Part of the Humourology series

Season 1, Episode 1

Alistair McGowan Reveals How To Make A Big Impression in Business

by | Aug 3, 2020

Need to make a great first impression in a business speech? Alistair McGowan gives top comedy tips and techniques to win more business.

First impressions matter. Alistair McGowan speaks to Paul Boross about how the serious business of comedy at work can change the way that you are perceived on stage or in the office. This fascinating insight into the use of humour is punctuated with lots of hilarious anecdotes, impressions (over 30 of them!) and lots of laughs.

As Alistair says, “Any communication whether it’s in business, or in life or in a pub or in bed is about listening. And people love to be listened to.”

Enjoy How To Make A Big Impression in Business!

Hosts & Guests

Paul Boross

Alistair McGowan

 Resources

Listen on Youtube

 Get This Episode

0 Comments

Read the podcast

Sometimes we prefer to read rather than listen, so here is a full transcript of the podcast for you to enjoy.

Click to see the transcript of the podcast

Alistair McGowan
Hello, Fred Sirieix from First Dates and countless other TV programmes, just to say that if you want to see me not being impersonated by Alistair McGowan. Maybe watch Paul Boross in The Humourology podcast – a very difficult thing to say for a Frenchman.

Humour…Humourology I can’t say it. It’s difficult no? Difficult. Humourology Humourology Humourology.

Paul Boross
Welcome to the Humourology podcast with me Paul Boross my glittering lineup of guests from the world of business, sport and entertainment, who are going to share their wisdom and their use of humour. Humourology is the study of how humour can dramatically improve your business success and your life. Humourology puts the fun into business fundamentals, increases the value of your laughing stock and puts a punch line back into your bottom line. Our guest on this edition of the Humourology podcast is an multi award winning impressionist, stand up comic, and actor who has been on stage, on screen and on air for over 30 years. His primetime, top rating TV comedy series regularly attracted 10s of millions of viewers. His dedication to the craft of laughter is legendary. This total tenacity and love of learning recently led him – in just four years – from being a complete novice at the piano, to having the number one album in the official classical charts. Alistair McGowan – welcome to the Humourology podcast.

Alistair McGowan
Thank you, Paul. I enjoyed that introduction. That was quite nice.

Paul Boross
Well, it’s all true.

Alistair McGowan
Well yes, 10s of millions i think is… no what did you say? to you saying 10s of millions. Yeah, no, it was about 8 million was our top audience in those days, but that’s pretty respectable at the time. We were in the top 10 when we were on BBC One, but boy is a long time ago. 15 years. No, I keep saying that.. . it’s 17 years now, since we stopped being on air, I think 16 years 2004 was our last Big Impression, which surprises a lot of people. They say it wasn’t that long ago. And it’s very fondly remembered, but yeah, it was a long time ago.

Paul Boross
Well, is it like everything that’s fondly remembered? It seems like only yesterday, and it still feels fresh. But you know because some of those impressions, those people are still going. So it was a classic.

Alistair McGowan
Yes. No, I mean, certainly when when we started, I remember doing Huw Edwards and Huw at the time, obviously, he was reading the news. I think it’s six o’clock in those days. And I remember one of my neighbours at the time in Clapham coming up to me and saying – indeed it was The Six O’clock News – and she said, I’m very much enjoying the show… she said you’re doing on BBC One… and I particularly love that Welsh newsreader character that you’ve invented, how nice to put out alongside all the well known impressions. And that shows how long ago it was. But what was interesting about that also was that she being a Londoner didn’t watch The News at Six because she was still getting home from work so she only watched The News at Ten and didn’t realise that this Welshman was then reading the news every night on BBC One at six o’clock in has now, as you say, progressed and is a household name, if not national treasure.

Unknown Speaker
It’s fabulous. I mean, the Jesuits say, ‘Give me a child of seven and I will give you the man’ was the young Alistair McGowan funny?

Alistair McGowan
No, actually, it’s nice of the Jesuits to say that I would probably say give me a child of seven and I’ll give it back to you after about five minutes! I’ve never had children and I don’t really… Yes…

Paul Boross
You can have mine!

Alistair McGowan
Anyway we won’t go down that route. No, I was… my father actually, you know, that’s who I owe my humour to who I owe my humour to… where it comes from I think it’s my father. And I was very lucky through having done programmes on the BBC like The Big Impression for four years, as I said, to be asked to do Who Do You Think You Are? in 2007 – I think it was. And my father. died in 2003 just when we were completing our last series of Big Impression, which made finishing that pretty challenging in many ways. But I went and did Who Do You Think You Are and found out all about his roots. Now, I knew that he’d been born in India. It turns out his family, he always said over my mother and father just happened to be there. That’s why I was born. I know they just happen to be there. Well, they’d happened to be there The McGowans since 1750. So they’d been in India quite a long time. And we’re part of the Anglo-Indian community. Now, this is all relevant to humour because as a community, they weren’t really English. They weren’t really Indian. They didn’t quite belong in any camp. They were Christians. They were loyal to the English ruling class, if you like, but they were also had a foot in the traditional Indian camp. So, I don’t think they ever felt they belonged anywhere. And after independence, the Anglo-Indians came or went all over the world Australia, Canada, parts of the Commonwealth, and particularly to Kings Heath near Birmingham and into Middlesex, where my father went. So, the point is that he came to England, and never really was part of the culture didn’t have it growing up. So he was always interested. This is the point… he was always interested in, our language. He couldn’t replicate any accent. But he was fascinated by how many different ways of pronunciation there were – different ways of pronouncing things. And that was something that really informed me and having having had my father’s eye on it, and his ear on it, that’s what gave me an awareness of language. And I suppose, a source of Yeah, playing with the language being ultra aware of how everybody spoke because he was he came to it afresh age 23.

Paul Boross
Do you think that assimilation into a new culture is helped by humour?

Alistair McGowan
I think it is. Yeah, I think my dad was always a witty person, but there’s no doubt that his wit really helped him settle here, and I think we all do it. You know, it’s one of the ways in which accents are changed. Now, I think we’ve talked about this personally you and I, but I have this absolute horror of the way people all speak now, like Australians, and they go into their sentences. It drives me absolutely nuts. I was not brought up with that way of speaking. If you wanted to make a point, you made a point. You know, you didn’t make it into a question. To me, all these young people now they sound like they haven’t got the courage of their own convictions. They don’t believe what they’re saying. But the point I’m making is that it’s to fit in. Everybody… everybody does it. And so everybody now has started doing it. Even parents of teenage children do it because their children do it. And you think you weren’t brought up like that you’re older than me. Why are you suddenly doing that? We have an innate desire to fit in. And that’s why, you know, a lot of people would change their accent drop an accent if they move around the country or move to London or whatever. So accent I think a big part of it, but humour…. yes, of course. People want to make people laugh. making people laugh is one of the greatest things you can do. It’s getting harder. I thidnk it’s getting harder because you got to be more and more sensitive.

