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(contributed by Lisa Manekofsky)
Here's a great interview with Bill Oddie from 100% Rock Magazine in which they discuss Bill's upcoming Australian shows and other topics - this appears online at
Interview - Bill Oddie, The Goodies - June 2013
Shane | Jun 13, 2013 | Comments 0
By Shane Pinnegar
Growing up in the Seventies in Australia, most kids made sure they were home from playing cricket with their mates after school, and homework was done ready for The Goodies every evening around 6pm on the ABC.
Shown in a later timeslot by the BBC in England, the ABC may have made a few snips to the program to keep our young minds pure, but in broadcasting the show at that timeslot, and then repeating the shows right through the Eighties and beyond, they ensured The Goodies - Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor - would have a fanatical cult fanbase that survives right through to the current day.
In the many years since the last Goodies series there have been stage shows, small reunion segments, some scattershot DVD collections and more to keep The Goodies alive - though never a full blown reunion. Oddie forged a successful career from the U.K.’s premier celebrity bird watcher to hosting wildlife programs and more, until laid low by the black cloud of depression a few years ago.
Diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder 2 (less severe than 1) and on medication, Oddie is again happy and functioning, and the man who brought us the Kitten Kong, Ecky Thump, The Clown Virus, the Trandem and the Funky Gibbon is heading to Australia this month for a tour of capital cities to review his comedy career and also his public life, and we discussed all of the above with him last week in a far ranging chat.
100% ROCK: Hi Bill - I appreciate your time. It’s a bit of a thrill; I’ve been a fan for many, many years.
Bill Oddie: Oh, bless. Thanks.
100% ROCK: We’re very excited about you coming out to Australia for the tour. What can we expect from Bill Oddie - An Oldie But A Goodie?
Bill Oddie: [Laughs] Good bloody question. Well first of all, what you WON’T get, is a repeat of every thing we’ve done before. Obviously I came over with Tim and Graham (sic) in 2005, and they’ve been over since, and also because, frankly, Australian audiences have been exposed to so many repeats and things over the years - I can’t imagine there’s much left really that you haven’t actually seen! I’ve managed to find a few things, though - I haven’t even had a chance to look at one or two! [They're] to do with the history of what happened before getting together with the Goodies, and a little bit of afterwards as well, but I’m trying to get my own take on these things because obviously I’ve got an opportunity to slag off Tim and Graham there and they’ll never know. Actually, they probably will know because it will be all over the bleeding Internet!!
100% ROCK: Yeah, nothing’s private anymore.
Bill Oddie: It isn’t - you’re damn right it isn’t! So, I’m just finalising what I’ve put into it now, and it’s like always with these things when you get down to it - it’s more about thinking what to leave out. There will be a certain amount of truth telling… Mmmmmmm… ‘revelation’ may be a bit of a strong word, but let’s face it, we were around bang slap through the 70s, and we were, as it happened, sort of pop stars. I wouldn’t go so far as saying rock stars, but that’s a different issue. We were pop stars, and we were on Top Of The Pops week after week after week, so, you know, I’m happy that so far nobody’s named us in any of the scandals that have been going on there [referencing the Jimmy Saville scandal that has seen other high profile BBC stars arrested on suspicion of child abuse], but the truth of the matter is, we were there, so we’re in a position to perhaps put the record straight a bit.
People must have an image now of Top Of The Pops being some sort of brothel or something. Not about the music, you know. And let’s face it, there is a point - and your magazine maybe hasn’t even considered this - but what about the rock bands? They’ve been targeting the disc jockeys, in many cases quite regularly. Everybody knew that Saville was dodgy: we didn’t know quite how, but we knew he was. That doesn’t surprise us. And then they’ve sort of moved on to a few comics and performers and poor old Rolf [Harris] has got dragged in from somewhere. What the other thing is, for anyone who was around in the 70s, is it was a little bit … it seems that rock bands had a special dispensation where it was like ‘Oh, they’re a rock band. They can have as many groupies as they like.’!
100% ROCK: They’re almost celebrated for it, aren’t they? Bad behavior is rewarded in that department!
Bill Oddie: Yeah! Exactly. It wasn’t the bands that were approaching, or instigating the thing necessarily. They were in no fit state to instigate anything sometimes! But it would have been the girls. I’m not knocking them
for it, but the 70′s was a time of, if you like, emancipation and putting it out, frankly.
100% ROCK: The Australian version of Top Of The Pops - Countdown - there were many stories about young ladies going backstage and fraternizing with the bands as they were waiting to perform, I’ve read that many times.
