Celebrities choose the TV moments that have shaped their lives. John Thomson joins Brian Conley on the sofa and tells how his love of horror helped bring him closer to his dad.
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TV - the magic box of delights.
As kids, it showed us a million different worlds,
all from our living room.
-This takes me right back.
I am genuinely shocked.
Each day, I'm going to journey through the wonderful
world of telly with one of our favourite celebrities...
-It is just so silly.
-Ah! I love it!
-Is it Mr Ben?
-..as they select the iconic TV moments...
..that tell us the stories of their lives.
-Oh, my gosh.
-Some will make you laugh...
..some will surprise...
-..many will inspire...
-Look at this. Why wouldn't you what to watch this?
-..and others will move us.
-Seeing that there made a huge impact on me.
Got a handkerchief?
So, come and watch with us,
as we rewind to the classic telly that shaped those wide-eyed
youngsters into the much-loved stars they are today.
Welcome to The TV That Made Me.
My guest today is a gifted comedian and actor, Mr John Thomson.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-How are you?
-I'm all right.
-Give me a cuddle.
Come and sit down. Welcome to my flat.
From The Fast Show to Men Behaving Badly...
Playing The Field to Cold Feet, if there's a good comedy
drama show on telly, there's a good chance this man is in it.
Amongst the TV that made him, a show where a bear,
a hippo and an alien all lived happily together.
Oh, yes, Geoffrey, oh, that's a good idea.
And a magician who kept us amazed for over 15 years.
I keep a different tassel in here, and it makes my problems disappear.
-How are you, mate?
-I'm very well.
-Are you excited about looking back on your past?
-Yes, I am. Yes.
-So, what was TV like as a child, you know, growing up?
I was all over the place as a child, and I couldn't settle,
but THAT would settle me. That was my baby-sitter, that was my nanny.
-So you would plonk me in front of that and I would just...
Zone out. I would even watch the test card.
With the girl with the Alice band and the clown and the noughts
and crosses and the balloon. Yes.
So, John, today is a celebration of your favourite highlights,
TV highlights, that have shaped you,
probably even made you the person you are today.
And before all that, we are going to rewind the clock now
and have a look at what it was like being a very young John Thomson.
There's my clicker.
Born and bred in Lancashire, John was a boy of the '70s,
growing up near Preston with his dad, a local businessman, Mum,
a bookseller, and his younger brother, Ben.
While still a student at Manchester Poly, he got his first TV
break doing voice impressions for Spitting Image.
Before long, we got to see him on our screens in comedy
hits like Coogan's Run...
and as Len the barman in Men Behaving Badly.
Later, starring as the hapless Pete Gifford in the long-running comedy
drama series Cold Feet firmly established him as a household name.
But for many, he truly made his mark as the legendary jazz critic
Louis Balfour in The Fast Show.
Which was nice, or should I say,
AS LOUIS BALFOUR: nice!
So, John, do you remember watching TV as a kid?
Like we said, they used to just plonk you there.
I had a lot of favourite as a child.
There was Watch With Mother, which was
kind of an offshoot from the radio, which was Listen With Mother.
So we didn't really do the wireless thing, because it was the '70s, so...
Do you know why it was called Watch With Mother?
It was, you know, so that the mums would be there,
so they wouldn't dump them. As they did with you.
So you didn't actually watch with Mother.
It should have been called Watch On Your Own.
Mine should have been, should have been called
Watch And Call Social Services.
-I remember Andy Pandy...
-..the Flower Pot Men. Woodentops.
-And then, over the other side, Rainbow.
And, er, Pipkins I absolutely loved.
-So, your first choice is actually Rainbow.
There is an apocryphal story that goes with Rainbow, where my mum
caught me, because she wasn't watching with me, obviously.
My mum saw me, and I looked round with a very angry
look on my face, and my mum said to me, "What on earth is the matter?"
And I said, "I want Bungle to die."
And the reason was, he was kind of a bit mamby-pamby
and very sensible, whereas I was always a Zippy fan.
Because he was a bit naughty.
And I was always a bit naughty, you know, attention-seeking
and kind of, you know, troublesome.
And I kind of identified with... Out of all the Rainbow cast,
Zippy was my man. Whereas Bungle, no...
