Part of the Humourology series
Season 3, Episode 54
John Lloyd CBE – The King of Comedic Cognition – Part Two
Award-Winning legendary producer John Lloyd CBE returns to The Humourology Podcast to continue sharing his perspective from a lifetime of performing, presenting, and producing. Lloyd discusses with Paul Boross how some of the most creative forces in comedy, music, and television use humour to connect.
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Award-Winning Producer John Lloyd CBE returns for a second helping of The Humourology Podcast. Lloyd continues his conversation with Paul Boross about creativity, cheerfulness, and comedy. John pulls on his years of experience to discuss how creativity and comedy come about.
“Short of being a doctor there is not really a better way than spending your life making people more cheerful than they were.”
John Lloyd shares stories from his life surrounded by the world’s most creative and comedy-minded people to discuss how a sense of humour can directly impact your intelligence, creativity, and connection with others. Join us this week on The Humourology Podcast.
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John Lloyd (00:00):
But over the years, I’ve thought short of being a doctor or some kind of healer or carer. They’re not really a better way of spending your life than making people more cheerful than they were before they listen to, or watch the programme.
Paul Boross (00:20):
Welcome back to the Humourology podcast with me, Paul Boross. Today, we have the award-winning producer of Blackadder QI spitting image and Not The Nine O’Clock News doing the second part of our unbelievably interesting and wonderful conversation. Please remember to like subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts.
Paul Boross (00:47):
When he’s not acting as the creative force behind high quality but he sure knows plenty about producing a punchline and creating comedy gold. John, thank you so much. We’re going to do part two.
John Lloyd (01:33):
It’s good to be back Paul and I’ve worn the same tie and shirt as well.
Paul Boross (01:38):
Continuity is everything.
John Lloyd (01:39):
Paul Boross (01:41):
What is, what is the trick? You have ave worked with? I mean, many of, if not most of the, the greatest comics of the last 50 years, what is it that their special sauce that makes them different? And have you managed to pick some of that up?
John Lloyd (02:00):
Well, that’s what I wanted to do. I set out when I left university, I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I thought I’ll give myself a year and see if I can make it as a comic in some way. So I used to put on plays and I used to act in those days and, and put on reviews and do writing in my spare time and all that kind of stuff. So I kind of missed my vocation and I was actually 61, which is nearly 10 year, years ago where I did my first one man show in Edinburgh, which was terrifying. My wife thought I was gonna commit suicide. I was so frightened. And, but once I got the thing written and I went out in front of the audience and that month was the best month of my whole life, because I thought what an idiot I’ve been in the wrong job for 40 years. This is what I should have done. This is what I do, because you’ll know this Paul that going out in front of a lot of people and making them laugh is there are very few experiences that are more fun than that. It is absolutely life enhancing both for the audience and for the performer. And it’s, it’s a public service. It’s a joy, it’s, it’s a very difficult thing to do, but when you do it well, it’s just such a positive experience.
Paul Boross (03:16):
Well it’s a drug, isn’t it? It’s the… The laugh is the drug, the acceptance, the thrill, the…
John Lloyd (03:23):
…the endorphins and the sense of, I mean the sense of being alive and being completely there in the moment. And then there’s a most peculiar thing that like anything else when you’re doing it well, you’re in the zone. You are sort of, not really… You are both there completely present and you are absent. You have no ego in that situation. You’re just completely… And I do feel that not so much with scripted stuff that you’ve struggled to write and perfect, but when you are ad libbing, like you might on the radio show and you come up with a one liner and you get a big, that’s an interesting thing because I haven’t taken credit for ideas. I wouldn’t call any of the ideas that I have, or that have me for 30 years are mine. They come. Nobody knows where ideas come from.
