

Singer Morrisey: a man who enjoys a good laugh

Singer Morrisey is a man who enjoys a laugh

Morrissey was on the show,” said The Iceman. “He showed a distinct lack of interest.”

“Well, that’s Morrisey,” I said.

“Morr-icy,” mused The Iceman. “He was probably admiring me without realising it. Tell me if you’re bored…The block never stayed up on the platform.”

“When?” I asked, genuinely confused.

“When I did my act,” said The Iceman. “It always collapsed. I always refer to the one at The Tunnel…”

“Malcolm Hardee’s Tunnel club?” I asked.

“Yes,” said The Iceman. “I got stuck in a bus in the Blackwall Tunnel under the River Thames and the block melted so, when I put it on the platform at the club, it was just a bucket of water. So I went home quickly. The audience had a reputation for throwing things at the acts.”

“Your act was very time-sensitive.” I said. “When I booked you on TV recordings, you had to do the act at the appointed time and no later.”

“I was amused by your organisation of the Hackney Empire show,” said The Iceman, “because, on your schedule, it said Ice block arrives at stage door at blah blah time… It made it into an epic event.”

“There was no point being late,” I said, “because your act would have disappeared.”

“Dice-appeared,” said The Iceman thoughtfully. “Only the second half of my Hackney Empire act is on YouTube. But I quite like that, because the ice block is moving around in the audience.”

“You must have played the Glastonbury Festival?” I asked.

“Yes I did,” said The Iceman. “In the Cabaret Tent. I was the only person at Glastonbury to have an electrical source in order to have a fridge for my block of ice.”

“Did the Glastonbury audience appreciate your act?” I asked.

“I think they were a bit stoned. It was an interesting experience. I seem to remember Malcolm Hardee’s tent moving a lot when he was – what’s the phrase? – I suppose ‘bonking’ is the polite word. I have this image in my mind of a tent vibrating near my fridge.”

“What do you do for the rest of your time?” I asked.

“I work very hard and I have a proper job. I want it known that I do a proper job and I am in a long-term relationship and I can hold down a relationship with The Icewoman. People often think I’m disturbed.”

“Do you want me to quote that?” I asked.

The Iceman says he is “frighteningly sane"

The Iceman is keen to emphasise he is “frighteningly sane”

“I’m frighteningly sane,” said The Iceman and then laughed loudly. “I like that… Frighteningly saneI want you to quote that.

“I do do a lot of research on human beings. I work with quite a wide range of human beings, especially teenagers. It’s interesting for me to assess human behaviour. It feeds my work.”

“So,” I asked, “I can say in the blog in print that you do other things? That you’ve got a job.”

“Yes.”

“Even if I don’t know what it is.”

“Yes, I’ve got a job and it’s worth a few bob,” said The Iceman. “I used to say that in the act. After all my efforts trying to melt the block of ice, when people were not really laughing, I used to say Well, at least I’ve got a job! and they would laugh at that and then I’d say It’s worth a few bob!  That’s actually from the act. Do you see it as an act?”

“I see it as a lifestyle choice,” I said.

“Yes,” said The Iceman, “I’ve stayed with it. And, in one way, that’s a curse., because I can’t really develop it much. People tend to think Once you’ve seen the ice block, you’ve seen the ice block. But I think there’s a certain consistency about repeating the process. Though I’ve got bigger gaps these days.”

“Bigger gaps in what?” I asked.

“Between performances,” said The Iceman.

“What number of blocks are you up to now?” I asked.

An iceberg - more hidden below the surface than above

With an iceberg, more is below the surface than is seen above. Thus too with The Iceman? Or is he just having a good laugh?

“I used to be very meticulous in documenting it,” said The Iceman. “And then I think I threw my documentation away.

“So there’s a lot of controversy for art researchers about what number I’m up to.”

“Perhaps you should start again,” I suggested. “Start at 1001 like the carpet cleaner.”

“A new blank sheet,” mused The Iceman.

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes,” said The Iceman. “Start again… N…ice…”

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Why Chris Tarrant’s TV show OTT was taken off air – a naked Malcolm Hardee

Partial Tiswas reunion in Birmingham yesterday

Partial Tiswas singing reunion in Birmingham yesterday

I went to a Tiswas reunion in Birmingham yesterday, organised by the Tiswas Online website (who are currently offline, in a suitably anarchic way)

I was told four completely unpublishable TV sex stories (none involving Tiswas but three involving BBC Television Centre).

