ReviewSouth EastSpoken Word

The Space  – Brighton Komedia: Studio Bar. 

Reviewer: Simon Topping 

Host: Wayne Imms 

Guests: John Llyod and Charlie Higson 

Reviewer: Simon Topping 

Founded in 2006 by Wayne Imms, The Space is a monthly interview series where guests talk about their life and work with Imms, and there’s a raffle too.  

During sixteen years and over one hundred events prestigious luminaries of stage, screen, publishing and music, creatives both in front of the screen and behind the scenes, have been interviewed;  including: Nick Kershaw, Alan Parker, Mark Gattis, Maxine Peake, Tim Rice, Ian Rankin,  Steven Berkoff, Mike Leigh and Brighton’s very own Norman Cook, to name just a small few. 

Usually housed at the Latest Music bar, but tonight at the Komedia Studio Bar, Imms talks to two stars of the comedy world; comedy producing legend John Lloyd and writer, performer and director Charlie Higson. 

In part one Imms welcomes us into The Space with a short reel of work that Lloyd has produced including funny excerpts from Blacker Adder, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, sketch show Not the Nine O’clock News and panel show QI. It is a list of entertainment hits that any other comedy producer would be envious of and a good indicator of the depth and breadth of Lloyd’s career. 

In conversation Lloyd is relaxed, chatty, interesting and funny.  He breaks away from the questions to tell a few jokes along the way, to the great delight of all gathered. He is a natural orator, both engaging and passionate. 

Imms approach is to give his interviewees plenty of room to answer his questions, he does not overcrowd them, allowing Lloyd to go into interesting and detailed answers.

The discussion jumps around from Lloyd’s beginnings at the BBC as a radio producer to his time with TV shows such as Spitting Image, Not the Nine O’clock News and most recently, QI, which Lloyd devised after a particularly difficult period in his life.

Lloyd puts his success down to being dogged in his service of the projects he champions.  He is self-effacing about his achievements and believes his ability to know what he likes and not try and second guess what others will enjoy, partnered with his determination, have carved out his career for him.   

Another constant of his professional life seems to be the inordinately large number of times he has been sacked, with long time collaborator Rowan Atkinson having “let him go” at least eight times.  On this point Lloyd is philosophical.  He believes being adaptable is what has given him such a varied career, that and his abundance of curiosity; and it is this desire to learn that drives him to this day.  He is passionate about the need for the BBC, despite its faults and a keen educationalist who believes if schooling was like QI the kids would benefit immensely and be more keen to learn because, if you are being entertained and the side effect is knowledge that sticks much more.  It’s a compelling point.   

When asked what he feels is his greatest achievement Lloyd cites his long and happy marriage and the fact that he not only loves but likes his two children.  “Being a dad is difficult” he says but it also seems that it has been a joy and the fabric of life that holds him together. 

In part two we are introduced to Charlie Higson, a TV stalwart in the sketch comedy heyday of the 1990’s.  Many of his creations have remained in the psyche of the British population including characters such as Swiss Tony, Bob Flemming and painter Johnny, all played by Higson himself and many more played by others.  

The comedian talks about how it all started, writing for Harry Enfield in the 1980’s on Friday night and Saturday night Live.  Teamed with his close friend Paul Whitehouse, Higson developed and created such classic characters as Loads of Money and Stavros for the show and soon became a “hot ticket” in the comedy world. 

Not a stranger to being sacked himself, Higson goes on to tell how he was fired by Harry Enfield and how that led to the foundations of the very successful sketch series The Fast Show.  As the night goes on a couple of brief appearances from Fast Show characters have the crowd in fits of laughter.

Away from the show that will forever be linked with his name, Higson talks about his love of writing.  He says that if he’s ever asked what he does for a living he says writer and that it is his true passion, whether that be comedy, young adult novels or his latest crime fiction, Whatever Gets You Through the Night.

Higson, a Bond fan from an early age, talks about his experience writing the Young Bond novel series and delights the audience with his anecdotes told with charm and charisma. He also chats briefly about his directing work. 

Higson cannot see sketch comedy making a resurgence in the form it took in the 1990’s as it would cost too much to make but is hopeful it may return in other forms, perhaps on streaming networks or on web series.  When asked if he could see his famous characters Ted and Ralph getting together down at the lower field, he thought not, but proffered that might be for a fan to write. 

As the evening draws to a close and with raffle prizes being given out, the audience leave feeling that an entertaining night was had by all.  

Reviewed on 8th September 2022

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