Bill Oddie: ‘Fraternizing’…? [laughs]
100% ROCK: That’s very euphemistic, isn’t it? (laughing) I’m sure a few of them fraternized their brains out.
Bill Oddie: It means brother, doesn’t it? To be fraternizing or something. That’s worse! Anyway, so that’s one of those things. I’ve also got a few things to say about our relationship over the years with the royal family, because we weren’t generally speaking particularly kindly to them over the years in the programs. And yet we know Prince Charles was a big fan.
The phone line dropped out at this point but we quickly reconnected…
100% ROCK: Yes! Sorry about that, I don’t know what happened but I’m on a different phone. Hopefully it won’t happen again.
Bill Oddie: I don’t know. It happened the other day a couple of times. You just get a funny bleep and then it goes. Ummmmmmmm… what was I babbling on about?
100% ROCK: Royal Family we’ve covered…
Bill Oddie: [Laughter] Yes, they will be covered, so to speak. Oh, I know. I was saying about some programs that we’re rather quite proud of having done and that includes programs, I mean, I know for Australia, [The Goodies] programs were censored quite a bit, but all that censorship was to do with it being on at a time when kids could watch and some of it was complete fantasy censorship! You know - how were they seeing a joke there? But in fact the things we got censored for in Britain were very, very different. They were always to do with what might have been a sensitive political situation or something like that.
So we had a couple of programs that we had trouble getting them to put out at all and the subjects of those, as it happens, were, one was, funnily enough, was the rock groupies and that sort of thing. I became a sort of weird pop star on Top Of The Pops and then there was another one about South Africa which we got a lot of trouble about which made us - which we were dead puzzled about. It was dead suspicious, because you go “Hmm.. has the BBC got shares in gold mines or something?” It was absurd. They actually said we were being too harsh on the South African police. What? It’s extraordinary.
There were couple like that. The Black And White Minstrel Show we had a go at, we often had a bash at very racist images and so on and so forth, and of course looking back, it’s funny that people are often say now, “Ooh, you were a bit - it was bit racist, wasn’t it?” And I say, “No, it wasn’t! It was quite the opposite actually” But they didn’t really notice it at the time, but you notice it now.
So some of the programs I think that we were proudest of and obviously some personal favorites… It’s not just sort of here they are again to another poor audience. I’m not doing that again. No more Giant Cat - don’t wanna see him any more! There’ll be a bit of audience participation, I can guarantee you that. I don’t expect the audience just to sit there all night, I shall want to hear a few voices and check out a few moves. A few people will be up on the stage and a little bit of music, a little bit of unplugged renderings of one or two old favorites and some to join in and some not to join in. So, you know, I hope it will represent a cornucopia of what’s gone before because there isn’t much to go after - you get to this stage in life and it’s nearly finished and almost over… [laughs, jokingly]
100% ROCK: That’s a little bit morbid [laughs] So, you mentioned touring with Graeme and Tim in 2005 and then a couple of tours they did without you and you did a little video piece for that. Has there been any talk that you could all reunite together for something, be it a tour in the future or a special or something like that?
Bill Oddie: Well, there’s plenty of talk about that sort of thing but it never seems to come to anything. The next question is whether we would want it to come to anything. And obviously the first thing one has to accept is you can’t put together the winning team of 1970 and expect them to play as well, you know! If you try that with cricket or rugby or something, it’s not going to work. And silent comedy and visual comedy and especially the sort of amount of pain that we used to have to go through, it’s no way to treat elderly gentlemen, [laughter] which is now what we are. I think physically, it would be impossible.
What might be possible, I tried to get off the ground the idea of a sort of a Goodies reunion type thing of some kind. I can’t remember exactly what the script was, but I had worked out some idea, and managed to get us together but it was a different take on things, sort of a mock documentary sort of thing, trying to find The Goodies, where are they now, what are they doing and so on and so forth. That didn’t get anywhere. [chuckles]
That’s sort of what happens - these ideas tend to come from a production company and that’s what has to happen. You never know, somebody in Australia this time, an Australian production company might say, “Any chance you’re doing some kind of documentary or whatever it is?” I mean, a send up, you know. The Spinal Tap of comedy… my God, that would be a thing to do! Ahhhh yes, yes, that would be a thing to do.
100% ROCK: That could work [laughs]
Bill Oddie: Amongst my worshipped shows on my list, I might be able to wangle something in there, a couple of favorites and things, but time for the whole of Spinal Tap would be pushing us!