Paul Boross
So do you think it’s narrowed on what is considered funny now?

Alistair McGowan
Yes, I think so. I mean, looking back on my television career and stand up career, I’ve always been very careful, I think throughout my 30 years in the business, not to offend anybody. I’ve always been really surprised, in fact, when I’ve arrived at particularly corporate do’s – and I don’t think it would happen now – because I don’t think anybody would expect you to, but certainly 10 or 15 years ago, people would say, you know, yeah, “we’re having a function and we want you to entertain or just one thing, we don’t want to do anything racist or anything sexist.” And you think, well, you know, why are you even asking that question? It’s just our generation of comedy and comedians would never have even thought about that sort of thing, I hope. But that was something that was still something that had to be said. But now of course, people get offended by so many other things and the words that we use – our generation I’m mid -50s – you know, to describe whatever situation some of them now use them out of the habit, and they are out of date and they can offend people you think I didn’t mean to offend, that’s just the word I was brought up with. sensibilities have changed and and, as I say, you try and be sensitive, then you realise that you’ll be sensitive to people of our age and younger people have greater sensitivities. And so I think humour has become very hard onstage, and certainly within the workplace, you know, flirtation, or playfulness or wordplay, whatever you want to call it can cause offence, and I hope that it’s not stopping people from daring to be witty, but it does go through my mind as a professional all the time.

Paul Boross
Well, it is bizarre, because I should tell our listeners that we originally met working the Comedy Store and that circuit and we’re in one of the fundamental rules there was that we were ‘a shift’ and you could no sexist, no racist material as, if you like, a backlash to the old Clubland comics. So, when it’s even narrowed further than that, I’m the same I find it quite sort of like, I’m I’m thinking, ‘can I say that?’

Alistair McGowan
Yeah And also I mean I remember years ago I mean I started in what 1990? In 1992 I can remember it vividly – it was about 94 – I was in Manchester and I’d done a gig the night before and I hung around that night and stayed with a friend. The next day, I went and bumped into one of the audience members and this fan came up to me and he said to me, he said, I enjoyed the show. He said, what you shouldn’t be doing Julian Clary, you should be doing Julian Clary, because you’re not gay. And you’re doing Julian, Clary. It’s offensive to the gay community if you’re doing Julian Clary, and I thought I had to sort of be dragged away from an argument this guy by my friend because I was saying if I don’t do people as an impressionist, you know, like everybody did Julian in those days, of course we all did – you knew him well and probably still will do Paul – I mean, it’s was a wonderful voice do and Julian was everywhere on the television and being very funny, I thank you! But if I said, I’m not going to do gay carrots because I’m not gay, then I’m sort of being aware that there’s a difference. And I’m ostracising that community if you like from my act and you think what sort of world is that when you can’t do… or you know nowadays Alan Carr. Oh you can’t do that in part because you haven’t got big teeth or something or, or because you’re not gay or because you’re not from Northampton and you think well, on what grounds can you know him personally, anybody or make any joke it’s, it’s just gone so far that you know, it also causing offence to a point is what motivated a lot of comedians of our generation, not causing offence to individuals or groups, I suppose. But I mean, look at someone like Jimmy Carr, he pushes it as far as he can and will always set somebody with practically every joke he comes out with, but you accept that and you think Yeah, but it’s a joke, you know. But then do jokes reinforce stereotypes do they reinforce a pecking order within society and within a within an office situation within a business situation? I think that’s important. Are you with your humour, actually reinforcing a stereotypical situation?

Paul Boross
Well this arguments been going on for years because when I was growing up, my best friend’s father was William G. Stewart, who knew Johnny Speight who used to write Till Death Us Do Part , and Johnny was fiercely working class and fiercely intelligent but presumed that he was showing up the Alf Garnets of this world. But it’s always been the same way that you know, some people went, ‘yeah, Alf Garnett’s right when he does that”. But I mean, you have to allow humour, to have have that breadth of being have to poke fun at anyone. Otherwise, we close down that whole avenue of being able to prick the bubble of hypocrisy, don’t we?

Alistair McGowan
We do and also sometimes I question impressions and why I do impressions and what that’s all about and I think there is exactly that phrase pricking the bubble of of hypocrisy or pomposity or whatever else, but I was aware certainly during the comedy circuit I mean at the time you know, it was people like you know, Eddie Izzard was around and people like Eddie and Jack Dee was around and you know, I still my Jack Dee and Dylan Moran you know was was on and Jo Brand and people like that, everybody was there, and I do people like Jo or whoever it might be and it was sort of affectionate it was nothing was ever meant by it and also within the comedy world – a bit like sportsmen I suppose – you’re used to giving it out so you take it a bit. But when I started working in the theatre – you mentioned the acting in your lovely introduction – I was very aware that I could ‘do’, after a couple of weeks of rehearsals, some of the members of the cast, but I never did it because you think if I start to do a few people in the cast, it undermines possibly, I think actors are a little bit more sensitive, but you’re also working in a group. So you don’t want to suddenly create some sort of thing where I’m making fun of somebody out of their voice and making them self conscious with their voice. So I had to deliberately in that situation, back off and not do impressions of people in the acting company. And again, you think within a business situation, it was sort of alright, I think to do the boss, because the boss is, you know, but you don’t want the boss to see you doing the boss. But do you do everybody within the company? Are you passing comment on something or is it just a bit of fun?

Paul Boross
Well, it’s the difference between punching up and punching down, isn’t it? Which is, because we’ve obviously done a lot of corporates together, and it was always seen as fair game. For the CEO or the boss to have the Mickey taken out of them. And the better they took that in inverted commas ‘abuse’, the more they were lauded as being a great boss, and he can take a joke. How important do you think that is?

