The untimely death of Tim Brooke-Taylor has, if I’m honest, rather left me reeling. And not because of the bite of a bagpipe spider, either.
I am, of course, hardly the only one paying tribute to a man who was one third of The Goodies, but also a fine comic actor, improviser and —- from reports both second-hand and in my own limited personal experience —- an exceptional human being.
It’s undeniable that The Goodies were a cultural force in the UK in the 1970s. While the “rivalry” with Monty Python was something at the time, and many international fans of Python might not rate The Goodies that highly, what was undeniable was that the comic three remained a huge force in Australia for a considerable time longer than they did even in their home country.
There’s a reason for this.
The BBC rarely repeated The Goodies, but in both the 1970s when they were fresh, and right through the 1980s they were an absolute regular fixture on the ABC’s early evening schedule, usually twinned with episodes of Doctor Who.
Any regular reader of this blog doesn’t need reminding how passionate I am about that program, but it was from this very regular block that my passion for comedy —- and The Goodies in particular grew.
If you were a child of that era —- as I was — or even an adult, the constant comic presence of The Goodies was inescapable.
I used to think that growing up in a regional Australian town (OK, technically a city, but that definition has to do with the presence of cathedrals, and I’m getting wildly off point here) with only two TV stations that maybe it was overstated, and those big city folks with more channels watched less of The Goodies. I moved to Sydney in the mid 1990s, met up with like-minded individuals and quickly discovered that, no, they were pretty much universally loved down under.
In later years I grew to appreciate Tim’s comic talents even more, by listening to shows such as I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again and his many appearances on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue amongst many others. While he was quite fearless in being silly in front of a crowd, he was also very obviously quite willing to play the straight man where so much of the richness of comedy lies.
Yes, the TBT character in The Goodies was of course a satire of upper class twits of all types, but he was also absolutely the comic anchor on which Graeme’s loony scientist or Bill’s spaced-out hippie character could rely. But he could also turn out a quick ad-hoc quip when needed; on a holiday through the UK 18 months ago we whiled away many long driving hours with episodes of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, and he was always great there too.
I had the extreme pleasure of being in Tim’s company precisely 3 times; once when Tim and Graeme toured Australia with a quite decent live show (Bill beamed in via a video link), once during a DVD signing in Glenelg where Tim and Graeme (again!) popped up when I happened to be on holiday there, and then once during a Goodies convention —- possibly the only Goodies convention —- held down in Melbourne many years ago. Tim was the guest of honour, but it was an absolute honour to be in his presence, and I’ll explain why.
At the time, I was pretty heavily involved in Doctor Who fandom, including helping run conventions for that always-demanding fan group. Yes, lots of them are lovely and remain friends to this day, but as a wide group they can be… challenging. Managing the guests can also be a tricky balance of their expectations, needs and (if I’m honest) what they’re willing to do or not do.
I wasn’t involved in organising the Goodies convention, but I knew some of the folks involved, at least a little, and it became immediately apparent that Tim was absolutely the best kind of convention guest, because he was up for anything.
You might even say, he’d do anything, anywhere, anytime.
He talked for hours, he signed for hours, and he even brought along a small suitcase of Goodies-related paraphernalia to auction off for charity. Because he could.
One of my proudest possessions —- and rather easily the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought at an auction — is Tim’s original script for It Might As Well Be String.
It’s true that the bulk of the writing for The Goodies came from Bill and Graeme —- they’d always say they did the writing with Tim’s pen, so they’re all co-credited for scripting in the credits —- but the script is very special, thanks to that same pen.
It’s annotated with Tim’s own notes and changes from the shooting script, and naturally he was kind enough to sign it as well. I didn’t ask, but I suspect if I had, he’d have been willing to sing this, too.
My apologies to anyone who’s now earwormed.
I think I’ll spend the day reading it, and watching classic episodes.
One final thought:
Tim was —- finally —- made an OBE back in 2011. I wonder if it would be feasible to have him posthumously made an Earl as well, just so he could finish out one last Goodies joke as an Earlobe…