John Lloyd (04:14):
It’s one of the great mysteries. Humour is a great mystery. Where does it come from? What’s it for? Music is another total mystery. We don’t really know how it came about or what it’s there for. And these, these mysteries of how you are most yourself when you’re not there, when you are completely in the zone in the state of flow, as they say, that’s great. And that when you’re are funny off the cuff, which is such a pleasant thing, but it catches me by surprise every time. Stephen Fry once said a great thing. He said, I don’t really know what I’m gonna say until my lips start moving. And that’s the same with being funny is that actually it’s a gift. It comes from the sky, like many songwriters. Harry will always say that he’s Mozart used to say it Noel Gallagher said that ,Elton John…
Paul Boross (05:04):
… McCartney says that.
John Lloyd (05:06):
You dream it. Or it comes to you from some other dimension and you’re just simply writing it down. And so again, it’s a privilege and it’s what, one of the things that is one of the things that we should all try and do is be grateful. If you have something like that to be happy and grateful that you do have it.
Paul Boross (05:26):
Well as a psychologist, I’m really interested in that because when I work with… I get called in to work with CEOs who have to make big speeches and things like that. And I always say, uh, the first chapter in my first book was called, It’s All About Them, because if you are properly connected with the audience, your unconscious can do the work. Because as you probably know, your conscious mind can only hold between five and nine pieces of information at any one time. The unconscious holds millions. And that’s when you are at your best is when you are completely engaged. And that’s what the art of, I think, great humour or great comedy is that you are completely engaged and allowing the unconscious to do the work. That’s where the magic happens. If you like.
John Lloyd (06:22):
I think it’s… I’ve got a slightly different theory to that, which is I did a second one-man show in Edinburgh a couple of years later. And that was about meaning as well. What does it all mean? What what’s, everything… How does all fit together? And what I think about consciousness is that that really the brain is like a, a radio. What we think is we’re a broadcast , we’re the BBC, we have these ideas, we make stuff, we have ideas and we’re very clever. But actually, we’re just a radio set and that’s why great art is coming from somewhere else. So it’s more like a super conscious, so you’re tapped in. Most people who are not creative are sort of blocked off from the universal consciousness and creative people are sort of sick.
John Lloyd (07:12):
People who have a… They, they have a hole there’s a whole in the ceiling, as it were through which the creativity drips, because the most, the most brilliant people I’ve worked with Rowan Atkinson is one. Peter Cook was another, they don’t ever appear to do any actual work. You know what I mean? Rowan just turns up and is extraordinary. He’s extraordinary. It comes, he doesn’t really think about it. He thinks a lot, Rowan, he’s a very serious minded guy, but when he is working, it just arrives. And the same with Peter, I never saw Peter Cook pick up a pencil even. He would just have a drink and start talking and out it would come. It was like I say, he’d got a standpipe into an aquifer and this gusher would come out all day until he went back to sleep again. You know, people often say to the reason I’m Professor of Ignorance at Southampton Solent university is they always ask me to be Professor of Comedy. And I say, but I don’t know anything about comedy. I’ve been doing it for 45 years. And I still don’t understand the first thing about how it works. I mean, I know what’s not funny. And one of the ironies and paradoxes about my job is most of it is knowing what’s not funny and why it’s not funny. And then we can start again.
Paul Boross (08:24):
You’re an editor.
John Lloyd (08:25):
Yeah, that’s what I do. I’m an editor, I’m an editor with power, I suppose
Paul Boross (08:29):
That’s an amazing talent to be able to do it in the same way that you talked about Rowan and Peter Cook. Is that ability to turn off the conscious mind and trust. It’s the ultimate trust exercise that I know the funny will come and in that ability to never go, oh my God, what’s next? You are there you are present. You are completely embroiled in it, which I don’t know if you watched the Beatles documentary the eight and a half hours.
