Comedian and actor Matt Roper recently told me a story about defiantly adult Bernard Manning being considered for the 1972 movie Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – I blogged about it last week. Matt is up to his ears moving flat today, then straight off for three weeks of summer festival performances – firstly at Glastonbury, then Lushfest in Poole and then the Maker Sunshine Festival in Cornwall.
Very new school trendy.
But as the son of George Roper, star of 1970s ITV series The Comedians, he grew up with the old school comics and their chums.
“There are tons of stories about the old school,” he tells me. “I never really think about it all too much as my contemporaries are quite young still and don’t really know who most of these guys are. The slightly older generation of alternative comics of course do. I got sick of defending the new school to all the old school and vice versa. They’d hate to hear it, and I’ve thought about it for a long time, but they have more in common than in difference.
“People sometimes tar all of those old school comics with Bernard Manning’s brush. It’s hard, having been so close to my father and loving him for his gentle mind and manner, to hear him being lumped in with all the stereotypes about Northern racist comics… Somebody said to me recently that “Bernard was all about the darkness and your father was all about the light” which was very sweet but makes me think – Never mind Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, they should’ve been cast in Star Wars!”
One source of stories when Matt was a kid was legendary Granada TV producer Johnnie Hamp.
“He was full of interesting stories which I soaked up happily like a sponge.,” says Matt.
“My favourite story is of when he and his wife were in bed, at home, asleep. It is 2.00am when the phone rings. It’s John Lennon, out on the tiles in Manchester after a TV recording. He asks if Johnnie is coming out to play.
“No, says Johnnie, I’m in bed, asleep. But, if you have any trouble getting anywhere, just mention my name.
“As if John Lennon of the Beatles would have had any problem getting into a club and have to resort to name-dropping!”