Alistair McGowan
I think I think it’s very important. I mean, you know, actually, I’ve been surprised sometimes doing corporate events where the head of the organisation will introduce me after they’ve made quite a lengthy speech. And that’s always great fun, because if they’ve got a doable voice, you’ve only got to kind of just give something like a representation of it a replication of it and, and people love it, you know, because you’re doing the boss, you’re doing the boss, but I mean, to us, you’re going in the boss, obviously, you’re respectful to him, but he doesn’t have the status, but he does for the staff. So, that’s always very enjoyable to make fun of them if there’s any sort of, you know, if anyone’s got a lisp you know, he started making fun of them or a strong accent or whatever. There’s a fella who actually I think is the funniest corporate person I’ve ever met. And I’m pretty sure his name is Steve Lee, and I believe he’s left his job now, but he used to work for the Chartered Institute of Waste Management. And I did two or three events for Steve and he had a very strong West Midlands accent. He wasn’t unlike Adrian Chiles to be perfectly honest with you. But he’d always do this very serious speech about waste management and what we are all doing and then you say, “now, please welcome and to entertain us, here’s Alistair McGowan.” And of course, all I had to do was say, “thank you very much there to Steve Lee” and get a massive response. Thank you Steve for having such a strong accent. He actually he gave me quite a few lines and one of them were to ask me if I could use the my act and I did use it for quite a while. He told me that Yeah, in the in the in the Midlands, because he’s from the West Midlands, as I said, in the Black Country. He said that you could have a whole conversation with the words ‘Alright, mate’. And I can remember now the five stages of it, but it was something like… it’s an inquiry about your health, then it’s Concern. And then it’s, Are you sure you’re alright? And it’s, Yes, I’m fine. Right, let’s proceed with our conversation. So, it goes something like this, it goes Alright mate? Alrigh mate. Alright mate? Alright mate. Alright mate. And the whole thing was, are you sure you’re all right? Yes, I am. There’s something that isn’t there? Yes, but let’s not talk about it. Let’s go on… Alright mate? Alright mate. Alright mate? Alright mate. Alright mate. And he did it brilliantly – he did it absolutely brilliantly – so I used to use that for quite a while in my act thanks to Steve Lee, and I think that’s the thing for me with with humour in life, and certainly speechmaking on stage as yourself. Not not as an actor as yourself at some corporate event, is the difference between… you see it at weddings speeches as well, the difference between being funny and being witty. And for me, I’ve always been interested in wit, in wit, and I think wit is the thing actually, which is probably more attractive in the business world, and possibly in life, and also in the dating game, I mean, I would I would always resist anybody who says, here’s a joke for you because you go…oh okay *groan*… but when someone says something witty, or they play with words or they, they just make the language interesting through the use of humour, but not telling jokes that’s what, that’s what I find funny. That’s what arrests people, interesting use of language, witty use of language. And there’s a big difference between wit and comedy. I think.

Paul Boross
I think you’re completely right. And that ability and I think authenticity comes into when you’re witty you are authentic with yourself, but not trying too hard.

Alistair McGowan
Yeah, yeah, I think so. Wit generally for me, I mean – I don’t know what the proper definition of it is – is generally playing with what you’re hearing as well. So, I mean, obviously, within a speech that’s different, but it says a dialogue going on between two people wit demands that you’re picking up on what the other person has said generally, which means that you’ve listened. And I think any communication with anybody, whether it’s in business or in life, or in a pub or in bed, it’s about listening. And people love to be listened to. And if you don’t listen, you don’t learn about them about life about work about anything. And so I think that’s when wit really impresses people because it says you’ve listened to what I said and you know, you’ve you’ve raised me if you like, in the poker game of our dialogue in a poker game of art, you’ve taken it and you’ve raised it. And that’s, that’s what wit is all about I think.

Paul Boross
I think that’s so true and it’s something…

Alistair McGowan
It’s quite beautiful that…beautiful

Paul Boross
It was! and that will be in the book! But no, the word listening keeps coming up, over and over again with really smart, really witty people and I think that’s what it’s all about. You have to be engaged and properly listening and if you’re talking to an audience, people always think that’s bizarre because most people who aren’t good at public speaking, are actually listening to their internal dialogue and just trying to get the words right, when in fact, it’s a symbiotic process, isn’t it with the audience when the audience does something, or reacts in a certain way, your your story about the CEO with the Black Country accent was the ultimate bit of listening.

Alistair McGowan
Yeah, I mean, the thing is, I think, on very few occasions I’ve been asked to make a serious speech about things generally environmental companies have said, will you make a speech for us, and I’ve only done it maybe 5-10 times. And I find that really difficult because then A. It’s difficult with the environment – it certainly was 15 or so years ago when I was making those sort of speeches and nobody was interested, nobody was taking climate change seriously. So, they’d say, “try and put a bit of wit in there, try and put a bit of humour in there. And of course, you end up undermining the message. And that’s the important thing, which is you’ve got to use it sparingly because otherwise you can undermine what you’re saying. And obviously, as a comedian, there’s an expectation that going to be funny. But then that expectation that we put on ourselves means that by being funny, you get a laugh. So, the laugh tells you, you’re doing well. Now, when you’re making a speech that isn’t about getting laughs… you know, I mean, some of the speeches I’ve seen about the Coronavirus thing, these press conferences I just think, boy, it’s difficult enough, but the fact that they’re not getting any reaction, you know obviously they’re not gonna get a laugh but you think how do you make a speech like that? How do you know it’s going well? How do you know that people aren’t bored and, and I admire people who can can do that hugely. But I suppose the skill set if you like, is not the same, but it’s similar. It’s making people listen, it’s not rushing. It’s choosing your words carefully. Here’s an example for you. This is very obscure, but years ago, one of my favourite programmes was a late night BBC Two programme called the Late Review – this is 20 years ago – and there was a guy on there. I can barely do his accent called Tom Paulin and Tom was a poet and he was from somewhere on the border, I think in north and south Ireland. And he would talk incredibly slowly, and he would find every word that he wanted to use. Now, he must have been, I suppose, my age then I was 20 years younger. My girlfriend at the time was was late 20s, mid 20s. And she said God that Tom Paulin is so sexy. And I said, “Why is he sexy?” You know, he was he was handsome enough, but you know, he wasn’t wasn’t Liam Neeson – and she said it’s just the way he chooses his words so carefully, if he chooses his words that carefully. how sensitive is he to everything else – to a woman’s needs, to his friends needs, to anything? And, you know, obviously, you shouldn’t ever lie about who you are and do things just for effect. But I do think – and it’s something I struggle with talking quickly, I mean talking slowly because I talk quickly – but when you do slow down and meet your point, and that’s the tragedy in a way of things like the Today programme and Radio 4, it’s always cram this in, cram that in, everyone’s got to to talk so fast, by talking that fast, you’re not getting your point across, you’re not giving the listener a chance to come with you. There’s one thing certainly where Shakespeare helps a lot as an actor and maybe even as a speech maker in businesses that with Shakespeare, you have to guide your audience, you have to almost treat them like they’re hard of hearing, if you will, so that you have to really enunciate you have to really carry them with you without seeming to patronise without seeming to hold back. And that’s the thing is that pace of delivery. I think any speech making is just taking your time, but obviously not taking too much time. And that’s the greatest dilemma we all have as speech makers and as comics.