John Lloyd (09:00):
I went to the premiere. That was one of the great moments of my life, Paul. So, A to get asked, because I know the guy who runs Apple in the UK, John O’Clyde and he’s great friend of mine. So I went with one of our development elf Dan. So we went to see, this was a fantastic evening. Amazing. And there was an after party to which we got asked and we’re all sort of standing around Paul McCartney comes and he is an incredibly good mood cause it’s gone really well. And it was a big risk they took and you know, nobody knew whether it was gonna work and it worked brilliantly. And so he was in a great mood and I was standing there with Alan Yentob behind with Stephen Merchant and Paul comes into the group and I worked with Paul for three days in 1981. I think it was working on a thing called Rupert and The Frog Song trying to add extra jokes, me and Terry Jones and Douglas Adams.
Paul Boross (09:59):
John Lloyd (10:00):
So I just go over to Paul and say, Hey Paul, you won’t remember me, but… He goes John Lloyd. And I thought, wow, that is… What a guy to remember. You know, somebody who was a sort of nobody writer in 1981 from all those years ago. So that was fantastic, but it was, it was an amazing piece of work. I thought
Paul Boross (10:23):
It’s an amazing piece of work. And what I thought was fascinated and for all our listeners who aren’t in music or comedy, I think it translates to how creativity works in any industry; is that they let it happen. They just kept doing it and trusting in the process and being there for each other. And they created an atmosphere that was really comedic and funny. And they’re quipping and taking the piss.
John Lloyd (10:53):
Definitely. Yeah. I mean, they’ll never be another band like the Beatles. I mean, I just don’t think there’s anything to touch them ever.
Paul Boross (11:03):
Well, until Waiting for Smith, obviously
John Lloyd (11:06):
We had a, a plugger for a couple of years and wonderful guy called Jeff who had worked with Paul McCart. He’s a scouser. He Had worked with Paul when he was much younger. And he’s compares Harry to Paul McCartney, Paul Simon. Because of that thing is that the songs are such a pleasure to listen to and they keep coming and a bit like he’s also genre is not something Harry does, you know, he’s got all sorts of songs ,all from kind of genres. And I was gonna say, the other thing is apart from Essex builders, the other people who are great with humour at work are musicians. I mean, they love a joke and their banter in sessions and rehearsals is absolutely terrific. We howl with laughter and I don’t know why they’re so connected, you know, humour and music as a comedy producer, you know you’ve gotta hit when you hear that bands like it, When Not The Nine O’clock News, Oh The Rolling Stones, listen to this, you know and watch this.
Paul Boross (12:14):
Well, I think it’s to do with rhythm, to be honest with you, because in order to tell a joke or to do good music, you have to hear the rhythm of the joke you have to hear. You’ve worked with thousands of comedians as have I, but it’s all about, they hear the rhythm, they make the neural… they connect the neural pathways, but they hear the rhythm of it. And I think there’s an overlap between, and frankly, most musicians want to be comedians and most comedians want to be musicians. There is that sort of, and so that bonding in the middle, I suppose it ultimately, I think it all comes down to rhythm.
John Lloyd (12:59):
I think that’s very, very good. And it’s like when you are working on a line a joke it’s like poetry, or it’s like a song is like, when you get it right. That’s what it means, right. It’s not a matter of opinion. That’s right. Those things are not right. And this is right. And I believe that we just haven’t worked out the notation for comedy yet. There’s no way of, I mean, we still don’t really know why things are funny. We know why they’re not funny, but there’s definitely… as I say, it’s like a line of poetry or a hook in a song is just correct. That’s the end of it. And then there’s no, no arguing.
Paul Boross (13:40):
Yeah. That’s really interesting because you know, when you try and you must have had this with people who aren’t naturally funny, and you go, if you leave it an extra beat, it will be funnier. And that’s musical notation in a sense. It’s like another beat and it’ll be funnier, but some people don’t hear that. And that’s why it fails to be funny. Well actually, do you think that everyone on the back of that is potentially funny or is it a gift given to the few?