100% ROCK: [Laughter] I saw one morning TV interview last week when Graeme said it probably wouldn’t be possible to do anything again as The Goodies because, for one main reason being the health and safety regulations have changed rather considerably for years. I mean the things that you guys did and put yourselves through and gone away with was incredible while watching
Bill Oddie: I think that’s absolutely true. It’s absolutely right. I mean, it’s absurd. Every time we go and do a little bit of TV, you know, I’ve done a few little small bits helping out … I suppose they were sort of guest spots on a couple of game showy type things - I’m fairly careful what I do, really. And you’re right, you have to sign about ten pages of stuff and then there’s these lists where you start reading them. It’s a list of potential dangers and it will say things like “Cup of tea might spill on you.” [Laughter] It’s like, “I know, I drink coffee.” So a cup of tea might kill you - ooh, okay then I won’t have tea, coffee then! And it goes on, it really is as daft as that! Every possible thing has to be anticipated.
Certainly, The Goodies, we wouldn’t stand a chance, but the one area where they don’t seem to care whether you risk your life or anything else is wildlife filming! I mean, I very rarely caught sight of health and safety anything, I can’t think of any sort and certainly never signed anything, and yet I’ve been dangled off cliffs and up and down ropes and all sorts of things. High winds on the top of mountains and I’ve done lots of things, let alone the wildlife: it’s not exactly Steve Irwin territory out here of course, but nevertheless, by the normal standards of health and safety, I shouldn’t be allowed to do any of it! But nobody ever said a word about that so apparently that’s all right. Maybe I’ve become an honorary animal once you’re a wildlife presenter?
100% ROCK: So have you remained sociable and friendly with Graeme and Tim over the forty years?
Bill Oddie: Yeah, but the secret to that is never to see them of course. [Laughter] It’s always rather sweet actually. It always comes - I don't know if they’re aware of the pattern of it, but we go for ages without seeing each other, and when we do have to get in touch, there’s nearly always the first couple of rebounds or the first couple of phone calls or whatever, will be slightly cautious, on the brink of being a little bit abrasive almost, you know? And then when we go to the next step and actually meet up to discuss something, then it will be right back to normal, everybody forgets that and it’s just like it was yesterday and you’re old mates and so on and so forth. And I think everybody is genuinely concerned with life things and family things, which have moved on, and changed and so on and so forth. So we don’t see each other a lot, but that’s as much geographical: both Tim and Graeme live well out of London whilst I live in London … and the irony is that I’m the wildlife presenter but I’m the city boy, but then, we’ve got more bloody wildlife in the city than there is out there. [Laughter]
100% ROCK: The BBC originally showed The Goodies at 9:00 p.m. or something like that, pitched firmly towards an adult market, whereas the ABC in Australia constantly played it around about the 5:30 to 6:30 mark, which allowed the show to be watched by parents with their kids and I think that’s why the following out here was so strong. Do you think that was just the BBC being narrow-minded and not having the foresight?
Bill Oddie: Ummmmmm… no. It’s an argument between giving and taking. The history at the BBC, it was quite interesting, it sorts of brings up all these issues because when they aired the first series, they put it out at about a quarter past ten, and this is because they assumed, “wacky undergraduates. It’s going to be a bit far out and an acquired taste so we’ll put it on at half past ten.” And we said “No, no, no, look, it’s a family show. Families can enjoy it. It should be earlier.” And then they moved us to about six o’clock or something, and again I’m afraid, and then we said “Well you’ve now put it in a definite children’s slot which means we can’t do half the things we want to do anyway and parents won’t watch.” Eventually in slight exasperation, they said, “When would we put you on then?” and we said, “Well, about 9 o’clock really was the ideal slot. 9 o’clock on BBC2 and then you can repeat it maybe a bit earlier another time in the week”, which they did. It was that 9 o’clock BBC2 slot which really was the main slot. It’s very different from Australia. I think it means that the audience was a bit older and was more a university audience and that’s the thing rather than the school audience. But whenever it was shown earlier kids always liked it, as we knew they would, because of the visual content and so on and so forth, but I think most people would agree it sort of existed on two levels to a certain extent. There’s plenty of stuff that definitely wasn’t for children…
100% ROCK: Definitely. Selected episodes have been released on DVD over in recent years, but it’s …
Bill Oddie: Yeah, I’m trying to find out how many because there’s several people on interviews who’ve said that we haven’t got many here and I think maybe we’re better off with it [in England]. It has not been easy. The BBC again come out as awkward buggers because they don’t do anything about releasing DVDs sometimes and never have in that case, but if anybody else tries it, the dog in the manger comes bounding over and demanding vast amounts of money. So it was a small independent company that sort of got them to agree to release them and the last I heard, although they released a fair number, the company said, “We can’t afford to do this. The BBC are bleeding us! And that’s typical BBC, frankly, I’m afraid. There’s a lot of mean and stingy sides to them… there we are.