Paul Boross
Well, it’s interesting, there’s that classic Michael Caine quote is that powerful people speak slowly.

Alistair McGowan
That’s probably a better way of saying what I’ve just been spending four minutes saying.

Paul Boross
No, but…

Alistair McGowan
Powerful people speak slowly..

Paul Boross
Powerful people speak slowly.

Alistair McGowan
Powerful people speak slowly, which may be why he’s always done that himself.

Paul Boross
And you know what he goes because they expect to be listened to, and people who don’t expect to be listened to speak quickly so that they don’t get interrupted. And there is a psychological model whereby you’re going, actually, that’s true so anybody who wants to appear more powerful, can actually just slow everything down.

Alistair McGowan
They can, but as we said, it is a tightrope because, for instance, in my experience of doing lots of impressions of football managers over 20-30 years, one of my favourite people er, er, er that I’ve done and I know a lot of people won’t even I was going to say remember but I think probably no, he’s the right word is er er er… a man called Howard Wilkinson he used to manage well he managed Sheffield Wednesday as well as Leeds United I think Notts County as well at one point. But Howard used er to take er er er so long that you just got bored you’d go Howard please just find a word doesn’t matter just any word… just find a word.

But in this programme like Match of the Day, which is where I get my football, where everything is Helter Skelter. Yeah, Jurgen Klopp talking so quickly, you know, and then you’ve got you know, Gary Lineker, and the boys and Shearer talking pretty quickly, “Let’s get on to the next thing. Let’s analyse that.”

Paul Boross
It is a strange dichotomy, isn’t it? Really, because actually, in psychology, we say that if you are meeting other people, you should actually get into their rhythm, because that way you will get more rapport if you get into their rhythm. Yeah, yeah. So he’s standing out. But is he standing out for the right reasons?

Alistair McGowan
Yeah well yes. And also, I think if you’re, you know, doing a speech at the conference centre in Birmingham at 3:30, in the afternoon on day three of a three day conference, it’s 3:30 and you’re talking that slowly then people are going to be asleep. But I suppose the thing is variety. That’s the thing speechmaking and within a comedy act, I think is, is important variety of pace. And if when you get to the, you know, the really serious bit, then you can slow down, then you can make your point. And then you’ve got people and also by changing the pace. you’re drawing people in because you think, hang on a minute, he was talking really quickly, minute go now. Now, why is he taking so long? Oh, something interesting is coming. So one, going from one to the other is really useful. And I find that as a comedian, too. Sometimes just to slow, to slow right down. Slow right down, and just take a breath. It looks makes you look confident and it draws people in.

Paul Boross
Yeah, no, it’s so that’s something that everyone in business can learn from actors – I know you trained at the Guildhall – and comedians is pacing I’m always talking about if you keep on talking at the same rate at like that, you’ll eventually either put people into a deep trance or they’ll just fall asleep.

Alistair McGowan
Well, Alan Davies, I rememeber working with him and again, this is 30 years ago with Alan was starting out on the circuit as well. ,

Paul Boross
Well we all worked together didn’t we? Yeah,

Alistair McGowan
yeah. And you probably rememeber, he come on at the Store late at night, you know, midnight, sometimes rowdy crowd pretty rowdy. And he’d stand there and he’d sort of walk around little bit, and then sort of talk to them a little bit with his floppy hair and his t shirt. And then he he wouldn’t get a laugh and he’s say, “don’t worry, it’s meant to be shit. I’m just warming up. You know, I’m like an athlete Just limbering up, limbering up. Say a few words, a few words there. I’ll don’t get on with it a minute. And the minute he did that, you thought, oh okay, he’s confident with this verbally. And I like the analogy of warming up like an athlete. Yeah. Why should you come on and do your first gag within three words, which I also admire. But it was it was interesting technique you were drawn in by the slowness and then he would do his stuff quite quickly and and again they take it off take a bit bit of time and slow down and then the next bit, on to the next bit. The other thing I think which as an actor, as a linguist, if you like whatever I am, that I I’ve always liked as in speech makers and you don’t see much now, I think a lot of younger people are encouraged from the work I do in advertising – I know this – not to repeat a word within a sentence. It’s like the greatest sin nevermind punctuation, or interesting, that’s all gone out the window. But the one thing they seem to be taught at school is never repeat the same word twice within about a minute. And you think no repetition of a word of an idea of a rhythm, which I’ve just done. This is sometimes the most effective way and you’ll see people know politicians even who will say things at the point of this,the point of this policy and they won’t repeat it. They’ll say the idea of this suggestion, the crux of this new body of ideas, you can just repeat the thing. It’s a really useful thing is to repeat a word repeat a phrase, people don’t want to take it in.

Paul Boross
But well, I mean, if you took the Martin Luther King’s speech and when I have a dream, I had a bit of a …

I was half asleep the other day

Alistair McGowan
This vision came to me while I was half, yeah, while I was in bed..

Repitition is very, very useful, although, of course, as a comic, don’t repeat the joke. Well, that again, you know, look at Harry Hill, you know, great example of somebody who will go back to – in his stand up – a joke again and again and again, not tell the same joke, but almost the same… Milton Jones, brilliant at it. You know, my other grandfather, my other grandfather, my other grandfather, and you just love it. I mean, he doesn’t do much One after the other, it’s five minutes and 10 minutes, 15 minutes in between each one. But that going back as a comedian and doing a ‘call back’, as we call it, yeah, people love a call back. And it also, I’ve always thought there is among any audience, they love to pat themselves on the back and go, ‘I know what he’s talking about’, or ‘I remember that from earlier on’. So people a call back because it shows that you trust them to have listened again, and that they have been listening because they go oh, yeah, I remember that. Remember that bit? Yes. That’s familiar. So yeah, calling back is very useful technique.

Paul Boross
That’s interesting from a comedy perspective that the best comedy requires people to just make that leap where they and I like your idea that they’re patting them on the back going… ‘I’m smart’.

Alistair McGowan
Oh, yeah,

Bart, you love putting themselves on the back. I think that’s true. It’s pretty bit controversial and negative but I find that that’s the case with a lot of political humour, which I’ve never responded to. People always think as an impressionist I must be doing political satire. I must be interested in it. I am not. And I don’t. But I do think a lot of the audience’s who go to that pat themselves on the back cuz I think I remember what President Trump said that or I remember when, when Barack Obama said that and I remember when Ted Heath said that. Aren’t I clever? And you think yeah but it’s not funny, you know, you’re just patting yourself on the back for remembering something. But that’s that’s a beef that we should probably edit out.

Paul Boross
Enough of the topical humour with Ted Heath, you know?

Alistair McGowan
Well, that’s what I mean. How clever am I?