Should we have a little look? Should we see if Bungle,
Bungle the bear, see if he is irritating in this one?
-There is a letter for you.
-A letter for me, Geoffrey?
-Is there one for me, Geoffrey?
-No, sorry, Zippy.
Bungle and his mates, George and Zippy,
with presenter Geoffrey Hayes, made up the Rainbow house.
This preschool kids' show first appeared in 1972...
as Britain's answer to the American hit series Sesame Street.
With over 1,000 episodes, it ran for two decades.
I don't think I like sharing a bed any more.
I think I should have a bed of my own.
-Is he irritating you here, John?
-Yes, slightly, yes.
-A bed of your own?
-Yes. And a room of my own as well.
-And a room, he is getting very big-headed.
-Well, he's 18.
-And he is in bed with a cow and an alien.
-It is a hippopotamus.
-Oh, is it a hippopotamus?
But we've only got two bedrooms, Bungle.
Ours and Geoffrey's.
I only ever saw one episode where it explained what Zippy was.
-And he is, apparently, a dwarf from outer space. Honestly.
-Yeah, I bet you didn't know that.
-Can you do Zippy?
-It was one of those voices that everybody could do, you see.
But everybody did that, because he only had one hand. Because the guy is doing this.
So everybody did this, you see. So everybody...
-And George, he talked like that, didn't he?
Might I have your room, and you share with Zippy and George?
-Well, is that what you want?
-Yes, Geoffrey, it is.
Oh, all right, Bungle, you have my bedroom tonight.
-So, he really upset you, Bungle.
-Bungle, I had no time for him. No.
-Did you... You really...
-I'm over it now.
-I'm over it.
-Are you really over it, John?
I am. As bears go...
You haven't seen Bungle for 35 years.
We have flown him 25 miles to be here.
Would you please welcome the original Bungle bear?
Ho, ho, ho!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-Hello, Bungle. Come and join us on the sofa.
-It is John Thomson.
-No hard feelings. I was only five.
-I was five once.
-Do you feel better now?
-I'm dealing rather well with it.
-Yeah. You haven't actually...
You haven't been affectionate to it, though, John.
-Do you know what, he's a lot more cuddly upfront.
Yeah. Do you know what, yeah, I can see the appeal now.
So, Bungle, it is honestly, truly a great honour to be here, because
when they said, "We've got Bungle,"
I didn't think it was THE real Bungle, but you were...
Oh, yes, I was. When you were little.
Underneath the famous fuzzy suit is Malcolm Lord.
He took over the role in 1989 for three years.
He was the third actor to play the iconic brown bear during
its original run on Thames Television.
-Are you wearing shoes now?
-Zippy told me you've got cold feet.
-Oh, yes, I have.
-Bungle, it's been lovely to meet you.
-I am genuinely shocked.
Oh, Bungle, thank you so much for coming on the show.
-John, do you think you have buried the hatchet?
Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only, from Rainbow,
the original Bungle bear.
-Bye-bye. See you now.
Bungle's not the first bear on TV to have captured
the imagination of generations of children.
Sooty, the small hand puppet bear created by Harry Corbett,
debuted on our TVs in the early 1950s.
In fact, a show bearing Sooty's name has continued ever since, making
it one of the most enduring characters in children's TV.
Since then, we've had Big Ted and Little Ted,
stalwarts of the Play School house.
Later, in '76, and fresh from Peru, Paddington Bear arrived
with 59 episodes of his antics on our screens.
And today, what would the annual BBC Children in Need appeal be
without this cheeky mascot? The lovable Pudsey.
John, tell us about your living room growing up.
TV, when we were kids, was a very much more family affair.
As opposed to... There wasn't that much choice.
Obviously, people couldn't afford to have TVs in every
room like they do, you know, with all the channels.
So there were certain times of the week,
particularly Saturday nights, where TV was a family affair
and we would all sit down and watch it together.
-Would you sort out treats, would there be treats for you?
-Yes, there used to be...
My dad would go and get a Chinese takeaway on a Saturday night.
And he would... We would put the order in for sweets for afterwards.
-Oh, you would have sweets.
-My order, quite often,
-was a Milky Way.