John Lloyd (14:18):
Well, I think there’s very few people have no sense of humour. I have met the odd one. and I obviously, I think people are, you know, funnier than some people are funnier than others and of course it depends on the context. You know, some people are very funny in private and not very good or can’t do any sort of public speaking. And, you know, it’s the, the biggest fear people have as you’ll know, as a psychologist to 50% of Americans would literally rather die than give a speech. You know, they would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy,
Paul Boross (14:53):
A Jerry Seinfeld line.
John Lloyd (14:55):
I think it’s like a lot of things, unless you catch it young, it’s difficult to, I think it’s very, it’s very difficult to… and there are courses on comedy writing, for example, you can’t teach somebody to be funny. You can teach them to tidy it up and be more logical and present the work better. But I think… I don’t know if it’s innate or what… I don’t think… It’s something about your early childhood, I think. And I would say that people who are consistently very funny are very unusual. I mean, I would say there are many more top flight brain surgeons in the world, then there are top flight standup comics by a couple of orders of magnitude, I would say. But there are a lot of, again, it’s something that, you know, class even gender, all this ,ethnicity, it has no relevance to whether you are funny or not.
John Lloyd (15:51):
I remember one years ago, so we live in the country, we have aga and a bloke came to fix the aga. And he worked out that I was a comedy producer, and he said he was a welder in the Glasgow shipyards with Billy Connolly and he said there were 50 blokes who were funnier than Billy. I find that hard to believe, but you can imagine, you know, the banter that went on amongst the welders. And I remember in the days when female standups were very unusual, which is very recent. I mean, it’s really only in the last 10 years that there’s been an explosion of young women who want to do it.
John Lloyd (16:26):
And even back in the day, 20 years ago, you get criticised for not having enough women. And we said, well, there aren’t any The intake… Let’s say the Edinburgh festival about 5% of the comics are female. And now it’s very, nearly 50/50. I think something’s happened whether great comedians like Jo Brand have set an example. I don’t know but women have always been just as funny as men in private It’s in a different… a different kind of way. And that’s what always used to puzzle me is why, if I want a really good laugh, go out to lunch with a bunch of women, you’ll have an absolute fantastic time, but very few of them want to get up on stage and do it professionally. And that’s changed, which is a very good thing. I think.
Paul Boross (17:13):
Well, I think it’s changed because of the bravery. and I used the term advisedly, of Jo Brand. I started working with Jo at the Comedy Store in Leicester Square. And there were a handful of women, but hardly any of them could properly do the night show where you quite often went on at two o’clock in the morning. You remember the days where the audience went to heckle and it was very tough and Jo talks about it. And in fact, talked about it on this show that because she was a psychiatric nurse, she said she used to get worse heckles during the day in her day job. So, she had that facility to rise above that, but it was very hard. And I think women are nicer to each other, whereas men grow up chiding each other constantly. And maybe there’s something about that gives them a facility later on. I don’t know, what do you think?
John Lloyd (18:22):
Difficult to get into gender politics. But I think a lot of men are very disconnected. I think the men that I get on with best you find out within five minutes, you think this guy has either been in therapy or he is a Buddhist, you know, or he’s had a midlife crisis and started thinking about things. Any woman, the average woman, almost all women, the minute they start talking, they’re straight into the big stuff, aren’t they? Illness and children and, you know, the big things and men are, you know, behind this pathetic cardboard castle of, you know, sport and banter and, you know, trying to pretend you’re not unhappy and it’s, again, it’s a terrible waste of that being disconnected. And, and I don’t know whether comedy’s one way out of that, because, as you said earlier, I mean, comedy is a great thing for joining people up.
