Donate Refer

Slapstick reunites the Tiswas team for a 40th anniversary charity bash

Slapstick reunites the Tiswas team for a 40th anniversary charity bash

In the wasteland that was Saturday morning kids’ TV during the mid-1970s, the BBC reigned supreme with its typically boring, Blue Peter-style, public service-oriented Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, in which Noel Edmonds invited the nation’s nippers to phone in and, you know, swap stuff. 

How could ITV compete? The answer was already to be found in the form of regional broadcaster ATV’s Tiswas. Hampered by a much smaller budget, the producers rightly judged that the way to win over the smaller audience was by chucking custard pies, dousing people in water and unleashing large quantities of ‘gunge’.

Naturally, this formula proved a huge success among kids (if not necessarily their parents and senior ATV management). By 1977, Tiswas was being broadcast across the ITV network. It quickly became a cult show among degenerate adults too.

The core team – or Four Bucketeers – of host Chris Tarrant, leather-clad Sally James, comedian Bob Carolgees with his puppet sidekick Spit The Dog and John Gorman (co-founder of novelty music trio The Scaffold) were joined by the likes of Jasper Carrott and Lenny Henry for a variety of silly sketches.

Another key strand of the show was Sally James’ Almost Legendary Pop Interviews (later published as a book) in which less pompous musical acts of the era were grilled on a set packed with urchins mucking around, knowing that this would often conclude with them being attacked by The Phantom Flan Flinger. Motörhead, Genesis, Iron Maiden, The Clash, Kate Bush, The Who, Status Quo, Ultravox, Madness and Robert Plant and Cozy Powell were among those to willingly suffer this ego-bruising indignity. Alas, many of the shows were wiped, which is why the few clips that survive are of such low quality.

This April marks the 40th anniversary of the final broadcast of Tiswas. Bristol Festival of Ideas and Slapstick have teamed up to mark this occasion with a special event at St. George’s on Saturday 16. All of the Four Bucketeers will be present, as will Matthew Butler (now Lewis) who was propelled to fame by his extraordinary Tiswas performance of Bright Eyes while dressed as a rabbit. Sadly, Matthew is no longer four years old, but he does apparently have an adult-sized rabbit outfit and may be coaxed into performing an encore.

Tiswas: The Reunion will be hosted by Festival of Ideas director and unlikely Tiswas fan Andrew Kelly. “This event is a dream come true,” he enthuses. “I recall with great fondness Saturday mornings when young when Tiswas was on. I don’t think I have ever laughed so much. I can’t wait to host the Bucketeers. I just hope the Phantom Flan Flinger isn’t around Compost Corner!”

The evening will conclude with the Tiswas team receiving Slapstick’s Comedy Legacy Medal, recognising comedy building on the work of the late great comics of the silent film era.

Ring the box office on 0845 40 24 001 for tickets. Profits will go to Children’s Hospice South West.