-A Milky Way.
Well, just sit there, John... In the kitchen here...
-I've made a special effort.
-I only got you two, love.
-We couldn't push...
-Oh, you have one.
-But there you go.
-Yes, the sweet that you could eat between meals without
ruining your appetite.
Oh, f... Honestly, really?
How many? How many could you have? You look back on those tag lines.
A Mars a day...
makes you fat.
Really, doesn't it? It doesn't make you work, re... Rest?!
Oh, I'll have a Mars bar. Oh, that's better. Do you know what I mean?
I mean, advertisers are getting away with murder. A Milky Way.
I think it is because...
The fondant inside is, it is whipped, isn't it?
I presume it is a lighter thing. So...
Hopefully this won't ruin my appetite.
-Does it take you back to those early days?
-Watching the box.
-Now, another programme you used to like watching.
-The Tomorrow People.
-The Tomorrow People.
-Should we just have a little look?
-A bit before it's time, this.
-This was your must-see TV.
This futuristic children's science-fiction series
ran for six years and 68 episodes,
on ITV, starting in 1973.
We have forgiven your gross impertinence in teleporting in here.
He looks like an explosion of a knickerbocker glory, doesn't he?
It is a cross between the Honey Monster
and a broken ice cream machine.
The Tomorrow People were teenagers who battled the bad
people of Earth and space,
after developing superhuman powers, including telepathy
and the ability to teleport.
Take him away!
What they had was belts, that meant they could jaunt,
-it was called, jaunting.
-And you kind of do that and you could...
And the idea of teleporting when you were a kid is just the best.
Like Star Trek, you know, to be able to disappear
and appear in another place, especially when you're at school.
Appealing to a young adult audience with its
narrative of teenagers ruling over adult, the compelling storyline
made up for the clearly limited prop and costume budget.
You see, that costume there, the silver one,
looks a bit like a Time Lord from Gallifrey, Doctor Who.
-I think that has been nicked.
-Were you a big fan of sci-fi?
Yes, because I always loved horror and sci-fi and ghosts
and monsters and all that kind of, you know, comics and...
All those kind of things... I relished pure escapism.
So, Doctor Who and Star Trek, Blake's 7,
all those kind of things just were so up my street.
Was your younger brother into these sort of things as well?
Me and my brother, Ben, we bonded on Star Wars.
-As a kid?
-Yes. And, um,
we used to do a kind of thing with...
It was the figures, you know, the Star Wars figures, where we
kind of like show it and you had to name it.
Some of the more obscure ones.
We would see if we could catch each other out.
-Did you ever fantasise about being in Tomorrow People?
-Oh, God, yes.
I always wanted to be an actor, really,
because I was class clown, and it was kind of like...
Mum and Dad wondered why I was so disruptive and everything,
so they tested me, er, my...my...
-IQ, and it was very, very high.
-I like the way you have to struggle with remembering the word IQ.
-Would it surprise you that I was one of Tomorrow's People?
Yes, I was. I did an episode.
I did an episode where they had frozen all these young German
soldiers, and they defrosted them,
and then these soldiers were going to take over the world.
-Do you want to have a little look at it?
-I would love to.
-Surprise number two!
-..a very young Nicholas Lyndhurst.
-But Wolfgang Crass was a fool.
-Can you see where I am?
-That's me, next to the projector.
-There. Blimey. How old were you?
I was about, I don't know, about 16, 17, yes.
-So, yeah. And I loved the programme. I mean, for me...
-You must have been so excited.
-Was that one of the first things you did?
-Yes, I think so, yes.
And Nicholas Lyndhurst.
-I don't think he'd have done that much up until that point.
John, your next choice is Parents' Choice, specifically your dad.
-Should we just have a little look?
-Yeah, why not?
Appointment With Fear introduced a regular late-night horror
slot on the ITV network.
The broadcast times and opening credits varied across the regions.
To see those opening credits, with those faces morph,
-that was, like, a top effect.
It was like, "Whoa, that was state-of-the-art that, really."
But, yes, that has really brought back memories.
The Abominable Dr Phibes, made in 1971,
was typical of the nightmarish films showcased in this slot.
What have we got here? Oh, needing some help, Miss?