I was gonna do an impression. Oh, yet, one of the callbacks I started doing, I was gonna say recently, it was back in whenever we could still do live gigs. So at least six months ago, but I was doing this callback more or less for the first time and I loved it. I had this idea which I wanted to put in for a long time about what people sound like they’re going to say next. And how useful that is, for an impression. So what you’re going to say next, but don’t say if you like reveals a lot about your character. And for me impressions are about the human voice and the voice is about your character,. It reveals something through your voice. So for instance, the first one was that Cheryl Cole or whatever she’s going by nowadays, I think she’s just showing, but Cheryl always sounds like the next thing she would say, after any given sentence would be, “And that’s why I had to kill him”. She just has this sort of very, very dark attitude to life and to people and so that that was a lovely thing when I’d say, “and that’s why I had to kill him”. And then I’d do two or three more jokes, because I tried it once one after the other, it didn’t work. And then I’d say Richard Madley always sounds like the next thing he’d say in any given sentence would be, “I’m not rubbish and this programme isn’t shit”. And again, it’s his attitude is there’s a sort of defensiveness there. No, no, this is worth listening to. It’s not rubbish. This probably isn’t shit. So you don’t hear him say that. But it sounds like what’s defining him but by separating them with a joke in between each one and then going back to it, I won’t give you the third one because it’ll do you know, decrease the laugh if ever I do it again, in front of anyone who might be watching or listening. Actually, the third was Steve Bruce, who is Newcastle manager – still is at the moment. And he sounds like the next thing you’re going to say is, “Well, I can’t believe they’re given us the job to be honest with you”. But by separating those out a callback with a slight variation, each time really, really helped. Again, that’s not telling jokes. That’s not me saying, oh, here’s a funny thing for you. Here’s a funny joke for you. It’s an observation. It’s a bit of wit. It’s hard to recreate that. I mean, if every business person could do all that sort of stuff, they’d be doing stand up comedy, but they are useful techniques.

Paul Boross
Well, that takes me to the fact… is everyone funny,? or is it a gift from God? Is it something you can work at?

Alistair McGowan
When I started doing comedy, aged about 24 and went back to my hometown at Christmas which I still used to do then every year after leaving University and everything else, you’d all go back to, to Eavsham and meet up in the pubs at Christmas. And at that time when I just finished drama school and I started doing the comedy circuit, I’d tell people what I was doing, and they would all go… you?! You’re doing that? Because gave no hint of this when I was young. As I say my father did it. I was not somebody who went around making people laugh at all. I was serious. I did sport. I did a bit of drama. But again, when I liked the comedy side of that, but I wasn’t a witty person. I was very shy – still am. So, I think that can stop people from being funny, if you like is that they’ve been in a situation like in those dressing rooms at the Comedy Store where everybody’s being funny. And I would say one thing, eventually people go ‘Eh?. and you think I can’t do it. And I now have a real thing in my head that I if I’m in a group situation I shut up completely because I’m never the one whose voice cuts through. So yeah, I don’t know if everybody can be funny. There’s a lot of things in their way. But, again, listening is the most important thing. Are you listening to what’s being said? Can you pick up on that so you can improve your funnyness? Definitely.

Paul Boross
Yeah. I mean, I always talk to people about the listening thing being because people get very, very worried about their own internal dialogue, when in fact, all you have to do is listen to the other person. And I think pretty much everybody if they go out with their mate for a cup of coffee, they they’re not going with a list of questions like did you see the match on Saturday?

Alistair McGowan
Yeah, I do have one friend who does ithat. He writes them on his hand. These are the things that we’ve got to talk about. But that’s quite endearing because it means that he wants to know these things and they’re not so they’re like just prompts in case the conversation dries up that he’s thought about it in advance. These are the things I want to know I’ve thought about you before and that I want to know these things and find out quite endearing. But he’s still listens to it and picks up on it. In fact, this is a big name drop and show off thing. But years ago, when I was doing all my telly stuff, I was very lucky to be, you know, on all these chat shows when you go promote everything, and was interviewed by by Jonathan Ross, who you know, is fantastic. And by Graham Norton, they will also be very good. But by Parkinson three times, and Parkinson really was, you know, something else. And he is often regarded as the king of all the chat shows and sadly you don’t see him now. He’s he’s got to that age now where he can’t do any more. But he said to me in 1999, when he was still at it, and I was about to do my first show with him. He said, he said, “I’ll ask you that the first question” – this is off-air – He said, I ask you the first question – I’ll tell you what that is in a minute, he said, and after that, I’ve got a list of questions but it’s just a chat. It’s just a chat. So I know vaguely where they are. They’ll be on my knee, you might see me look down. Infact, I seen you doing that in you quick sketches note you make, “but I only glance down. There’s not an order to it. We just go where it goes. It’s just a conversation. But the first question I’ll ask will be this just so you know. And he tells you his first question, but the rest were exactly that. And if ever I’ve interviewed anybody myself, that’s the approach I take. And he’s so right, you think you’ve got 20 questions or 10 questions, you roughly know what they are. But you don’t want to just go question one, Question two, question three, because then you’re not listening again. And the audience aren’t listening again.

Paul Boross
You know, is it important to be able to laugh at yourself?

Alistair McGowan
Yeah, exactly. I mean, that’s why I said that are the trite thing about EastEnders. But I think people in that sort of situation, Do not laugh at themselves. They don’t step away and go, I was a bit stupid there wasn’t I? If only I could have seen myself, I must have looked right… Why did I lose my temper like that? And if you don’t do that, you know, who are you and what are…. we all have to laugh at ourselves. Yeah, I think it’s one of most important things to laugh at your own failings, and not in a sense of, Oh, I’m a terrible person or anything like that. But just just to admit that sometimes you probably looked a bit stupid wohen you’re doing something or you know footballers must do all the time they have to. How do you get over missing open goal – you know – you you’ve got to laugh at yourself. Federer missing those two match points against Djokovic last year you know to win his – whatever it was – eigth/ninth Wimbledon. I mean, how do you get over that? you have to laugh, that’s where human comes in, you have to just say, “oh well”. And I think when people are ill or faced with – I know you’ve been through it yourself,we’ve all been through it – losing parents, or facing parents getting older now, and suffering with illnesses and awful things. Sometimes you, you can only laugh about what they’ve said, if they’ve got dementia, you can only laugh if they’ve got some sort of, you know, mania or whatever thing that’s changing their mind, making their mind turn to mush, because otherwise, you know, you end up in a heap of tears. So, yeah, laughter in those situations is extraordinary. And I think that’s what I’ve been at my funniest lately is trying to cope with some of the things that life throws at you. Which again goes back to why I suppose some comics and actors go on stage in the first place. It is a response to something. There is a coping mechanism with life

Paul Boross
It’s a release as well, isn’t it? It’s, actually, you know, and I always think that humour, humanises and for people listening to this podcast, you have to know that it’s not a weakness, it’s a strength and it is seen as a strength. So do people laugh enough in their own workplaces? Now you and I get to step into people’s workplaces and, you know, maybe go to certain workplaces, so we’re, we’re not in there day in day out, but people you know. Do you think there’s enough is it encouraged enough?

