Ref NoBSUCA/JP/1/2/4
CollectionJohn Pidgeon Collection
TitleNigel Planer interviewed for 'Talking Comedy'
Name of creatorPidgeon, John, 1947-2016
Date16/07/1996
Duration1 hr. 13 min. 54 sec.
Extent1 sound cassette (DAT 125)
1 audio file Broadcast WAVE Format
DescriptionNigel Planer interviewed by John Pidgeon at The Sound Company, London, for 'Talking Comedy', a BBC Radio 2 programme in which comedians talk about the people that make them laugh. This is the unedited interview, not the programme as broadcast.

Summary: [00:08] Recording begins. John Pidgeon starts by asking Nigel Planer [NP] what first made him laugh either on radio or TV. [00:39] NP remembers listening to The Goons when he was young. [00:48] Peter Cook & Dudley Moore. [01:38] Monty Python
[00:02] As a child NP liked Laurel & Hardy and Norman Wisdom, he still finds Laurel & Hardy funny, he doesn’t like Norman Wisdom anymore. [02:39] NP’s son currently loves Jim Carey, over the top physical comedy is something that appeals to children. Jerry Lewis, The Nutty Professor.
[03:30] John Pidgeon asks NP if he was interested in the background and history of comedy at an early age. NP says this came later for him. [04:10] NP was going to be an actor, he performed comedy plays, and he distinguished this from comedy on TV.
[04:56] Sal’s Meat Market, an American double act, Ray Hassett & John Ratzenberger from Cheers. This was where he made the connection between what he did and what comedians did.
[06:18] NP talks about working with Peter Richardson at the time, they devised a show that was a cross between Mike Leigh character improvisation and the music of Los Albertos Trios Paranoias or The Fabulous Poodles. [06:49] NP compares their vague intentions to Frank Zappa’s Live at the Fillmore East, funny dialogue being screamed out but with music like The Turtles.
[08:10] NP says that when he met the other people at the Comedy Store, he made a connection between Monty Python and things on TV, rather than the Mike Leigh or Tom Stoppard style acting.
[08:35] John Pidgeon talk about seeing Peter Cook and Dudley Moore for the first time, and talks about their unique individual roles in the double act and asks NP about his thoughts on this.
[09:30] NP says Morecambe & Wise, and says if you ignore Eric Morecambe and look at what Ernie Wise was doing, you could observe his skilful sense of timing, rhythm, and responses to Eric, he was definitely the straight guy, but with Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Dudley Moore was the straight man but had a funny charisma, while Peter Cook, who said all of the funny things was relatively po-faced. They stole each other’s roles.
[10:53] John Pidgeon asks about Peter Cook and his death, NP says he was upset by the news coverage of his death, calling him the underachiever of the Beyond the Fringe group, since Alan Bennett went on to write plays, Jonathan Miller went on to direct operas, and Dudley Moore went onto acting in Hollywood movies. NP says Peter Cook’s influence was enormous, and said that the press did praise his generosity.
[11:56] NP compares him to Spike Milligan, who the Pythons quote as being a great influence on them. Peter Cook influenced a whole generation of comedians, not just the Satire Boom but his influence is still felt through the medium of comedy. [13:00] NP talks about the tribute to Peter Cook at the Comedy Awards, which consisted of a few clips, Dudley Moore in LA, commercial break, and half an hour of Liza Minnelli and Bruce Forsyth.
[13:57] John Pidgeon talks about Peter Cook as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling recording a series of interviews with Chris Morris from The Day Today called Why Bother? which went out on BBC Radio2.
[16:00] John Pidegon asks about music in comedy. [16:30] NP says that if you emphasise the music too much the joke isn’t there, but if you emphasise the joke the music becomes trite. [17:20] NP talks about the different comedians who play musical instruments, such as Peter Sellers on the ukulele or Norman Wisdom on every instrument. He says there is a peculiar connection.
[17:38] NP talks about doing a Bad News album with EMI, and they stayed in character during the recording. [18:50] NP talks about Steve Martin bringing out an album which had one side of comedy and one side of banjo music, and he says Billy Connolly does a similar thing.
[19:28] NP talks about Hole in my Shoe, and said it was deliberately not funny. He says there’s only about three actual gags in the three minute song [20:32] unlike Benny Hill’s Ernie The Fastest Milkman in the West which was all about the jokes.
[20:40] Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, NP says they cracked the balance between music and comedy, because they were weren’t cracking jokes, they wrote the song around an insane concept. [21:23] NP says Frank Zappa did similar comedic music.