John Lloyd (19:19):
Music is a great thing for joining people up. You know, conversation should be… A great conversation, should be, ah! There’s connections all over the place. You know, like the first time we spoke, you said, this is ridiculous. We’ve never met. You know, we seem to, there’s so much in common here. And it’s something that I certainly do. One of the things that Harry and I share is we like to talk to everybody. You know, if you’re talking a mini cab driver or bus driver, or just a bloke cleaning the street. You talk to anyone and it’s extraordinary how much it improves your life, because you just learn these fantastic stories. Everybody has a story, you know? And and, and it just makes you feel better. The fact that you go through life, not being frightened of everyone else, but of thinking, I wonder what that person’s got to say.
Paul Boross (20:16):
I couldn’t agree more. I think that the first time we spoke we spoke about this. My son, Sam, very similar to Harry has grown up just going out, chatting to anyone because, and interested being interested. Your company’s called Quite Interesting Limited – being interested in other people, I think is the best way to connect and also get on for all of our listeners who were thinking, oh, well, what’s this got to do with my job or my relationship with my children. I think it’s the core of everything – be interested. I remember being skiing with my friends. I went over to the other side and I was chatting to a guy who was sweeping out the bar and I was there for 45 minutes and they went, what are you doing? I went, this guy’s fascinating. He’s come from the Slovak Republic. And he used to be a professor over there, and now he’s doing this and he’s got a fascinating, and by bonding with this person, I got so much, but some people don’t realise that you, you can learn so much, but also get so much more love and laughter from connecting.
John Lloyd (21:40):
Yes. I just don’t understand how anybody ever gets bored. I mean, well, it’s just baffling to me that people can be ever bored. That there’s so much to think about so much to look at so many people to talk to. It’s just the ignorance. It’s…. Yeah.
Paul Boross (22:02):
Well, just general ignorance.
John Lloyd (22:07):
New Speaker (22:08):
I want to get back to humour. Do you find that you can laugh at yourself easily and was that always the way, cause you talked about being known as being a Mr. Grumpy earlier, was it harder to laugh at yourself at that time? And do you think it’s important?
John Lloyd (22:31):
Yes. I mean, I think you should laugh yourself. I’m not sure how good I am at it actually. I think I’m probably quite sensitive to that and certainly was historically but yes, we should laugh at ourselves in particular and in general to not, you know, the current vogue for taking offence and everything, rather than a bit of teasing doesn’t, isn’t so terrible most of the time, but, you I think it’s, well, I think there should be more laughter you know, everywhere, you know, I think there should be more laughter at work and more laughter in, in the family and my kids will do that thing. I was when I’m making a point at lunch or whatever was wave a fork and they all do that. Ah, he is waving his fork again.
John Lloyd (23:26):
So I don’t mind that, but no, I don’t think I do mind when people tease me things, I’m okay. I think I can probably cope. It’s it’s so interesting the question of whether humour is… my dad died in 2001 and it was really shocking and sudden and, and surprising and I had to organise the first funeral I’d ever done or I’m the oldest. And I thought after, when we’re having the wake I’ll write a speech about him. So I wrote this speech and, and I said some very funny things in it. And then just before I was due to give it, I didn’t tell anyone I was gonna give it. I suddenly realised that all the jokes were against him. They were all about, he’s the things that he made mistakes or falling through the roof when he was trying to shovel snow out of the rafters. And I thought, I can’t do this because it sounds like I don’t like him, which wasn’t at all the case. I was very fond of him, but I just thought there were jokes at his expense. That didn’t seem right to me. I don’t know why that suddenly occurred to me. I’ve literally never told that to anyone. I don’t think,
Paul Boross (24:42):
But you can do some things which were a jokes about, because my father died six and a half years ago and I had to do that same thing of writing the eulogy. And it’s, it’s very much about it’s about them so you have to bring out their foibles, but it’s, it’s done with love. Isn’t it?