Do you remember this one?
I've seen it a few times, I'm a great fan of Vincent Price,
yes. I love the Phibes films.
Everyone meets a very untimely and rather cruel death.
In this kitsch British horror, the evil Dr Phibes seeks
revenge for a group of incompetent doctors that he
believes killed his wife, and it starred the iconic Vincent Price.
-Clearly with some sort of death grip. Look at that wig.
And that's his assistant. Do you know what her name is?
-No, go on.
SLOW VIOLIN MUSIC
That, beneath that, he's deteriorated massively
and that's kind of like make up.
I like all this, you know, automata, kind of...this weird horror.
It's right up my street. Something's going to go horribly wrong now.
I was obsessed with horror films
and my mum and dad were all right with it,
but they were very, very shrewd,
cos I said to my dad, this is really sweet, this story,
I used to say, "Dad, will you wake me up for Appointment With Fear?"
My dad went, "Yeah, all right, I will."
He used to wake me up and say, "Come downstairs",
put the TV on and every time...
HE SNORES AND LAUGHTER
..just fall fast asleep, then he'd carry me back to bed,
but the next day, he'd have watched it, and he would tell me
from the beginning to the end
the story, and I'd listen with bated breath.
-So, do you think it made you feel
-grown-up? Yeah, I think so.
Late-night horror strands were all the rage during the 1970s.
The Exorcism was typical of the creepy films
played during the Dead of Night slot in 1972.
Other forays into terror included the strand
A Ghost Story For Christmas, which ran for seven years
from 1971, filled with spooky supernatural tales.
But as early as 1955 the master of suspense himself
chilled audiences with Alfred Hitchcock Presents,
an anthology series showcasing short, offbeat
and often unsettling films.
We're moving onto Sneaky Peak.
This is a Sneaky Peak with a difference,
-because this is something you used to watch...
..but only because, because of your aerial.
-This was Batman and Robin.
And...do you want us to play...?
-Or just tell us the story...
-Do you want the background?
-OK. There were a few things in my house that was banned.
Benny Hill wasn't allowed.
-He was too blue.
I don't know if anyone else suffered at the hands of this,
but we were told that Swap Shop on a Saturday morning
was a sensible programme to watch, but the truth be told,
-everyone wanted to watch Tiswas.
But that WASN'T a sensible programme.
We weren't far from Winter Hill, which is the mast
that broadcast all the TV, so we got a good reception where we were.
The beauty of it was I could turn off Swap Shop, sneak upstairs,
watch the end of Tiswas, but then with the dial tune to HTV,
which was the Welsh version of ITV, and watch Batman.
-No-one else, that wasn't on ITV for us northerners.
Fortunately...it wasn't in Welsh.
You know what I mean? Um...
-Can you imagine?
-It's not the same, is it?
-The Riddler. Joker.
-Shall we have a look?
-Yeah, let's have a look.
-Here we go.
That title music, it's brilliant, isn't it? Here we go.
With its bombastic and camp style,
this 1960s depiction
of the famous comic book hero Batman,
originally ran for three series.
-It's not quite The Dark Knight, is it?
-No, it's not, really.
-But this is where it all came from? BOTH:
-This is where it started.
They call it the cowl, don't they, the Batman mask?
-But he had pencilled-on eyebrows on top.
-Let's have a look.
Strange. No answer.
-What is it, Batman?
-Oh, you're right.
-There, look at that.
He looks like he's had too much Botox, doesn't he, really, look?
Do you know what? For crime-fighters,
-terrible peripheral vision.
Do you know what I mean?
Cos he couldn't see him coming.
Not the greatest idea, is it, really?
Its cartoony characters and dialogue played for laughs
made it a timeless favourite amongst young and not-so-young viewers.
THE JOKER LAUGHS
-..who played the Joker here,
but I could always see the tache underneath. It kind of bugged me a bit.
He must've been a bit of a diva, they'd go,
"Shave the tache off", and he'd go, "No. Not doing it."
-Here we go, here comes the fight sequence.
-Oh, it's coming.
-Not bad though, you know. Crraack!
-The sound effect. Oooff!
-This make 'em...
Thwapp! You can imagine it in Welsh, can't you?
