Paul Whitehouse: “My Favourite Fast Show Moments”

Film & TV / July 27, 2015
by Scotts Blog

Its characters and their famous lines made their way into playgrounds, pubs and offices around the country, in the days before catchphrases became cliche.

Here, Paul Whitehouse remembers some of the show’s greatest characters and moments, and the stories behind them.

On ‘Brilliant’…

I got a taxi round to Charlie Higson’s house, and I literally just said, ‘aren’t taxis brilliant? You get in them, you say where you wanna go, and they take you there!’. I think we are slightly blasé about technology and stuff – about how we are masters of our environment. My mum likes that character because it reminds her of me when I was a kid. There was, of course, a large measure of irony in that character, because life is sh*t really, isn’t it?

On Kenneth (Suits You Sir)…

It’s a good comedy name, Kenneth. He was based on a bloke who used to work at Hackney Council, and that’s what he’d say. You know, ‘I saw you out with a lady last night sir, ooh, did she want it?’. I remember when I was younger, and middle-aged men in the 70s, they sort of just stopped sh**ging. They didn’t get any – and they took an interest in you as a young man. Also, there were two blokes who used to work in a clothes shop in Enfield, and were a bit overfamiliar with you. They’d come bursting in when you were putting your loons on, and say ‘plenty of room in there sir!’. You’d be thinking ‘yeah, not enough for you mate’. I think it was an amalgamation of those two things.

On Ted and Ralph…

Originally, the idea for Ted and Ralph came from Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews. We said to them, ‘we’re doing this show, it’s quite fast paced, loads of different characters’ – and they said ‘well we’ve got this idea…’.

I don’t think they necessarily wanted my character to be Irish, but because they are, when they explained it, and because of Charlie’s natural diffidence, it just seemed to work so well. That awkward relationship with me.

Charlie is brilliant in it, I don’t think that he gets enough recognition for that. I remember when we first did that sketch in front of an audience… silence. Because we weren’t very obvious about it. He didn’t grab hold of his a*se, you didn’t think ‘oh, he fancies him’. To be honest, I don’t think Ralph really knew. He wasn’t sure of his own feelings. He didn’t know what his attraction to Ted was.

On Unlucky Alf…

I can’t really remember where he came from. I think it was just a lugubrious sort of thing. I hesitate to say ‘deconstructing comedy’, because I don’t like that kind of thing, but if there’s a hole, it’s sod’s law that you’re going to fall down it. If you want me to get philosophical, there’s a potential disaster around every corner.

On filming in Iceland…

I’ve been sand fishing there, and I’m actually taking my daughter there because I think it’s an amazing place for a kid to see. We filmed some of the Fast Show there, we got a deal from the Icelandic Tourist Board, who said ‘we’ll put you up as long as you show Iceland in a good light’. Well, how would you possibly show it in a bad light? So we did Brilliant walking along in a few places, we had Simon Day saying ‘someone’s sitting there mate’, and the country was just in the background.

On Johnny Depp…

He was a big Fast Show fan. Kate Moss said it was her who introduced him to it. When I found out that he wanted to be on the show, I was a bit sniffy at first, I just kep saying, ‘so?’. It’s bad innit!

But he kept banging on about it, and eventually, I thought, ‘oh well, he really, genuinely loves it’. One day, he turned up, and did a ‘suits you’ sketch with us. It’s to his credit that he turned up. A lot of people are like, ‘hey man, I’ll be on your show’ – and you never hear from them again. It was great.

I think he really liked Roly Birkin, a character based on an awfully posh bloke I met in Iceland. He said some of the sketches made him laugh, and cry.

On Scorchio…

Sol (the beer manufacurer) nicked ‘scorchio’ for a campaign. They said they got it from Loaded! I suppose it’s nice in a way, because it’s just a word I made up on the day. It was actually Charlie’s idea to do the Channel 9 sketches originally. He did come up with a word for ‘hot’, but I thought ‘scorchio’ was much better – and it stuck.

On Tommy Cockles…

Simon Day played Tommy Cockles, and he was a great intro to my Arthur Atkinson character. We built up that terrible rivalry that comedians have, you know – damning with faint praise, bitterness, which affects all comedians to a greater or lesser extent. I don’t think there’s much love lost in the pop world either, between bands. It’s a rather brutal world out there.

On Vic and Bob…

I remember when The Fast Show first came out, because I was actually filming with Vic and Bob. They all went in a room to watch it. I f*cking didn’t! No way did I want to watch a film of me with everyone else around.

I think we were doing the ‘Slade In Residence’ sketch on The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer’ at that point. It was such a laugh, doing that. It was just so fun. I used to be obsessed. I’d annoy Harry all the time because I was quoting them.

Their recent thing, ‘House of Fools’, was really good, too. It’s weird seeing them in a house being middle aged men though! Still themselves, but not in their usual setting.

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