Alistair McGowan
I think, I think certainly, a lot of the contact I have noticed with people just in you know, in shops and you know, there are some people who have a glint in their eye who will engage in some some wit and exchange and others who, who just don’t. And life is always better when people are able to have a bit of fun or whatever else. But I think there’s so many different sorts of humour different ways of making yourself and other people laugh and, and I’ve never been – and I sort of wish I was really – but my sister’s favourite phrase is, “Oh, we had such a laugh because…”, you know, and I’ve never been in that situation where… I’ll laugh something because I think it’s clever, or I love it because it’s witty, or I laugh at something, maybe just because it’s a cat fawning over a cat doing something stupid, yes. But I’m not great at having a laugh. And I think a lot of people are very good at that workplace banter, which is often the same sort of jokes actually over and over again, and you have to join in with them and you should know it like like rote, like how are you? I’m fine. How are you? It’s there’s certain jokes that people come out with. And I’ve never been able to do those jokes. And, again, maybe it’s because my father’s from abroad. We never, I never learned that behaviour of when someone says x, you say y and then you both laugh together. And it’s not that funny but you laugh.

I sound like Tony Hawks. That’s what happens. You know. People just say that, you say and then you laugh for that’s social interaction and on you go.

So no I, but I hope people do laugh at their work but I think that’s a difference with comedy – if we’re on the comedy thing again – is silliness. And that’s something that I’ve never responded to. And I find that hard to watch is people being silly. During lockdown, I’ve actually my mission, if you like has been to watch as many classic movies as possible. And I found all these wonderful stations and channels that show old films and watch lots of them. And it’s been extraordinary go back to something after 30 years that you thought was really funny then you go back and you go, well that’s not funny. That’s just silly. But there is a great place for silliness. But I think maybe do we grow out as silliness? I don’t know. But a lot of people confuse being silly with being funny, with being witty and you just choose whichever one makes you happiest I think in the end.

Paul Boross
Well, but some people managed to get the balance. I mean we both grew up with Monty Python and Monty Python managed to actually cross from silly, to witty, too smart, to….

Alistair McGowan
Yeah, that’s right. And someone like Lee Evans, who is adore working with Lee Evans, because you got to watch Lee Evans, and Lee could do all three of those things really well. And I used to get so annoyed with a lot of people who say, ‘Oh, he just pulls funny faces and falls around’. No, Lee Evans did the a lot, and was brilliant at all those things. I think the choice of what you do in business in terms of you know, are you going to be funny or witty? I think silly is probably something not to do if you’re making a speech and I’m sure we all been there where you’ve seen somebody just try and pull something off, which is silly, and it doesn’t work. telling a joke. Yes, as I say, All right. Being witty – best, using language interestingly, listening to people slowing down – brilliant. But doing something silly. Doesn’t generally play in my experience of watching it doesn’t play very well.

Paul Boross
Well, as you know, I’ve coached a lot of CEOs to do big speeches. And one of the things that when you first turn up, they’ve got all these ideas. I could come on with a clowns head… and you go, you know what? If that falls flat, you’re done for the whole speech. Yeah, and what we’ve got to do is find something that naturally flows from you. Not something that comes from left field and is silly. “No , they’ll really love it”. And, yeah, I always say a lot of my job is talking people out of things. It’s like, you really don’t want to do that.

Alistair McGowan
But I think that’s when because we’ve all done it. We’ve all done stuff. I mean, I used to do this routine, this opening thing which I actually saw – who was it? – Frank Skinner. I think it was Yeah, Frank did it recently as well. And I thought that’s the thing that I used to do. Not that he’s seen me do it. Because I don’t think Frank’s seen me work for about 25 years, to be perfectly honest with you. But I used to come on this is about 2008. And it was quite a new thing then. I used to come on the stage. And I would, instead of going to the mic directly, I would walk all the way around the stage like this, and then zigzag. And I get to the mic and and say sorry about that. I was in the post office earlier today. And I thought it was a great gag, but people didn’t laugh at it because they thought, you wouldn’t be in a post office. Why were you in a post office? Why are you in a queue? Surely people just deliver your mail for you and it just didn’t play somehow. But I thought that it was a really good idea. But the thing was, it was quite silly, and it took a long time to do it. And I ended up with egg on my face the four or five times I did it, You just think it took 25 seconds and nobody laughed at it. But the thing is, as we learned very early on and you can only play that card three times in your 20 minutes set or whatever. If something doesn’t work, just acknowledge it. Just say, ‘Well that didn’t go every well , did it?!’ Or, ‘that felt Really funny when I thought a bit earlier on’, because then people will laugh at the fact that you have effectively laughed at yourself. You’ve said, yeah, I own up that didn’t work, you know, because that’s a great thing to do just to admit your failure. But as I say, in a comedy set of 20 minutes, you can only play that card three times. And then it’s like, you really should have thought about this before you did it.

Paul Boross
And I think it’s really worth pointing out to anybody listening who wants to get better at every or any aspect of humour. Is that admission, it’s the hands up moment, and that humanises you. And yeah, and and by the way, you can learn this by watching comedians. Comedians die all the time, but it’s how they do it.

Alistair McGowan
Yeah. And somehow, I think getting older which is no help to anybody as advice for a young person, but it matters less somehow to you. And then if you do mess up your much more likely to just go, ‘Achhh’ and carry on rather than be so tense because you think, oh, if I if I hadn’t made that mistake, I’d have got another three gigs out of it. And then I’d been on tell you that I’ve become a millionaire. And it was all because a joke went wrong. But when you’re out the other side of it a bit, you can be a bit more relaxed and the relaxation somehow makes you better. Which is ironic, because, you know, I want to be better when you’re young. Yeah,

Paul Boross
no, no, but really what’s happening from a psychological point of view is that, you know, there’s the old saying, if you want anybody to go into any state, you have to go into the state first. And as soon as you’re on stage and you tense up, guess what, the audience will do the same thing. So actually, at that point, you’ve lost them. But if you stay relaxed, and you go, I mean, you go, I have no idea what I’m going to say next. But you know what, as soon as I remember, I’ll get back to you and the audience just go, ‘oh okay, we’ll go with that’.