HE SPEAKS IN WELSH
-It's still good choreography, isn't it?
-That there looked real.
Watch out, Batman.
-If I was directing this...
-..I'd say, "Could we go again?"
Cos it just sort of went on his shoulder
and it wouldn't have done much, would it?
Batman and Robin, the dashing diamonds of derring-do!
THE JOKER LAUGHS
It's like that thing with Captain Kirk, he was always doing this.
-You're all right, aren't you?
-That actually hurt, that did. LAUGHTER
Or this one,
the double-handed on the back of here between the shoulder blades.
-People would just go, "What did you do that for?"
They go down, don't they? They go, "Ah!"
Actually they go like that and they go, "What was that?"
-We spoke about the sound effects.
-We've got some.
-We've got some here for you.
-It's a test, is it?
-It's a test.
Let's see how well you are,
see how much you are up on the old sound effects.
We want you to decide whether they actually came from the show or not.
-True or false?
-I'm definitely having "Kapow!"
-What do we reckon?
-What do we think? Right book?
-Maybe a cross.
-After three. One, two, three.
-Stunt school as well.
-Well, you're right.
-Yeah, that's in.
Do you know, it's that kitsch, the show, it wouldn't surprise me.
So you're saying true?
-Yes, or no? FROM AUDIENCE:
You're being swayed by my flatmates, aren't you?
-I think it's an amusing concept...
-..but I'm saying no.
-Well, you're wrong. It was...
-Should've gone with my instinct!
-"Rakkk!!"? A rakkk is a rakkk, rakk-k-k-k-k-k...
-That's more of a gun.
-You're wrong. It is. Incorrect.
Oh, that's the Welsh one...
Oh, I've got it the wrong way round!
-I don't know. I'm not buying that.
-No? OK, then. So, you're saying no?
-It is a yes. GENTLE LAUGHTER
-And it's the final one.
-It could be breaking wind underwater.
-Yeah, I thought that.
-I'll say yes.
-Well, you're absolutely right in saying yes.
-They ALL were?
-They all were.
-Going to have to go through every episode now, to look for flrbbb.
With seven other actors, like Val Kilmer in 1995,
this caped crusader has been portrayed by more actors
than any other superhero in movie history...
Val Kilmer, then George Clooney two years later,
only lasting one film.
But Christian Bale, with the sequels Dark Knight
and The Dark Knight Rises became
the first to play Bruce Wayne
and his alter ego three times
on the big screen.
Entering the Batcave next
and joining the legion of actors before him,
Ben Affleck is the latest to don
the cape and cowl, taking on another
classic superhero in Batman Versus Superman,
Dawn Of Justice.
John, we're going to take a little break now.
-We're going to have an advert.
-It's one of your favourites, the finger of Fudge.
Before I play it, do you think you can remember the theme tune?
I can... # A finger of Fudge is just enough to give your kids treat... #
# A finger of Fudge is just enough until it's time to eat... #
The advert for Cadbury's Fudge bar ran from the late 1970s.
Its catchy tune was actually a traditional folk song,
"The Lincolnshire Poacher" and the slogan, "a finger of fudge
"is just enough" was popular enough to continue well into the 1990s.
I've got a theory on this and I meet the odd person and go, "You, too!"
# A finger a Fudge is just enough, it's very small and neat
# It's full of... # This is what I thought they said...
# PEPPERY goodness until it's time to eat
-# A finger a Fudge is just enough...
I thought they were like that...
In the factory...
Like that. And they'd go, "Giuseppe!"
-And he'd have his big...
-IMITATES PEPPER GRINDING
..thing, like that, cos it sounds exactly like,
"it's full of peppery goodness..."
-Because the words are Cadbury's goodness...
Please agree with me, it's "peppery" to me.
-# A finger of Fudge is just enough... #
-Here we go.
# It's full of Cadbury goodness... #
-I'll give you that.
-I don't feel a fool now.
So was you cheated when you bought a finger of Fudge
and it didn't taste of pepper?
Do you know, in this day and age,
to add pepper to Fudge, it would probably work.
Heston, if you're watching...
Let me know. Give it a go.
Where there any other adverts that used to catch your eye?
