Wednesday, 4 July 2012

'Sorry!' Ian Davidson's Python connections

"Can I butt in at this point and say this is in fact the very first time I've appeared on television?"

I met Terry and Mike at Oxford, they were both a year behind me.  The Oxford University Experimental Theatre Club put on an annual revue and I can remember Terry performing 'Custard Pies' in the revue in 1962, which we then took to the Edinburgh Fringe in 1963. Mike had been working with Robert Hewison while he was in the University.  Our ‘63 revue went to the West End where ‘Cambridge Circus’ – which was much better! – was on. We met Bill Oddie and John Cleese at this point. 

After Oxford I worked in television, at Granada - where I met Barry Took - and in the States.  Mike and Terry at that time worked on The Frost Report.  In 1966 I made contact with them again. I was working at the BBC and I got them to write short film scripts for 'The Late Show'.  Terry and Mike’s stuff always had an element of the absurd, whimsical or plain silly. Their strength was being able to give it a satisfying form. Then I worked for the Frost show and we all wrote scripts for him.  Eric did too.

I actually produced the second series of 'Do Not Adjust Your Set'. It was a childrens' programme which adults liked as well. I didn't have a lot to do - the production was running well by then.

When Python started I was working at the BBC as a Script Editor. Because it had such a small cast and was recorded in front of an audience, the boys often got themselves into a situation where, for the sake of speed, they needed an extra bod. So they'd ring me and get me down to the studio. My fee was a 'special low' - which I've lived to regret!

I did go to rehearsals, up the road from TV Centre, but only to pop in.  One or two appearances must have been virtually unrehearsed (as a Welsh miner, I seem to recall). My oddest appearance was as a dead Indian - carried in the studio by John Cleese but also filmed on a bit of motorway with T Jones driving a car straight at me. I should have got danger money - his brakes might have failed!

I was in The Secret Policeman's Ball when we did 'Custard Pies'.  They wanted me to be in The Life of Brian but I think I was busy with The Two Ronnies and had to say no. Blast!  I've stayed in touch with Mike and Terry throughout, Mike particularly - our families even went on holidays together.

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