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British Comedy

Bill interview in Bristol Evening Post
13/01/2011 14:27 GMT

Posted by lisa

Bill has done an interview with the Bristol Evening Post to promote the upcoming Slapstick Festival 2011 (which will be held in Bristol, England from 27-30 January - details at

The article can be found online at

'Good comedy doesn't date'

Thursday, January 13, 2011, 07:00

NATALIE HALE talks to Bill Oddie, much loved as one third of the eminent comedy team The Goodies as well as a familiar face on such nature programmes as Spring Watch and Bill Oddie Goes Wild. At Slapstick Festival, Bill will be introducing a classic from his comedy heroes, Laurel and Hardy

Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden are regular guests at Bristol's Slapstick festival, having fallen in love with the annual homage to physical comedy when they first took part in 2007.

Now they have convinced their fellow Goodie, Bill Oddie, to come and join the fun.

The anarchic comedian, also Britain's most famous twitcher, will be one of the very special guests taking part in the flagship event of the Slapstick Festival, the Silent Comedy Gala at Colston Hall.

A star-studded evening of classic comedy and live entertainment, this unique event presents four national comedy icons (Oddie, Ian Lavender, Barry Cryer
and Neil Innes) introducing classic silent comedy shorts on the big screen accompanied by live music.

This gala is truly a once in a life-time opportunity to see the funniest silent comedy with some of our best-loved British comedy performers.

Bill will be introducing classic Laurel and Hardy silent, We Faw Down.

"I'm delighted to be introducing a Laurel and Hardy short at the gala," he tells me. "I have to say that We Faw Down isn't actually my favourite Laurel and Hardy short I prefer their later work. But this early piece is an interesting taste of things to come."

One of his greatest loves as a child, he tells me, was going to the pictures on a Saturday morning.

"You have to be my age or older to remember the Saturday morning pictures, I've discovered. Youngsters look at me blankly. But it was absolutely standard when I was young for kids to go to the Saturday morning matinee.

"There were fairly standard ingredients to any programme those ridiculous Pathe news things that weren't meant to be funny, a general interest bit, a cartoon, a Western, and a comedy.

"This was where you acquired a taste for what kind of comedy you liked and who you liked best."

And Bill liked Laurel and Hardy.

"They are a brilliant example of the classic ingredients of long-lasting and long-remembered comedy. One of those things is that iconic look of a fat one and a thin one. That has carried on throughout comedy, you've got Mike and Bernie Winters, the Two Ronnies, Little and Large... I've had experience of
that, too, when I used to do sketches with John Cleese in cabaret. There was that immediate funny contrast it looks funny before you even do anything.

"Also, what comes with that is the threat or promise of violence. You've got a big one and you've got a little one and the chances are that the poor little bugger is going to get bullied at some point!

"In fact, both of them get it fairly often, and it's funny because they're not quite real enough for you to think it really hurts, but at the same time they are both very sympathetic characters."

Bill, who was born in Rochdale but grew up in the Midlands, came from generations of mill workers on both sides of the family, but he was encouraged academically by his father, who sent him to a good public school, and he ended up at Cambridge University.

There he befriended fellow Goodies Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor, as well as John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle, who would, of course, later become founding members of Monty Python. This group of students were
soon close friends and studied and socialised together.

They all joined the university's prestigious Footlights club, with Tim becoming president in 1963. This is when, Tim has previously told me, he introduced his fellow students to Buster Keaton.

"That's right, he did," recalls Bill. "The comedy films I remember as a kid are those of The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy. I don't remember much Keaton from then maybe it was considered a little too sophisticated for us. It was certainly Tim, among others, who brought Keaton to Cambridge. I'm sure Keaton was terribly grateful!"

In 1970, Bill, Tim and Graeme teamed up to form The Goodies, an act that was heavily influenced by silent, slapstick comedy. The television series was a massive hit and ran from November 1970 to February 1982 on BBC2, with 70 episodes produced in all.

And there were numerous nods to their slapstick influences many of the sketches included silent, live-action cartoon humour. There were even pastiches or variations of famous Keaton scenes, such as the house falling down around him.

"We were very influenced by our God, Buster Keaton, and by my favourites, Laurel and Hardy.

"Their work was funny when it was made, was funny when we watched it as students and let it influence our work, and is funny today. Really good comedy doesn't date."

Slapstick Silent Comedy Gala takes place at Colston Hall on Friday, January 28 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost 20/16 call 0117 922 3686.

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