April 6, 2015

It’s one of the great pop songs. And since hearing it, it’s one I’ve always tried to take to heart. Yes, shyness is nice and (more often than not) the antonym is hideous. So, it’s always worth an ask.  “Ask me, I won’t say no, how could I?”

Years back, last century, when I worked with Trev Neal on Saturday morning TV, we’d get to perform daft sketches with the stars of the day (Big Fun, Craig Machlachlanchlachlan, Nathan from Brother Beyond) and sometimes the stars of many days (Kylie, Cher, Mel Brooks). When it came to the Christmas and New Year shows there was always an attempt by our boss, Chris Bellinger, to up the ante, to aim high, to get the big guns in. And we would always ask for the top bananas. Year after year, for ten years, we’d hand in our wish list. Always the same names. And always, at the top of our list, the same two. We never did get Eddie Murphy or Gorbachev. But the point is, ASK! Always ask.

During one series of Live and Kicking we had a weekly feature called Every Loony Wins*. It was a daft phone-in quiz and we had a band as part of it, all played by kids from the audience. The leader of the band was called Des Tindeby (The Des Tindeby Band). And during their musical performance (miming to the very real Spike Jones and his City Slickers) a character would jump on stage (again one of the kids) as The Lone Yodeller (a Lone Ranger type, in a mask, yodelling like a loony). And each week we would end the segment by looking into the camera and saying; “Just who is the Lone Yodeller?”

When we reached the end of the thirty week run it was time for us to reveal just who was the Lone Yodeller. The obvious way to do this was for it to be one of the guests of the week. The only problem was (me and Trev being a picky pair) none of the guests were up to the task. (Anyone remember Little Danny Mangrove? or Nu Boxxx? Or Jennifer Bush?** No, I thought not.) And so we went to Chris… and we asked… we begged… please, please, can we get another guest. One worthy of the title of The Lone Yodeller? Chris wanted it to be Little Danny Mangrove. Little Danny, who was actually 6’2″, had just won Pop Zinger on ITV and his record company, BIGPUSH, were desperate for him to be the Lone Yodeller. They’d even recorded a special yodelling version of his current hit, A Pocketful of Promises, for him to mime to. We couldn’t have it though. We insisted; the Lone Yodeller had to be a bigger name. And then we asked Chris this; “if we can get a big name to play along will you let them be the Lone Yodeller?” This, of course, depended on who the big name was. We said to Chris; “if we can get Jonathan Ross to be the Lone Yodeller will you let him do it?” And Chris said yes.

Just one snag. We didn’t know Jonathan Ross. Not really. He’d been a guest before on the programme, but it’s not like we played tennis with him or anything. It’s not like we’d been to his house, or had his telephone number. All we had, on our side, was the ability to ASK.

It’s time to get to the races now so… we asked… we found a phone number for his production company and we asked… and they said “we’ll ask”… and we waited. And he said YES!

Jonathan turned up on the Saturday morning, played the Lone Yodeller and also brought along a friend of his who went on to declare “No! I’m the Lone Yodeller!” Our second Lone Yodeller wore a shoe hat, made from two shoes and a coat hanger. That was was Vic Reeves.


We’ve been asking again recently. We are working on a new thing. A Sci-Fi audio comedy adventure with me, Trev, and Sophie Aldred. Some of you reading this will already know about Strangeness in Space. ***

And we’ve been asking people to help us out with it. We’ve given up on Eddie Murphy and Gorbachev, but we have asked two top people who have only gone ahead and said YES!

YES! Doon Mackichan has said yes to being our narrator, Bounty Flightingale.

YES! Rufus Hound has said yes to being Atrocious Knocious, an alien hoverbiker who’s never even heard of Evel knievel!

All from asking.

* based on Nick Berry’s hit Every Loser Wins. We had a minor battle with some BBC bigwigs to get them to accept the use of the word Loony. I’d grown up with it, reading the works of Spike Milligan. It was accepted in the end when dictionary definitions, on the whole, gave the word two meanings; one meaning (and our one) was silly, the other mad.

** Ok, I’ve made all these acts up. And the ongoing business with Little Danny Mangrove. Other than that, this story is true.

*** A final ask. Please help us get this made. We’ve loads of perks available if you join us: T-shirts, badges, scripts, signed photos and artwork, etc. We’re not far off our target now, but the more money we raise, the more episodes we can make. You can back us here.

Seven Pounds

January 7, 2009


I went to San Francisco for the day yesterday. Here I am as the train pulls into Sunnyvale station at 8.13am. Once in San Francisco, it rained and rained. Or rather, drizzled. It left me with no appetite for trooping around, or even taking any pictures. I considered a trip to SFMOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) but again, my heart wasn’t in it.

So after doing my best for a while, I gave up and went to the pictures. I went to see Seven Pounds.

Is Jonathan Ross back on yet? Has he been forgiven? Let me get in with my Film 2009 review ahead of him, if I can. Let me get in ahead of Seven Pounds being released in the UK. Has it been released yet? I hope not. I like to think I’m ahead of the game.

Years ago, I used to come to the States and see films months before they came out in the UK. I’d come home and show off, like a kid from the future. Sometimes months would go by before my friends could be as hip as me. I remember seeing The Quantum of Solace in Boise, Idaho in 1977, when smooth-talking Roger Moore was James Bond. By the time it was released in the UK, in 2008, Roger had left the movie, replaced by the thuggish Daniel Craig.

Years and years and years ago, when I was a child, the film process was even slower. If you missed a movie at the pictures (or a picture at the movies) you had to wait five years for it to show up on TV. Now, it’s out on an illegal terrorist-funding DVD before it’s even been written.

The world is speeding up and we’re all racing towards death.

So, where was I? Oh yes. Seven Pounds and my attempt to swipe the Film 2009 gig from under Mr. Ross’ nose.

Seven Pounds is a bit like Mamma Mia. You’re either going to go with it, or you’re going to go against it. I went with it and cried and cried.

That’s it really. That’s my review. Unless I go ahead and spoil it for you.

I am going to write one more thing, and if you think you may go and see Seven Pounds, look away, because whilst it’s not quite a plot spoiler, it is a kind of plot teaser, and it’s may be best to go along and see the film without a clue.

Here goes. You wait an age for a Will Smith film to come along where he shares a bath with a non- human life form and then two come along at once. That’s it. Go on Will, do a third and make it a real bus story.

In I am Legend Will shares a bath with Sam, his dog. If you haven’t seen I am Legend, and if you’re thinking, that’s not a film for me, give it a go, it might surprise you. And Sam’s side of the story will have you in tears.

Hmm, perhaps I cry too easily at Will Smith films.

Two dogs, SF, 2006

Two dogs, SF, 2006