I first worked with mad inventor John Ward – designer of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards – on the TVS/ITV series Prove It! for which he supplied bizarre weekly inventions. That was back in 1988. We paid him a fee, put him up in a local hotel and covered his travel costs. He presented his inventions in a sort-of double act with the show’s presenter Chris Tarrant.
For one show in the series, he conceived and built a ‘TV Dining Machine’:
A couple of blogs ago, John Ward shared the quirkiness of one recent BBC approach to him about his frequently ‘unusual’ inventions.
The posting of that blog reminded John of another incident, back in 2007. He told me: “The crass silliness of clueless staff was/is not restricted to just the Beeb.”
Back in 2007, he received this email (which I have edited) from the member of an ITV production team:
We are currently producing a new entertainment show hosted by (two famous UK personalities).
The show has been an instant success. It features celebrity chat, the hottest music acts and the presenters’ ‘take’ on the week’s events.
Each week we like to feature new inventions and gadgets and I have seen
online your various inventions and was hoping that I might be able to speak with you about the possibility of featuring some of them on our show.
I think it would be fantastic for our show.
I would be really keen to discuss this opportunity further.
John Ward explains what happened next…
The ITV guy duly rang me up and, after a lot of patronising twaddle, he explained, once we finally got round to it, what my ‘involvement’ would be:
- I was not to be appearing on the actual programme – quite why he didn’t say.
- What he/they wanted was for me to send to them – at my cost! – assorted inventions I had made so that one could be displayed and talked about (i.e. taken the piss out of) each week during a filler moment on said show.
- I was also to source the boxes/containers etc. to pack them up in and then pay to send them – quote: ‘by courier would be nice’ (!)
I did pose the question as to how I would get them back afterwards, but this query seemed to fall on rather stony ground. I got the overall impression that I would be ‘donating’ them to the programme.
Finally, he asked… Could I supply a list of suitable small inventions that would not take up too much space in the studio?
He then explained there was no fee, but I would be ‘rewarded’ by having my name in the end credits along the lines of: ‘Inventions supplied by John Ward’.
I pointed out that this supposed ‘reward’ would be meaningless at the end of the programme because, within seconds of the end credits rolling, they were then either squeezed to one side or reduced in size – or both – to promote the next programme.
He then went into autopilot mode and waffled on about ‘the prestige’ of being ‘connected’ with this series featuring such ‘iconic personalities’ and that I should be ‘grateful for being considered’ for a part in the production.
I think my response was fairly straightforward.
I posed the question:
“Are there still two ‘L’s in bollocks?”
He put the phone down rather swiftly after that intellectual exchange.
That poor 2007 ITV man missed-out on showcasing John’s originality – as we did on ITV’s 1988 series Prove It!
For the episode below, he had invented some very adaptable shoes: