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HIGNFY Guest Host interview: Rolf Harris

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David Thair | 16:24 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009

Rolf Harris hosting HIGNFYBet you didn't see this one coming. Rolf Harris is tonight's guest host on Have I Got News For You!

This is the first time you've presented HIGNFY, is it scarier than painting the Queen's portrait?

Rolf Harris: At first, before I got started on painting the Queen, that was much more scary. But then, as that painting session progressed and the Queen put me so at ease, the panic receded.

I am obviously nervous to be doing HIGNFY, bearing in mind that Ian Hislop and Paul Merton are so sharp with their reactions and their answers, but I've resolved not to try and bandy jokes and clever statements with them, as I know I'd come off third best.

HIGNFY: Do you have a favourite guest-host?

Rolf Harris: My favourite guest host, from the ones I've seen, was definitely Brucie. Mr Forsyth used the catch phrases he was known for as well as doing his own special HIGNFY short versions of the programmes he made famous. The show he hosted left you with a smile on your face. He was good.

HIGNFY: You used to host Cartoon Time. Which cartoon characters do Paul and Ian remind you of?

Rolf Harris: Paul has definitely got to be Wily Coyote with his sneaky eyes and cunning and clever plans to shoot down Road Runner. Ian would be perfect as Elmer Fudd, the mighty wabbit hunter forever pursuing the pestilential Bugs Bunny.

HIGNFY: Which is most important to you - music or art?

Rolf Harris: There's no way I could separate them and pick a favourite. I can't imagine life without one or the other.

HIGNFY: You're appearing at Glastonbury again this year. What's the secret of your longevity?

Rolf Harris: The secret for me is just to be myself and do what I love to do. I must say it's a great bonus to have so many strings to my various bows so I can keep ringing the changes, but the important thing is not to be afraid to try new things, and enjoy meeting and working with up and coming youngsters, because they keep you young. Try and spread a lot of love and affection around the world. The most important thing is not to 'con' the public. Be real.

HIGNFY: Which is your favourite instrument - wobble-board, didgeridoo, accordion or Stylophone?

Rolf Harris: Definitely the wobble board, because I discovered it, totally by accident, and was able to use it on my very first recording, Tie me kangaroo down sport.  I've used it on hundreds of different projects since, the latest being on the sound track of Baz Luhrman's film Australia.

HIGNFY: You've been on TV for over 50 years - which has been your favourite show to make?

Rolf Harris: This is a hard choice. For sheer creativity and totality of involvement, Rolf's Cartoon Club with HTV in Bristol was an amazing show to work on, but I think the Rolf on Art series, culminating in the painting of the Queen's portrait to celebrate her 80th birthday, just nudges into the favourite spot.

It was great to de-mystify art and to demonstrate painting to everyone and to get so many people to realise that they could have a go and express themselves in art. On top of that, it was good to get people to lose their fear of going into art galleries.

HIGNFY: What has made you stay in Britain for so long? Is it the weather?

Rolf Harris: I was lucky to get into television in the early 50's and to learn my trade here in this country. I got to find out the way people went about things in this country. I feel very at ease working over here. I love it. I sort of feel I know how things tick.

On top of that, and this is the most important thing, I married a lovely English lady, who is an artist and shares my attitude about most things. I regard myself as being enormously lucky to have been accepted by the British public in so many areas. The greatest thrill for me is to have someone come up to me and say, 'I loved to watch your programmes with your art work in the early days, and it's because of you that I now make my living in animation', (or in art or music or whatever). It's such an ongoing thrill.

HIGNFY: Hosting HIGNFY aside, what has been your proudest achievement in life so far?

Rolf Harris: Without a doubt, it would be painting the Queen's portrait, and having my art taken seriously, so much so that I was called upon to exhibit that portrait for a year in the National Portrait Gallery of Australia in Canberra, as well as being asked to deliver the annual lecture there in 2008 on my approach to portraiture. It gives me such a wonderful feeling.


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