Alistair McGowan
Yeah, but it’s still hard to remember and I still make those mistakes. And you know, doing my tour last year with Jasper Carrot, there were days where Jasper who’s who’s brilliant mentor really, he would say to me too fast, too fast. So he’d say slow down or, you know, the first half was a bit speedy and – not all the time – but just now and again because he could tell that I could still get unnerved by something if three jokes don’t work in a row. You know, Sean Lock said that years ago, he said you’ve got three goes at it like a football manager is only ever six games from the sack they say. In comedy you can do really well for 19 of your 20 minutes and then suddenly you do three bad jokes and they go, ‘this guy’s rubbish’. You know, I go but all the other ones worked really well. Yep, but you’ve just done three, one after the other. Get out, go! So, you’re always a bit tense and a bit nervous. But somehow you have to get rid of that. And it’s not easy, no matter how experienced you are, no matter how experienced you are. Repetition,

Paul Boross
But yes, no matter how experienced you are. Yeah. No but I just think you actually can’t say it enough. No, you really can’t say it enough. But it is about the forcing yourself into being more relaxed than them. All the comedians that we worked with over the years at the Comedy Store, you know, London Palladium, everything. They were all nervous backstage, especially when they were going on at two o’clock in the morning at the Comedy Store. All of us. I’ve seen every comic go walking back in the dressing room, going ‘keep it tight, keep it tight’, because they know what a tight rope that is, but as soon as…

Alistair McGowan
… well, that’s the other thing, I suppose which I would say to anybody writing anything funny, whether it’s, you know, for a speech or wherever is keep it tight. And just look at it again and again and try not to repeat something you’ve said… Yes, yes, for repetitive effect, but don’t start. If you can say something concisely, say concisely, you know, To be your own editor and and that that’s really important. And again, Skinner, who’s who’s written and spoken – he’s got a book called On The Road, which is about his tour. And I think that 2007 when he went back to it for the first time in ages, and he wrote really concisely about constructing jokes and constructing comedy, but he talks about one word extra in a sentence, and the whole joke can go down. Or one word too few, and he would go back and obviously you haven’t got this luxury if you’re making a one off speech, but he would go back and work out what would happen, what he missed out and try it again the next day and not give up on an idea just because it didn’t work once. I had a routine I used to do about Colin Jackson. Or as Colin Jackson, the athlete commentator now, and it was a routine I did about how athletics when you go and see it live, you realise there’s actually nothing more than a glorified school sports day. And I said, it’s true. You think about it. I’m sure before too long you’ll hear Colin Jackson in the comentary box saying, ‘do you know what he’s done there in the 100 metres is absolutely brilliant. But now the big question is, can he go on and win the sack race and the egg and spoon? And I’d say that people would go, ‘Oh, that’s quite funny’. And I thought, I know this is a funny idea, a funny idea. And I don’t know why but I haven’t done the old rule of three, the old rule three that we live by, but I thought the routine was quite long and there was lots of it before that. So, then one night I just said, ‘and if you could go on and win the sack race, the egg and spoon and the parents race’. Woof! If anything, that was just two syllables or three syllables, but one one beat short… parents race. And suddenly that isn’t the funniest thing. It’s not funny than the other two, but it’s the third sack race, the egg and spoon against spoon and the parents race. Little things that you know, little tricks that you learn, little nudges and yeah, again, I’d forgotten.

Paul Boross
Is it easier to do it in somebody else’s voice? Do you do you get away with more by using somebody else’s voice? Is it like a vent act? A ventriloquist act whereby the the, the puppet can get away with more.

Alistair McGowan
I don’t know, I can see that both ways really I remember years ago, Jeff Green. Who was a wonderful comic. And I’m still working in Australia, I believe. But Jeff said to me, it’s easy for you mate. He’s just gonna do a funny voice and people laugh. And I thought about that. And I thought, No, actually, you’ve got to have the routine. You’ve got to have the material when I was doing the television show with Ronnie Ancona, I said to her, this quote, and she said, it’s so not true when you’re doing the routines that we’re doing the sketches physically on television, because effectively take Lucas and Walliams, for instance, who were around at the same time as us more or less doing the thing they used to do Rock Profiles -actually not doing Rock Profiles – doing sketches. They had to score a goal. As I’d said, Well, we had to score a hat trick, because we’re their sketches once they got off after Rock Profiles. With their sketches, no one’s gonna say that doesn’t look like that person, that doesn’t sound like that person. They just say, is it funny? But as an impressionist sitting on television, in sketches you have to say does it look like them? Tick. Does it sound like them? Tick. Is it funny? Phew! Hat trick every time some other comedian had to score a goal. You think so actually, it makes it harder because you’re being judged on three things. doing live stand up, you’re still being judged on two things. is the voice good? Nowadays, it’s also do we know who the hell that person is? Because we watch Netflix all the time. We don’t know who Channel Four, what Channel Four is. But yeah, you’ve got still got to have the material. You can’t just do a funny voice. But to answer the other part of your question, doing a voice does make a joke funnier.

Paul Boross
It’s interesting to talk about, actually how even comics who’ve been doing it for 30 years like yourself, need to get back to full fitness in a sense as well. How do people who want to use more humour do it ? Do they have to just regularly practice? Is it like going to the comedy gym?

Alistair McGowan
Well, yeah,

I think you always have to if you’re doing anything in public, you know, nerves come in the way. I’ve started playing the piano, as you mentioned in your introduction in public, doing this show now where I – well, hopefully I’ll be doing it again probably next year – where I combine playing 15 live pieces of romantic piano music. They’re not funny. I’m not Bill Bailey. But I do jokes in between about pieces or about the composers and then play the piano. That’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Because you have two lots of nerves you have the nerves of Is it funny? And then the nerves of Can I now put that completely out of my head and play the piano. And that has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The two things together because the nerves and the concentration for the piano are so different and you have to just completely block anything else out. But the rehearsal for that is immense. And yet, as much as you rehearse, certainly playing a piece on the piano, for me as a beginner, and for any pianist, really any painist, I’ve got a friend who have several friends who are professional pianists and they say the same thing, they will play it first of all, once they’ve learned to one friend, then maybe two or three friends, then maybe they’ll do a small concert with 10-20 people. And then if they’re performing in front of the Royal Albert Hall at the Albert Hall or Wigmore Hall or wherever, then they may be ready, but they’d have done lots of other concerts on the way to do the Wigmore or the Royal Albert Hall. You have to take it in stages. But you have to be prepared for that extra level of nerves that puts you off completely. Even making your wedding speech you go through in your bedroom. You think, Yeah, I know. Yeah, I can look up I know that we’re I know the whole thing. I know how to do it. Your nerves are going to get in the way so much when you see people and it’s a bit like the old thing…. You know, Glenn Hoddle was the first England manager to say, “you just can’t practice penalties. You know, you can’t recreate the tension. You can’t recreate that experience of standing there in front of 80,000 people plus you know, another 2 billion worldwide, you can’t replicate that in training”. And it’s the same but you can be as prepared as you can be.