John Lloyd (25:05):
The best eulogies I’ve ever seen are part you know, you want the whole person. So, we had a memorial for John Sessions the other day. Great, great friend. We go back a long way with him. Brilliant actor, very troubled person, but kind, kind, as you like. And all the speeches, Ian Hislop was brilliant, Stephen Fry was exceptionally funny and they were all how much they loved him, how brilliant he was and what a walking disaster, you know, all his foibles and craziness. And that was what made it so… we all loved him despite his ways you know, despite that we still loved him, you know,
Paul Boross (25:53):
Isn’t that what makes people special is, is, is there idiosyncratic natures and all those things, isn’t that what people are? We love them despite… nobody’s perfect, are they?.
John Lloyd (26:06):
No. And I think if when you do meet somebody who appears to be perfect as slightly intimidating and a bit weird, frankly. I remember, so I go on a yoga retreat once a year, which all the family are into yoga. Cause it sort of saved our lives in various ways. And Neville our yoga teacher. He was a Buddhist monk for three years. He’s a guy from Oxford. A very nice guy and I thought, this is the closest person I’ve ever met to someone who’s genuinely enlightened. You know, he’s kind, he’s funny, he’s gentle. He’s very good at his job. He’s just so centred as a person. And then he had kids and he said, oh John, oh….. And suddenly he’s a human being and now, okay, I can love you completely Neville because now, you know, because you can, you can present quite well as a single person, as long as you’re not physically ill.
John Lloyd (27:07):
and so on. I don’t think anyone can do that as a mother or father. Being a parent is a very, very difficult calling and, and it’s frustrating and it makes you frightened and angry and all those things. So he sort of become a much more rounded person now and he’s not intimidating anymore. I was gonna say about the yoga thing, interestingly, in terms of laughter being the panacea for everything is when my wife dragged me along, she did it because she has Meniere’s disease – i.e vertigo. So she’s got a balance problem in the her ear and yoga’s very for good it. I mean15 years ago she was falling down like a sack of potatoes in the street. And I thought she was not going to be with us for very long. And the yoga has, has made her, she still got it, but she can control it.
John Lloyd (27:56):
And she dragged me along because I was very out of condition, very overweight, drinking, too much. I was a mess and I needed to get a sort of detox. And we started going on these yoga retreats. And because a lot of people in the class were very fit and very good at doing yoga and I felt ashamed and overweight and I couldn’t do it. I was, you know, giving up very depressed and cross. And so my defence mechanism was humour . I used to make jokes about it – mainly against myself – and so I think our yoga class, I’m not saying it’s unique, but I’ve never heard of another one like it, it is incredibly funny. There’s a great deal of serious philosophy talks and thoughtful, a lot of kindness and generosity and lots of jokes. So often the entire class is howling with laughter when they’re doing downward dog or something like that.
John Lloyd (28:50):
And another thing is I think another great therapy, I think there should be such a thing as Scottish dancing therapy, which, you know, my wife is a Scot. We go to Scotland every New Year. And I think Scottish, dancing’s got everything. It’s got rhythm, as you said, it’s got it’s got music, which is great. It’s got fun, which is great. It’s got learning, because you’re always trying to learn a new set of steps. And of course, because most people are hopeless at it. You laugh a great deal and there’s hugs. I mean, it’s got everything. I think if you did Scottish dancing every day, everyone would be just fantastically happy.
Paul Boross (29:25):
Well, there you go. That’s that’s our new business. Scottish dancing therapy with Paul and John.
John Lloyd (29:31):
Paul Boross (29:33):
Oh no, that’s brilliant. If I asked you to write a business case for humour, what would you include in it, John?
John Lloyd (29:41):
Uh, well that would be the easiest question. I think that you you’ve asked me thus far because I’ve actually got the facts and figures for this. Okay. So for about 12 years I’ve mentioned I was a commercial director. I never wanted to be a director. It looked like a very difficult job to me. Directors I worked with are always shouting and screaming and firing the prop man and having nervous breakdowns and becoming alcoholics and things. And it was obviously the amazing pressure. So, but somebody offered me a job to direct an ad. And after about four hours, I thought, rather like doing that one man show, I mentioned, I thought I’ve wasted my life. I should have been doing this said 20. You know, directing suits me so well, it fits me like a glove.