Oh, God - so many. I used to love the Milk Tray.
It's coming back! They're looking for the new Milk Tray man.
I was a huge Bond fan as well, as a child,
since I was a very, very small...
And James Bond films were...
I still am a huge James Bond fan and it was like James Bond,
but delivering chocolate.
THEY HUM THEME TUNE
But you know, he'd jump off a cliff, swim through shark-infested waters,
get up, climb up the same cliff...
-Open up a manky box, because they were all wet.
-One of your heroes I believe is Paul Daniels.
That was one of my favourite TV shows.
I would never miss it.
-Shall we have a little look?
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
This is what you've all come to see, isn't it?
This trick, that you're about to see, it's one that even baffles me.
Running for an incredible 15 years from 1979,
The Paul Daniels Magic Show regularly pulled in
around 15 million viewers, who must have liked it, maybe
not a lot, but they liked it.
To some of you, it may appear to be one string -
un string - that goes through here.
Lovely, so simple.
I keep a different tassel in here...
And it makes my problems disappear.
Because moving this one to the right
makes the other two disappear from sight.
I mean that, that's a really basic trick, that...
That he's brought to life, really. Oh, Debbie McGee, there she is.
In a bathrobe!
Magic has had us gasping at the screens ever since the birth of TV.
David Nixon first performed magic from Alexandra Palace
from the early '50s.
And just like that, not like that, but "just like that," the iconic
entertainer Tommy Cooper was given his own magic show in 1952.
Later, magician David Blaine revolutionised magic
with his high-profile illusions and feats of endurance.
Whilst today, new talent like Dynamo
is paving the way for a new
generation of street magicians.
So performing a trick in front of a live audience,
John - have you ever done that?
-Brian, it's funny you should ask me that.
-Really? Go on.
When I was a kid, my first-ever live performance was...
We had a village hall in the little village
I grew up in called New Longton, near Preston.
Everyone would do a turn, we'd have, like, a variety show
and they asked me to do...
I was only about five, six...
I can't remember, I was really, really young,
and at the time, I did a very good Frank Spencer.
Anyone who does impersonations, it's where you start.
I was a fan of Tommy Cooper's, I could do Frank Spencer,
-so I thought I'll do Frank Spencer...
-..doing some magic, you see.
-I fell through the window, I'll fix in the morning...
-Still gets laughs, though!
But it's like EVERYONE does him, everyone DID him,
do you know what I mean?
So I asked for a volunteer in the audience to give me
a £5 note.
I put it in a wallet, I shut the wallet,
Open it, and the fiver's gone.
Then I said, "Thanks very much," and sent the guy back to his seat,
but I never gave him his fiver back.
Listen, in 1976,
five quid... That, for a six-year-old - serious coin!
So that was my first paid gig.
-You're not bringing him on for his fiver, are you?
-But I believe you've still got that prop.
-A wallet, here...
I know what you want, and I've got one here.
I've got a 20, but I'm going to let you have a fiver.
You can see there's nothing untoward about that, there's no wire.
Fiver, that's real.
We'll just slip that neatly in there. Like that.
-And that's that. I'll look after that for you.
it's not much of a trick, really.
Well, it is when it goes.
Oh, that is good. That's good.
-There you go.
Yeah, but now I've lost my fiver, haven't I?
You're not having it back.
-Right. It's disappeared.
-It's somewhere in the ether.
-So, a major passion of yours, magic?
-I love magic.
You talk about voices,
you're well renowned for being the king of voice-overs.
Yes, I do quite a few.
You do documentary series and things like that, so voices and impressions,
did that sort of ease you into the sort of world we know as showbiz?
My first job...
When I went to drama school,
Steve Coogan was in the third year.
I was a first year.
Steve got wind of the fact there was a guy who could do impressions and
Steve said, "I work for a show called Spitting Image and I went, "Oh, do you?"
He went, "Yeah, I work at weekends,
"I do the voices for these puppets - it's a satirical show."
He said, "You should send a tape off". So I put down...
I did it properly, I spent time to put music behind it and did little
sketches with my voices, and I sent it off and lo and behold, I got
the job and that was my first kind of break into the business.
So when I was a student, my Saturday job...