Paul Boross
Well, that’s that’s mentally preparing yourself, isn’t it? And, as we call it in psychology, anchoring yourself into states whereby you know that you have got that to such a degree. And by the way, everybody should rush and see you because it’s an extraordinary show when you’re doing the piano and the comedy in between. It really is. I mean, it’s like two great feats at once… I marvel

Alistair McGowan
Thank you. It has been my Everest

Paul Boross
Well, you’ve conquered it my friend.

In business, is it survival of the fittest or survival of the funniest?

Alistair McGowan
I would imagine the fittest. Really, I would imagine the fittest. I would imagine the funny thing is a bonus I’d imagine it helps a lot, a lot, to be liked, to be warm, people like people to make them laugh, to make people listen to you, to show that you’ve listened to other people, all those things, as we’ve said, go to creating comedy to make somebody funny. But I would imagine it’s an ingredient. Just being funny on your own is not going to make you a very successful businessman unless your business is comedy.

Paul Boross
But it might take you to the next level.

Alistair McGowan
Definitely, it can make a difference – hugely. I think it can make a huge difference. Yeah. Yeah. being funny. And just sharing you know, just just listening to people. And what’s the difference in a way between being nice to people and being funny? You know, being nice means you’re, you’re being warm, you’re being considerate, you’re probably being quite witty with them. You know that, that is what I think would for me would be the most important thing. humour comes into that being funny comes into that. Yeah. But I think just generally respecting people and being nice to them and wanting the best for them and helping them and yeah, those are the things that I would look for most in business I’d have thought. I hope…

Paul Boross
Well, now I think that’s a big part of the whole Humourology concept. We’re going to end the show with the bit we like to call quickfire questions. And I always say that like, I’ve written a little sort of sting for that, but I haven’t yet. Who’s the funniest business person you’ve met?

Alistair McGowan
I would probably say yes, I think – what was his name? Yes, Steve Lee, formerly of the Chartered Institute of Waste Management.

Paul Boross
Would you rather be considered clever or funny?

Alistair McGowan
*raspberry noise*

Paul Boross
Well, the fart noise was enough to be honest with you! We’ll just edit around that!

Alistair McGowan
I’d rather be considered of all things always kind or nice, but I suppose out of those two… probably clever weirdly, but that’s just me being egotistical. Isn’t that ridiculous? And as I say, I’m not a born comic. I don’t feel I’m a born comic, I don’t know what I am born… but witty is what I’d rather but if I had to Yeah, witty, I would never say funny. Okay, isn’t that oadd? Humorous. I’d rather be humorous.

Paul Boross
Okay. What book makes you laugh?

Alistair McGowan
I don’t tend to laugh at literature. If anything poetry and the poetry of John Hegley and Henry Normal and sometimes Roger McGough, but particularly Henry Normal if you don’t know any poetry, I’d recommend you go and buy it. If you’d like I can probably supply it, but that’s about as far as this rhyme goes. It’ll keep me on my toes to sound like a new normal is not abnormal.

Paul Boross
What film makes you laugh?

Alistair McGowan
I’d like to see it again. A film that I used to love watching was Take The Money and Run a Woody Allen film in which he plays a bank robber. And one of the classic scenes he turns it with a note to rob the bank and he puts it under the bank tellers desk and he can’t read it. He goes, ‘This is a… I’ve got a ‘gub’ Like what’s a gub? No. It’s gun… gun. ‘It definitely says gub’. I think that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

Paul Boross
What word makes you laugh?

Alistair McGowan
Oh, I don’t think I would. It makes me laugh.

No, I can’t I can’t I can’t think of a word that makes me laugh straightaway.

That’s alright.

That’snot a very quick fire is it?!

Paul Boross
Okay, the serious side of it. What’s not funny?

Alistair McGowan
What’s not funny?

I think the thing that I don’t find funny at all is inventive swearing? There has been a big trend for this ever since The Thick Of It really of people swearing in the funniest most convoluted way and I’ve always had a problem with swearing. I don’t like swearing. If I swear it’s because I’ve dropped something on my foot or I’ve missed an open goal or I’ve missed this easy shot at snooker or I’ve hit my head on the swimming pool, but I don’t like swearing and inventive swearing I find even less funny. There’s a little bit about…for fucks sake!

Paul Boross
Okay, and finally, desert island gags if you could only take one gag with you to a desert island. What would it be?

Alistair McGowan
I’ve only ever tried to buy one gag. When I was doing my tele show. I was desperate to use this gag and I asked Tim Vine if I could have his gag and buy his gag. A lot of old time comics are always buying gangs off each other. And Tim wouldn’t sell it. And the gag was I can’t remember I was 21 years ago. I can only remember the punchline it was something like this… It was at the time Goran Ivanisevic had just beaten Tim Henman. He was world number three or four Henman was Ivanisevic was, you know, top 10, Wimbledon champion 2001 and Tim Vine was doing this brilliant joke and he said… he said, “there’s – I can’t do Tim Vine’s voice – “there’s a lot of a lot of warlocks and wizards in the world of tennis, you know? Tim Henman he’s warlock, Boris Becker, he’s wizard and that Goran Ivanisevic!

I love that. That is my perfect joke, and Tim Vine thought of it.

Paul Boross
Alistair McGowan, It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much.

Alistair McGowan
Thank you. I’ve enjoyed it.

———————————

Mentions and impressions – what a roll call! 

 

Alan Carr

Huw Edwards

BBC

Julian Clary

Eddie Izzard. 

Jack Dee. 

Dylan Moran. 

Adrian Chiles.

Steve Lee.

Tom Paulin

Liam Neeson

Michael Caine

Juergen Klopp

Howard Wilkinson

Gary Lineker, 

Alan Shearer,

Match of the day

Alan Davies 

Harry Hill, 

Milton Jones,

Cheryl Cole

Richard Madeley, 

Steve Bruce

Jonathan Ross, 

Graham Norton, 

Michael Parkinson

Roger Federer

Djokovic

Tony Hawks

Lee Evans.

Frank Skinner.

Jasper Carrot

Colin Jackson

Jeff Green, 

Ronnie Ancona 

Bill Bailey

Henry normal

Woody Allen

Tim Vine, 

Tim Henman

Boris Becker

Goran Ivanisevic

Fred Sirieix

Gareth Southgate

Glenn Hoddle

Harry Kane