Griff Rhys Jones talks about mistaken identity and crying a lot ahead of Huntingdon show
PUBLISHED: 14:04 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:29 15 January 2020
Griff Rhys Jones will bring his All Over The Place show to the Hinchingbrooke Performing Arts Centre in Huntingdon on February 27.
Ahead of the Huntingdon show, we spoke to the sketch show star, actor and television presenter who shot to stardom in the 1980s when he featured in the ground-breaking sketch show Not The Nine O'Clock News along with Rowan Atkinson and the late Mel Smith with whom he went on to create comedy gold as Smith And Jones.
He's since carved out a pretty decent reputation as a presenter of travel documentaries, actor, and saviour of historic buildings (the Hackney Empire), and is also president of Civic Voice - an organisation that protects public spaces. He also founded the multi-million pound production company Talkback with his mate Mel. And he's just topped it all with an OBE. Endearingly, he's also that rare breed of man who's not afraid to cry.
Tell us about your current show
The show is called All Over The Place. We were going to call it Rambling Again and I think it's supposed to be a pun as we play a lot of places, you see. But it is also a bit what it's like. Stories and things. It's my third outing. One was about Mel and one about travel. But, I never stuck to the subject. So I'm taking no chances this time.
Can you give us a glimpse of some of the stories you'll be sharing?
It depends. There's a few about shopping. And I've been in New Zealand recently, so that will probably feature. And the second half is largely about my personal humiliation, which tends to make audiences laugh immoderately.
How does it feel to be going back out on the road?
Well I have only recently been a 'one man show stand up' sort of guy. I had a partner, but he died. Lee Mack told me his family didn't want him to tour, but mine seems quite keen to get me out of the house.
How different does it feel to be in front of a live audience, having done a lot of recent work on documentary series?
It's great. I have done 20 years of arts docs and travel stuff and I have just made 10 one-hour shows in New Zealand and Australia. But TV has 12 executives in a pyramid all of whom seem terrified of losing their jobs. With some justification. They all interfere with every word. This show is unmitigated and I can say what I like. So I do.
Do your audiences still hanker for your work on Not The Nine O'Clock News and Alas Smith And Jones?
I should think so. We wallow in nostalgia together.
Drawing on some of the successes for which your companies have been responsible, do you agree with the idea that we are in a golden age of television?
It's interesting. TV is always examining its belly button. It's in the middle of a revolution of selectivity and choice at present but not everybody will be left standing. I am very proud and humbled by the fact that the creators of the greatest current TV Series "Succession" started in Talkback.
What sort of programmes do you enjoy now, and where do you see things going from here, particularly in TV comedy?
I like box sets and Fleabag just like everybody else. And Comedy will always surprise us. As soon as some format is written about as 'finished' it comes back to bite you.
Do you cry a lot?
All the time. I bawled at the Laurel and Hardy film too because It was just like the relationship between Mel and I. It was so emotional.
Do you have any celebrity fans?
Peter Kay it turns out.
When I was making Murder on the Blackpool Express last year he came on set and told me that he and his son can quote one of our shows by heart: Mel and I did a show called The Homemade Xmas Video - a really early comedy reality show.
That was touching and emotional for me.
What's your funnies showbiz story?
I've literally been mistaken for everyone else. I was outside the Groucho Club one night when Melvyn Bragg came out a bit worse for wear and told me to wait while he went inside to get his daughter who was my biggest fan. He came out after 10 minutes and went, "Melanie…look it's John Sessions"
And another time I was on a train platform once and this Lib Dem minister got off the train, came up to me and said, "I'm a lumberjack and I'm alright".
He was convinced I was Michael Palin, I get that a lot.
Griff Rhys Jones: All Over The Place will be at the Hinchingbrooke Performing Arts Centre in Huntingdon on February 27. Tickets at: www.jesterlarf.com or call 01223 357851.