Working as a student was just... My Saturday job was Spitting Image.
-So what characters would you play?
-I started off...
-I was just like, crying all the time, like, you know?
Remember he used to... Like Sweep!
He was like a Geordie Sweep that played football.
HE GIBBERS AND CRIES
..and he'd cry...
And then what you had to do, you'd work your way up the ranks...
And then I ended up doing Bill Clinton, President of the United States in the end.
So I got to be a president in the end,
but it was great fun...in its day, it was a great,
hugely popular show and a great break, really,
even though you didn't see me, it didn't bother me,
I was working and I was doing something I loved
and that's why I'm so grateful every day that I do a job I love.
John, we've reached the odd category, a moment where you get to
choose a programme that you like just for the hell of it.
Let's have a look at what you chose.
-To you, it's just...
But to a child,
it's a caravan, a ship...
It may seem like an innocent kids' cartoon,
but short films like this were actually terrifying and doom-laden
public information films
shown on TV from 1945
to the present day....
..or smash the lock, or better still, ask your local council
to take it away or tell you how to dispose of it.
Before it kills a child.
I mean, obviously they're saying good things here,
everyone should look out for, you know... Fridges are dangerous.
Old fridges CAN kill, Brian - we've got to take this very seriously...
What fridge has a lock on it?!
Like, the house of greedy children.
"Right, I'll put a lock on that!" Know what I mean?
The thing is though,
where would you come across an old fridge to play in, really?
I mean, as a child, did you ever come across a random fridge?
No, and not a pink one. No.
So you've chosen public information films...
-I adore them.
Yeah, they kind of worked for my spectrum kind of mind.
But the thing is, one thing about them was, you know
my love of horror... Some of them are absolutely terrifying.
-But they had to be, to work.
-Shall I show you this one, then?
Because I find this quite terrifying. I must say...
But they had to be frightening,
to put the kids off and there should be more of these.
This one is another public information film.
I remember it. I remember it well!
Looks like she's doing the Shake'n' Vac advert at the moment.
You just watch.
There's the mum, she's polished the floor and put the rug down.
That rug will soon change into something else. There you go.
Brand-new baby, straight back from the hospital...
The mum's polished the floor, thinking everything's lovely...
And to think, he'd only just come FROM the hospital.
-BUT, it could have been HER through the door first.
-It could have.
Double casualty. A fragile baby... I can't imagine that scene of horror.
And you know, all the blame lies at the mum,
-just trying to keep a tidy home.
Polish the floor, you may as well leave a mantrap.
-That's full-on, isn't it?
It is, isn't it?
But that stayed with me.
What, you don't clean?
-It's filthy, my house, squalor.
-But no-one's falling over.
I do have...two runners in my hall,
but they're rubberised underneath.
-See? But that is down to the manufacturer.
I can't believe we're talking about this!
-I can't believe we're talking about...
But the thing is though, if you look at the back story of that,
it's not the first time she's cleaned that floor.
Maybe she doesn't like the son-in-law.
There's a subtext to it.
She stalled her, with the baby, did you see that?
At the door, she went... "He's gone, yeah!"
John, we're going to move on to your first big break, the first
time you were propelled into the limelight
and it's The Fast Show.
Oh, I love this character.
This is Chip Cobb, I'll explain where I got the name in a minute.
-He's the deaf stuntman.
You run to the edge of the roof,
there's a shot,
you clutch your chest
and then you fall.
Who do I shoot?
No, YOU get shot!
OK, right - yeah.
It all comes from...
The expense and time it takes to set up a stunt, you know,
they want to get it in one, don't they? Every time.
I thought, make the stuntman deaf
and he messes it up every time,
so they have to keep doing it again.
No, I'm not happy about this, Peter.
The stunt's higher than we arranged.
I've asked my bloke to deflate that bag, it's way too small.
Need a larger bag in there, it's going to cost more money,
but I've got to think about the safety.
Can you stand down,
we need to replace the bag with a bigger bag and, er...
-Go and check your make-up with Ruth.
-Chuck myself off the roof?
You said you had a story about his name.
Yeah, I was looking at the menu... It was...
Because we have teacakes and barm cakes,
depends where you come from and when we were filming at the time,
cos a lot of this was shot in the north-east and they have cobs.