[21:44] John Pidgeon brings up Woody Allen, who he says similarly grew tired of stand-up comedy because people just wanted to hear his greatest hits rather than new material. [22:28] NP says a greatest hits routine would be easier with a double act. [23:08] NP brings up a similar point about catchphrases, and recalls an old Rik Mayall routine. [24:12] NP says he doesn’t like catchphrases and mentions ITMA [It’s That Man Again].
[25:00] John Pidgeon brings up Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, The Two-Thousand Year Old Man was an improvised routine. [25:47] NP says there’s something satisfying about interviews in character. After the Young Ones he would do interviews as Neil live, and devised the Nicholas Craig character.
[26:27] NP says that when you do a character you have to “do a Robert DeNiro” and plan out the character’s entire backstory, and said they did this for the mockumentary Bad News, even if these details didn’t come up in the script.
[27:35] NP says there was one example of a mockumentary starring Stephen Fry where he thought it didn’t work, because you never believed it was real. [28:32] NP says Chris Morris and his team on The Day Today and the radio show On The Hour perfected the mockumentary style.
[29:25] NP talks about a scene in Bad News where the director Sandy Johnson addressed the camera angrily, and he says it’s a small moment that’s just enough to make it believable, “structured improvisation” [30:05] NP praises The Day Today team.
[30:30] Cheech & Chong, NP admits to not knowing a lot about Cheech & Chong outside the “Dave’s Not Here” routine.
[32:26] Lenny Bruce. NP was introduced to him through the Dustin Hoffman biopic about Lenny Bruce, and says it was like David Suchet playing Sid Green. The one ingredient missing was the lunacy of his comedy. [33:19] NP mentions a documentary about Lenny Bruce that covers some of the same subject matter as the film. [34:39] NP says Lenny Bruce was an icon for the early alternative comedians, and says that it was Peter Cook who brought him to England. [35:05] NP says there’s an element of James Dean about him.
[35:26] Arnold Brown. NP talks about how different his approach was. [36:20] NP says he was reading about Jack Dee thinking about giving it up, gave it one last try, with an apathetic attitude, and that was the night he cracked it, [36:41] and he says that Arnold Brown had a similar moment of clarity, and built the act around stream of consciousness observations.
[38:51] Mike Nichols & Elaine May. NP describes it as urbane and surprisingly modern. [40:04] NP brings up The Show of Shows with Sid Caesar, which also had modern material. [40:34] The Show of Shows writers included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, and Carl Reiner. [41:00] NP brings up the film My Favourite Year.
[41:40] Noel Coward. NP sees him as a good example of music and comedy working well together.
[42:53] John Pidgeon & NP listen to and talk about the clips. [43:40] NP asks what Alan Latchley is, and John Pidgeon explains that it was a character written by Chris Morris and Clive Anderson.
[44:36] faint WC Fields clip [45:11] clip ends [45:48] faint Noel Coward clip [46:26] clip ends [46:49] faint Woody Allen clip [48:12] clip ends [50:53] faint Peter Sellers Hard Day’s Night clip [52:04] clip ends, cod William Walton arrangement [52:24] faint Lenny Bruce clip [53:28] clip ends, NP says Billy Connolly comes the closest to Lenny Bruce. [54:36] faint Nichols & May clip [55:35] clip ends [55:46] faint Mel Brooks & Carl Reiner 2000 Year Old Man clip [56:38] clip ends, NP says the routine reminds of Patrick Barlow and Julian Hough in the National Theatre of Brent, Jim Broadbent took over from Julian Hough after he passed away. [57:37] faint Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band clip [58:35] clip ends, NP talks about Vivian Stanshall.
[59:41] faint Cheech & Chong clip [01:00:00] clip ends. [01:01:00] faint Arnold Brown clip [01:01:52] clip ends. [01:02:30] faint Peter Cook & Dudley Moore clip [01:03:20] clip ends, NP talks about Clive Anderson’s tapes of Peter Cook, as well as a bootleg recording of a Derek & Clive reunion. [01:05:00] NP talks about The Troggs Tapes. John Pidgeon says he might include a clip from The Troggs Tapes. [01:06:07] John Pidgeon gets NP to record the trailers and other things.
[01:13:13] Recording ends
NotesLPCM wave 16 bit 44.1kHz. Digital Audio Tape (DAT) captured using a Mac running MacOS; SPDIF connection via RME PCI card. Digitisation engineer Adrian Finn, Greatbear analogue & digital media ltd. DAT contained uncorrectable errors at start resulting in audible mutes. Digital file topped and tailed.
CategoryAudio recordings
Access conditionsThis recording is available for consultation at the University of Kent's Special Collections & Archives reading room, Templeman Library, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NU for study/research purposes only. Access to audio-visual recordings is through digital listening copies. The University of Kent acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors in this recording and the rights of those not identified.
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