100% ROCK: So it’s unlikely at this stage that we’ll see all eight BBC series released in full on DVD?
Bill Oddie: I would rather doubt it. I mean I don’t think all eight have been. It is eight, is it? You’d know better than me! I’m going to have a look and see how many have actually come out.
100% ROCK: I don’t know, there were two compilations and I think there were eight episodes on each that came out here 5 or 10 years ago, so there’s 16 episodes… plus the ninth season for LWT
Bill Oddie: Oh really, as late as that?
100% ROCK: Yeah.
Bill Oddie: Okay. Well we issued some new package of some sort. Yeah, I need to see a new copy. Anyway, I’ll see what …
100% ROCK: Well we haven’t seen that over here to the best of my knowledge. I might have to get a British version of that. Are you consciously aware of the legacy of your early comedy work? I mean, not just The Goodies but the other stuff you’re doing before that, on radio and on TV?
Bill Oddie: I’m only aware of it, I must admit, when it comes up in an interview or something like that. It’s like when somebody like yourself would say, “Yeah, you’ve made quite a lot over the years haven’t you, really?” Then when I sort of put them down in a list, it does seem to include a fair number of what I think were quite seminal shows at that time - although my contribution wasn’t necessarily that much! And the variety of contexts as well, so that includes That Was The Week That Was, which was the first big satire show, and that really has a place in history. And that was my first writing job and then I went through my musical phase, that’s pretty ordinary really, but there was one period which, by the way, I think I can illustrate a bit, where I’m pretty sure nobody would have heard, Cos for a couple of years I was being groomed as it were by my agent to be a pop star, rock singer, whatever, rather than comedy and George Martin was my producer for that. So I have that Beatles link and had a lot of big-name musicians play on demos and that sort of thing, so that’s something to be a bit proud of, I’m hoping.
100% ROCK: Absolutely. You’ve been very honest and open about some recent issues with depression and bipolar disorder…
Bill Oddie: Yes…
100% ROCK: Is the knowledge of that legacy, of the fact that you made millions of people laugh, does that help and comfort at a time when you’re feeling really down and having problems in that department?
Bill Oddie: No. I would say not. No, it isn’t. I don’t think anybody survives on those things and the depressive part in particular, would, I hate to say, but it doesn’t matter what people say, because they always say, quite understandably, they say, “but look, you must remember you did this, and you did that and you did the other.” It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re on the telly or anything else, if somebody says that to you, you just find yourself shrugging and saying, “So what?” It does. Not. Register, unfortunately, that side of things.
Even in the manic side, it can be, as bipolar as I am, it can be… [thoughtfully] very constructive and productive. Obviously, if it doesn’t get completely out of hand, and sometimes it does get like that. I’m lucky that I haven’t got to the stage of fantasizing I can fly and all that. I’m bipolar two which is, it’s manic, it’s over-energetic and all sorts of things. And generally, it’s not too dangerous except when it gets to the stage where you sort of… I think you start moving at a different pace to the rest of the world and then you become irritable with people around you. It turns into a ghost, of being a good energy into an impatient energy. When you’re saying, “Keep up with me, keep up, come on, what’s the matter with you?” I can see how bloody irritating that must be and I’ve had episodes of that.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but looking back, I’m sure … I did a talk to a bunch of doctors last year on a seminar on this thing, and one of them came up to me afterwards and said, because I said it took ten years to actually be certain of the diagnosis that I’m bipolar and that’s all too common, but he said, “I don’t know, it shouldn’t have been a problem - anybody who ever saw you in The Goodies, would have known it by now.” [laughs] And he said, “You know, it was perfectly obvious” [sings:] “You should have been manic.” But I could see what he meant, really. My character in [The Goodies] was exactly that - short-fused, ran like the clappers, etc etc.
I’m always happy to talk about that and I am certainly hoping in the show, because there’s room for questions as well. It’s not … 90% of it is me giving what I have to give, hopefully. There are little question slots in there and if anybody ask questions about that, it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m very happy to help. Sometimes it does help.
100% ROCK: Well I was going to ask, you say you’re happy to talk about that. Knowing that you’ll likely be questioned about that in every interview you do for the rest of your life, did that make it harder to want to come out and talk about it publicly in the first place?