And one of the things on offer in the cafe was a chip cob
and I thought stuntman, Chip, sounds about right,
surname Cobb, Chip Cobb.
So he's Chip Butty.
Was he one of your favourite characters on The Fast Show?
Yeah, I loved doing him.
He's one of my creations, I wrote him,
but the most popular one's the Jazz Club,
which Paul and Charlie created, but I fleshed out.
Welcome to Jazz Club,
On paper, it's not very interesting,
so all that, "great, nice", stuff
was my lovely director's idea to make it more interesting.
On the show today, Jackson Geoffrey Jackson,
surely the most innovative force in modern jazz trumpet styling.
One extra dimension to make that character funnier was to
look at the Tube map...
It's an endless source of names for jazz players.
"Featuring Leicester Square on sax, Ongar on bass
"and Parsons Green on keyboards."
So you just pick them out and they work brilliantly.
The Fast Show was one of the most popular sketch shows of the 1990s.
The re-occurring gags,
characters and the catchy one-liners were the brainchild of
Paul Whitehouse and his friend, writing partner Charlie Higson.
What was it like working with Paul and Charlie?
It was as much fun as it looks.
But it was gruelling, because we'd do...
We'd be literally, "What am I now?
"Oh, I'm a caveman"..."Are you?"
"Oh, yeah - I'm a mad scientist..." But it was just...
It was such great fun, I love doing sketches.
-Who in your opinion was the greatest Fast Show character?
Course, not including yours, which we all know and love...
It's Rowley Birkin,
the judge that Paul does.
Yeah. You can't understand what he says...
It's the drunk judge...
..I said Christmas cracker...
And a hat! Ha-ha-ha!
That kind of thing.
So, I just...
But it was based on a real guy that Paul used to go fishing with.
-So you often...
Paul would go, "What?" And he'd go...
-..the wife's terrible breath!
And Paul kind of...
You often find that characters lifted from people that really
exist are so much stronger, the basis for them.
But it was just a joy to do.
I'd like to do a reunion.
Something you are doing a reunion for is...
-That's right, yeah.
It's 12 years, nearly 13 years since it finished and it is 20 years
since it started.
I was 28 when I started that show.
I'm a bit nervous, because the pressure is on.
But the demand for it is huge because over the years,
the last 12 years, the public have...
And the same goes for the rest of the cast,
people stop me in the shops
and in the street
and say, "When is it coming back?"
-The demand for the show is there.
-It's because they love it.
Yeah. We hit the mark the first time round,
so I just hope we can do it again.
-So what do you enjoy watching now?
-I like a good box set.
Obviously, I did Breaking Bad, that took me a year to finish.
On terrestrial TV, I won't miss Luther.
-I like that, cos that's dark.
I really like that.
John Thompson, have you enjoyed it, this trip down memory lane?
-Very much, I've loved it.
-You've been a wonderful guest.
-It's been a pleasure.
-I've really enjoyed my time with you.
Now, we give our guests the opportunity to pick a theme tune
for us to play out on. What's yours today?
Well, as a drummer, I've always been a fan of the bass, so the rhythm
section is the backbone to music and the bass line on this is fantastic.
-It's the New Avengers theme.
So if you listen to the bassline on this,
it's really quite something special.
Well, it wouldn't be complete without our special guest,
we'd like to welcome him back from Rainbow, the lovely Bungle...
Come on in, Bungle.
Thanks to Bungle, my thanks to John and my thanks to you
for watching the TV that made me, we'll see you next time, bye-bye!
-Come on, you guys.
Zippy and George!
NEW AVENGERS THEME TUNE PLAYS
# Da-da da-da-da...
# Da-da da-da-da... #
Comedy genius John Thomson joins Brian Conley on the sofa and tells how his love of horror helped bring him closer to his dad, why the kitsch 1960s Batman series felt like such a treat, and what the words for 'a finger of Fudge' were... according to John. Finally, will Brian be able to help him resolve his pathological hatred of Bungle from Rainbow? He has a radical solution, but will it backfire? John has the inside story on some of the characters in the Fast Show and talks candidly about how he feels about the return of Cold Feet.