Flat White

Tim Brooke-Taylor: not just a Goodie

13 April 2020

1:30 PM

13 April 2020

1:30 PM

When I heard this morning that Tim-Brooke Taylor had been taken by the despicable coronavirus, I could have been knocked down with a feather.

In the early seventies, as a 10-year-old idly twiddling my trannie dial, I discovered ABC Radio 1 (as it was then) had a 7.30 pm weeknight programme called Laughter Incorporated.  It was two hours BBC radio comedies of the 50s and 60s including the Goons, the very naughty Round the Horne and a sketch show with an ensemble cast called I’m Sorry I’ll Read That AgainISIRTA was all crazy scenarios and very, very bad puns (and therefore very, very good puns) and, like the Goons, relying on wordplay and listeners’ imagination in a way that only steam-powered radio allows.

In that cast were John Cleese, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and sometimes Graham Chapman, but above all Tim Brooke-Taylor.  Like Harry Secombe as Neddie Seagoon, and as he later did on television, Brooke-Taylor played multiple exaggerated versions of himself, from gormless upper-class hero Tim Brown-Windsor to strangle-voiced, nymphomaniac dowager aunt Lady Constance de Coverlet.  ISIRTA, that along with telly’s At Last the 1948 Show and other programmes in which Brooke-Taylor featured, helped spawn Monty Python (Tim was one of the original Four Yorkshiremen and co-wrote a sketch now forever deemed Python by the ignorant), but it also was the genesis of The Goodies, for which of course he’s best remembered in Australia and New Zealand – far more so than in the UK, where it hasn’t been repeated for decades.

As his death is being mourned today, it’s Tim the Goodie who’s being most fondly remembered, and a generation of middle-aged people with a peculiar sense of humour are ever thankful that, unlike the BBC, Aunty’s programmers treated The Goodies as a kid’s show and put it on in kid-friendly hours.


Those political nerds and Twitter trolls under 50 who watch The Drum today won’t know the 6 pm timeslot was for years Goodies Time. Mind you, The Drum often serves up more unintentional satire than The Goodies ever did deliberately, something Tim surely would have appreciated.

But I hope today Tim Brooke-Taylor also is being remembered for his much wider contribution to making us laugh beyond The Goodies, especially for his love of verbal comedy and wordplay that made him so perfect for the talking-type wireless. Not just in scripted shows like I’m Sorry I’ll Read It Again, but outstandingly for his central contribution to the manic panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue on which he’s been a fixture since it started almost 50 years ago, and which disgracefully the post-Talbot Duckmanton ABC never gave much of a run here.

His was a very quick wit, but from all accounts Tim was that rarest of people in the ego-driven world of celebrity, a Very Nice Man. Today there’ll be many Australians and New Zealanders dusting off their home recordings and videos of Goodies and ISIRTA episodes (including in my case Goodies episodes taped by 14-year-old me on a dodgy cassette recorder held up to our old Stromberg-Carlson black and white telly), to mark the passing of Tim-Brooke Taylor. For those of us dwelling in mandatory lockdown for whom coronavirus is a very real yet somehow abstract presence, his death has given this phantom menace a very human face.

And I don’t think I’m the only one who’s thought lately, as leaders around the world have struggled with responding to this scourge of a disease, of Union Jack-waistcoated Tim the Goodie in full panic mode tipping himself over and yelling “I’m a teapot, I’m a teapot!”

Vale, Timbo.  If only the newsreader announcing your death had stopped, paused, and said, “I’m sorry, I’ll read that again…Tim Brooke-Taylor has not died of coronavirus”.

Illustration: BBC Television.

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