Buy me a tea and a muffin and I’ll tell you.

The most interesting anecdote, though, was told to me by one of the Tiswas Online stalwarts, Peter Thomas.

He told me why Chris Tarrant’s attempt at a late-night ‘adult’ version of TiswasOTT – was taken off-air.

Tiswas was originally produced by ATV but then ATV lost its broadcast franchise partially because it was seen as a London-based TV company not a Midlands company (it had the ITV Midland franchise) but also largely, it was said, because the regulatory body was embarrassed by the low standard of its Crossroads soap opera, which had become the butt of comedians’ jokes.

The company which took over – Central Independent Television – was, in effect, the same as ATV – it had much the same staff, premises and programmes (even Crossroads). But it had new shareholders.

One of these was Boots, the chemist company.

Peter Thomas told me: “The wife of a director at Boots was appalled when she saw The Greatest Show of Legs perform the naked balloon dance at the end of the first OTT show.”

The Greatest Show on Legs, at that time, were Martin Soan, Malcolm Hardee and ‘Sir Ralph’.

“She found the whole thing to be immoral and perverse,” Peter told me. “So pressure was put on the Central board to tone down the show.”

The writing was on the wall, despite the fact the Greatest Show on Legs were invited back again.

“Chris Tarrant & co had expected a second series,” said Peter, “but Central would not let them do it live – It would all have to be pre-recorded so Central could vet everything… and Central would not give them a studio. So OTT became Saturday Stayback, an alternative comedy sketch show filmed in a pub.”

This terrible dog’s dinner of an idea, of course, did not succeed.

Peter tells me this story of the decease of OTT was recounted by Wendy Nelson, former newsreader for ATV Today and Central News in the documentary ATVLand In Colour, in which he and other Tiswas Online people were involved.

The Greatest Show on Legs’ OTT appearance is on YouTube:

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The last day of Tiswas, the custard-pie-filled anarchic UK children’s TV series

This Is Saturday - Watch And Smile

T-I-S-W-A-S – This Is Saturday Watch And Smile 1974-1982

Today was the day – in 1982 – that ITV transmitted the last edition of Tiswas, the anarchic Saturday morning children’s TV show.

I worked as a researcher on the last series of the show. It is a series that people tend to have forgotten, because it was not presented by Chris Tarrant.

He was preparing and producing his late-night ‘adult’ version of TiswasOTT, now mainly remembered for the Greatest Show On Legs’ naked balloon dance.

Central Television, being slightly incompetent, had failed to arrange a production office for Tarrant and his team so, for the first few weeks of pre-production on his show, they squatted in our office (which we were happy with), refusing to leave in a successful effort to force the Central bureaucracy into giving him an office.

The script for the last edition of Tiswas

The script for the last edition of Tiswas

In the middle of our series of Tiswas, the ITV franchise-holder who produced the series changed from ATV to Central Television. In fact, this was a cosmetic change.

It was the same company – same building, same people, same executives and mostly the same programmes – but theoretically it was a different company.

Tiswas started each show with clips from the previous week’s show. On the Saturday after the change-over, the accountants at ATV told the show’s producer, Glyn Edwards, that he would have to pay hundreds of pounds to buy the rights to screen clips from his own previous week’s ATV show at the start of this week’s Central show.

I do not know exactly what happened, but I think he told them to fuck off and, if they didn’t like it, to sue themselves.

Tiswas was an interesting introduction to TV research for me. The show was live and the series lasted 39 weeks. It varied in length but, from memory, it was often up to three hours long comprising (as it was for kids with short attention spans) items that sometimes only lasted 20 seconds.

It was somewhat hectic during the live transmissions, the only respite coming during 7-minute cartoons or 3-minute rock band performances.

After this, my Saturday mornings never smelled the same.

On a Saturday morning, the Tiswas studio smelled sweet: a combination of the shaving foam used in the ‘custard’ pies and the talcum-powder-like smell of the little ‘explosions’ that were set off.

After all the colour and the sound. I used to come home, dead tired on the mid-afternoon train from Birmingham to London and just plonk myself down on my sofa and mindlessly watch Game For a Laugh on ITV. I later worked on that show, too. The production of Game For a Laugh was surprisingly more hectic and pressurised than Tiswas because Tiswas had been running for about seven years and was a very smooth operation.