Bill Oddie: Nah. If anything, it’s easier. It’s slightly contradictory, this, like people saying, “Oh its really good when you do talk about it. Because when people we know talk about it, it makes us realise, fellow sufferers, that a lot of people have this problem”, and that’s nice to hear, it’s gratifying. And maybe one almost has to be aware if you’re on the telly, or you’re a celebrity or whatever we’re called, you have to be slightly aware that there’s a danger of becoming a sort of bipolar celebrity and that’s part of your schtick. I’m not saying it’s intentional, but certainly in Britain, you say bipolar, I would say Stephen Fry.
Most people would probably say Stephen Fry because he’s done a lot of publicity and programs, all of which is good. And I’m sure it’s not intended, but in a way he does come out a bit as if being bipolar is like being a ventriloquist or being a musician or something. It’s like it’s The Bipolar Show, lasies and gentlemen! So there’s one or two of us [UK celebrities who are openly Bipolar], and I could easily get in that category now, so I try and ration my appearances to things which I think will help. You know, some of the organizations that deal with that sort of thing, sometimes ask for endorsements, and I say, “Sure, no problem.” The danger is it’s quite a glamorous illness but it’s also a killer, literally. On the down side, you might top yourself and a lot of people do. On the up side though, it’s productive, energetic and sort of attractive and it’s easy to romanticize that. Especially when you read books and see just about every bleedin’ poet and musician and everything else is bipolar, it’s become a cliche, almost.
100% ROCK: Well, it’s a fascinating subject. It really is, and I really think it’s good that you are coming out and talking about it …
Bill Oddie: I hope so. Yes it is, I think that’s the biggest … My only worry sometimes, is that I find myself thinking, “I know how complicated this is, I know what happened to me, I can’t just say to people ‘Do that
and do that, and you’ll be all right.’” It is not simple as that. And in fact, I’m not sure anybody can say “Do this” and “Do that and you’ll be all right.” It’s still a mystery and it works in mysterious ways. And it’s incredibly variable, it’s like having some machine that keeps going wrong but you don’t really know what’s wrong with it.
100% ROCK: Well, I’ve kept you for over a half an hour already so I’d better let you go. I could go for another 30 minutes with the questions I have but I won’t waste your time. I’ll leave you with one question here: you’ve had a very interesting life less ordinary; you’ve been an actor, comedian, and a radio star; stage, TV, the whole deal; conservationist, wildlife campaigner, charity work; it’s just incredible all the different
things you have done. Are you more interested in this stage of the game in being remembered as a comedian, as a conservationalist, or as a nice guy and a good parent?
Bill Oddie: [sighs] It’s a good question. I definitely think there are things that I’m proud of, but whether people need to remember them, I don’t know. I know my work ethic, and I would go along with Tim & Graeme probably agreeing with me. It’s “What’s the best satisfaction?” Most performers say “I just like getting up there and singing to the audience and they’re all looking at you in a good way,” and “Nothing like being on
stage.” I’m not much like that, but my main satisfaction is actually having come up with an idea and a concept and the characters and the script and actually getting it on the air. It becomes a success and lots of people
see it and then say that “That slightly, in a way, that kind of changed or affected my life.”
Obviously, in that case I’m talking about The Goodies and I’m talking about the people who worked on it. It’s always a big compliment when somebody, let’s say in special effects or props or something like that says, “I loved working on The Goodies” To give job satisfaction to a lot of people, job creation and it’s certainly nice if you can do that. And the last part is the audience, and there is no better example than Australia. The audience that soars and still remembers us and appreciates what we did. And a lot of people say they were affected in a good way and had a good time when they were younger and so on and so forth. That way, if you affect other people’s lives, I think, rather pretentiously, that would actually be my ambition that lurks behind everything. It is not conscious, but when I look at it, like the conservation things as well: I hope it affects the various animal’s lives, and I hope it affects other people’s lives and certainly it affects my life because people working in that area, I promise you are much nicer than TV people and all that stuff [laughter]. Much nicer than showbiz.
100% ROCK: Awesome. Well, look, it’s been a true pleasure. Thank you very much for your time and I cannot wait to see you at the end of June in Perth.
Bill Oddie: Thank you very much. I look forward to that.
Bill Oddie - An Oldie But A Goodie
Australian Tour 2013
Brisbane Thursday 20th June 2013 7.00pm The Tivoli
Sydney Friday 21st June 2013 8.00pm The Concourse Theatre
Melbourne Saturday 22nd June 2013 3.00pm The Astor in St Kilda
Adelaide Wednesday 26th June 2013 7.00pm Adelaide Town Hall
Perth Thursday 27th June 2013 7.00pm The Astor in Mt Lawley
You can win tickets to the Perth show by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your favourite Goodies episode - entries close Monday 17th June at 5:00pm so hurry!!