must be difficult, even intimidating, to take a show like this on
tour. It must be a different proposition to doing it on the TV?
you've got to have your wits about you. What happens is that Keith
comes out in the first half and gives his lecture Making Divorce
Work, which is his guide to how to have a happier divorce. Then
in the second half he gets a couple out from the audience and interviews
them in the same way he does on the TV show, but of course this
time it's not a celebrity. What you find with members of the public
doing it is that they're not as well-rehearsed in their answers
as the celebrities. If you remember on the TV show we had Darren
Day and Tracy Shaw who told us everything was hunky dory and then
about a week later they split up. The same with the McFaddens, with
Brian and Kerry. Now, on stage I've been amazed at what people will
say. We've had people admitting to affairs and the look on the audience's
faces are just priceless.
on Keith: "I love him so much!"
other night we were in Manchester and we had an older couple on
stage whose grown-up children were in the audience and somebody
asked, 'How do you keep your lovelife interesting?' Now, as the
mother tentatively answered in very general terms, the very grown-up
son in the audience put his hands over his ears going, 'La la la!'
and didn't want to hear! Keith took exception to this and said,
'Now hang on a minute! Your parents are both human beings with desires
and urges of a sexual nature and I think you're being unkind to
them. You have to accept that your Mum and Dad will have stood together
and taken off each other's clothes
' He carried on along those
lines, describing the things Mum and Dad might've done to enliven
their marital togetherness and the audience were in tears but the
son was mortified but laughing too. He didn't know whether to laugh
the TV show, the celebrity couples are almost there as stooges for
you to do your comedy with Keith Barrett, but when you're doing
this live and you have somebody - a real life person - admitting
adultery, do you ever get shocked? Or are you so deeply into the
Keith Barrett character that it doesn't hit you till after?
I'll be shocked, as is Keith, when people come out with stuff like
that. It IS shocking. But it's great for the comedy because the
way it works is that if someone tells you something very, very big,
one way to get a laugh off that is to respond to it very 'small'.
After all, comedy is the juxtaposition of opposites. There are lots
of devices and techniques you can use within it. But, yes I have
been genuinely shocked by some of the things people say. One of
the things that surprises me on a smaller scale is how often in
a relationship how often either one or both of them can't remember
things that've happened. The number of couples I've had up on stage
and when I've asked them, 'What about the first kiss?' and they
genuinely can't remember it! Some can't even remember how marriage
was proposed. But to not remember your first kiss I think is a little
bit sad personally. Very often the husband has forgotten everything
and the wife is the one who remembers.
must be why Marion and Geoff worked so well, though. It was comedy,
it was a bit over-exaggerated, but it was real life
relate to it. How did you tap into that reality? Was it just observation?
as Keith in Marion And Geoff
with Marion and Geoff, the joke was - and this was before the TV
show, when I used to do him on the radio - that he was a man driving
around in his taxi, very very happy and very chipper, unaware that
his world was crumbling around him. That was the joke, it was as
simple as that. You'd embellish that, you'd add things to it but
that was the joke. When it came to doing the television it changed.
It became a man driving around in his taxi because his world had
collapsed. Now he was very happy telling us about all these awful
things that had happened but remaining very chipper, and that was
the basic joke there. It's really just a comedic device which fitted
it was heart-wrenching as well! Seriously poignant at some points,
it really hit you
one of the reasons for that - for me anyway - was me wanting to
play a more serious role than the ones I was being offered at the
time on the television, which were few and far between, and when
they did come along they would be very silly little roles like a
newsreader or a policeman who just comes and moves someone along.
There was no emotional depth or growth to them. So that was one
of the reasons that I wanted to do Marion and Geoff, I wanted to
play a character with some depth basically.
it your idea that Keith Barrett became a chat show host though?
happened was that we'd done two series with the car: the 10-minuters
when he was in the taxi and the half-hours when he was a chauffeur.
I'd adored both series and I felt there was nowhere else to go with
that. It's very hard to pull off one camera shot in a car. I'd taken
Keith on the road just after the second series doing a very small
tour and I loved the interaction with the audience. Now, the BBC
were asking me to do a show that was more accessible, that was more
open. The thing with Marion and Geoff was wonderful but it was never
a big ratings winner because it demands a lot of the audience, you
really have to concentrate. In a lot of television now that isn't
the case. It was very cult-y and that was great but you want your
work to be seen by a lot of people. So I didn't want to do the car
again, but I also didn't want to get rid of the character because
I loved him so much.
Barrett and Judy Finnegan
I thought that in the age we live in now somebody like Jeremy Spake
or Brian Dowling will appear on a reality show and will then be
given their own show, and I thought it would be a neat little satire
on television. How many people perceive it that way, I don't know.
But I thought, 'Wouldn't it be funny if Keith was offered his own
show about relationships?' Part of the joke could be that he was
out of his depth. Keith would say, 'I've been offered my own television
show, I've never done it before, but what's the worst that could
happen?' Of course, the show is the worst thing that could happen!
That was one reason for it, and the other was that I was just wanting
to do some broader comedy with an audience and to get that laughter
Brydon appears as Keith Barrett at St George's Hall as part of this
year's Bradford Festival on Wednesday 29th June at 1930 BST.
Bob Walmsley can be heard on weekdays between 1400 and 1600 on BBC