A studio floor pass for the show

A floor pass for children and adults taking part in the show

The trick was, in the week leading up to transmission, to have two large production meetings which the lighting, sound supervisors, floor managers etc attended.

The producer ran through what was intended and any obvious major problems were ironed-out or allowed-for with contingency plans. Because everyone knew what might go wrong, it seldom did… to such an extent that the producer Glyn Edwards once discussed how to add more chaos into the show because almost nothing went wrong.

This, he felt, was not in the spirit of Tiswas.

It was a big lesson I learnt: to stage anarchy effectively, you have to be very organised in your preparations.

Of course, things did go wrong.

I remember a child writing in saying he wanted to sit between the two humps of a camel. I phoned up a circus owner, explained this and booked a camel. When the beast arrived, about half an hour before the show started, it only had one hump.

“I paid for two humps,” I told the circus owner.

“It’s got two humps,” said the circus owner.

“It clearly has one hump,” I said. “I can see it only has one hump.”

He then tried to argue that the dromedary was, in fact, a Bactrian and that sometimes a camel’s two humps looked as if they were one hump. I think the phrase “think of saggy tits” came into his argument at one point.

We never booked an animal from his circus again. But the child was happy just to sit on a camel and may have had mathematical problems.

I think I must have encountered the comedian Charlie Chuck in a previous incarnation on Tiswas.

Director Bob Cousins (left) and producer Glyn Edwards

Director Bob Cousins (left) with producer Glyn Edwards

The producer, Glyn Edwards, wanted a German ‘oompah band’.

I found The Amazing Bavarian Stompers for him and booked them but, while they were performing in the studio, I was off somewhere setting-up the next item on the show. In the canteen afterwards, I remember hearing people talk about the ‘mad drummer’ leaping over his drum kit and being generally anarchic – a good thing on Tiswas.

Charlie Chuck, at that time, was drummer for The Amazing Bavarian Stompers and, when I became chummy with him a decade or so later, he mentioned having been on Tiswas. So we probably met in passing. One of the strangenesses of TV.

I also distantly remember some Tiswas party in a Birmingham restaurant.

It had been difficult to book the party, because Birmingham restaurants were wary of Tiswas parties. On a previous occasion, a fire extinguisher had been let off during a Chris Tarrant celebration and word had got round the restaurant trade.

On this occasion, everyone was well-behaved… though, halfway through, I looked up from my meal and presenter Den Hegarty decided, at that moment, to start eating the flowers decorating the middle of the table.

It did not seem odd at the time.

On Tiswas, few things did.

YouTube has a clip of the last two minutes of the final Tiswas show.

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How not to become a millionaire by creating an original new product

John Ward told me he had had another crap idea

So near and yet so far from becoming a millionaire…

I got an e-mail this morning from mad inventor John Ward.

He has come up with a new idea – the James Bond personalised bog roll holder with incorporated gun rack. He has created it in a hand-carved cherry wood finish with gilt inlay numerals.

Like many of his ideas, there is the twinkle of a marketable commodity here.

I fondly remember his bicycle for window cleaners – the frame of the bike itself became a ladder.

As TV presenter Chris Tarrant once said: “Brilliant, but not quite all there.”

It was not clear if he meant John’s idea or John himself.

Much like writing a daily blog, John Ward has carved out a niche in an area where it is difficult to, in our American cousins’ phrase, ‘monetise the product’.

I am sure there is a market for personalised, hand-carved toilet roll holders, but where you would start to exploit it is another matter. Certainly, with gun included, there must be a market in certain parts of South East London.

As Chris Tarrant implied, John Ward’s ideas are usually brilliant but not yet quite in the Dyson millionaire-making class.

His mobile church font drew some interest from his local vicar… His musical frying pan (hum along while you fry) got some interest… And his bra-warmer received a lot of press attention.

John Ward with the main Malcolm Hardee Award

Marking time until the millions flow in, he designed and built the three annual and increasingly-prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards… and he once designed a bullshit-detecting machine for me.

Unfortunately, there was so much of it in the air, the machine could not detect a single specific source.

John Ward still needs that one big breakthrough product or an offer to become prop maker to the stars.

All suggestions gratefully received.

Here is an Australian TV report:

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Inventions