John Lloyd (30:26):
I was never any good as a producer. I’m pretending to be a producer. I hate firing people. I can’t read a budget to save my life. Directing, that’s great with actors I love, writers, you know, set designers and problem solving. So, after this first one, the second year I was a director, I won a prize for the best out of the year from a thing called Creative Circle. I couldn’t understand how that had happened. And I did some very good stuff, particularly with Barclaycard with Rowan Atkinson. And, one of the things I loved about it – because I’d done lots of tele – and I wasn’t trying to prove anything about my abilities as a director. What interested me about advertising is how do you sell the product? How do you use the humour as a means to sell?
John Lloyd (31:18):
I always used to say to the agencies, you know, so what’s the brief and they’d go, why do you need to know what the brief is? Why don’t you just make it funny? I said, no, I need to know how the bank works or, you know what, what’s in the lager, what, what are they trying to sell? Why are they, what are they trying to get across? What’s the message? They thought I was crazy, but it worked. And I was, I wouldn’t claim to be very good at many things, but I was very, very good at the whole business of making ads. Products used to fly off the shelves and Barclaycard was the apotheosis of this. The first three years that I did, they won all the prizes, it was voted in some magazine, the most effective television advertising campaign ever in Britain.
John Lloyd (32:04):
Wow. And this is how effective it was, the second year we were out in Bora Bora and Tahiti shooting a couple of ads, the one with the dinghy. If you ever remember that, where he loses his binoculars. And there’s the one where the doctors got snake bite on his Willy and two very wonderful ads. We were out there for about three weeks. And one night the account woman had a bit too much to drink and told me how successful the ads were. You don’t wanna tell the director that because they’ll wanna to charge more money. So, she got drunk and she said, did you know that these ads are making Barclay’s Bank half a billion pounds a year that they didn’t know they had? Half a billion every year.! One of the ways it worked is because people would see the ad and they would… and laugh obviously.
John Lloyd (33:01):
And when they got their Barclaycard statement, their bill, they’d go, oh, did you see that one? Did you see the, one of the, you know, the guy when he’s you know, going down the lift and this happens and they forget to pay the bill because they get so talking about the ad, they put the bill aside and then six weeks later. Oh my God. And they were paying all this excess interest. That was one of the ways they did it. And in increase the sales of the most expensive credit card in the country, but it increased their sales massively. It used to cost them. I once asked the marketing director, Alan. Okay. So the ads cost half a million a yearmto make. Two of them usually or three sometimes. How much do you spend on the media?
John Lloyd (33:46):
In other words, buying the media space. Oh about 12 million. So, you’re basically saying 12 and a half million pounds they cost to make and they’re making half a billion. I just worked that out on my calculator last night, that is a return on investment of 4000%. It’s 40 times they were making. So if that isn’t a good case for comedy in business, I don’t know what is. And I did this a lot. We, we did a very successful series for Red Rock cider with Leslie Nielsen. I did Abby National with Alan Davies for years and years, Harry Enfield. And I did some fantastic work for Dime Bar and product used to just fly off the shelves because it’s like you know, cause I was very interested in the clients. Used to get on very well with the clients and you know, and I would turn up in a suit and the agencies would go, are you mad?
John Lloyd (34:44):
I said, look, I’m a public school boy. When I go to a meeting with, you know, 30 people, I wear a suit and tie, that’s the way I’m built. I don’t wear my leather jacket. It’s rude. And so all the marketing guys and women all in their grey suits and, and so on would think, oh, he’s like us, he’s actually interested in what’s in the lager. You know, he cares about how the car performs. You know, he’s not just in it to show off and win prizes. And I found that absolutely fascinating. Again, the problem solving thing, how do you take this thing that’s not selling and make it sell? So there was a very… one very successful I did was for Boddingtons beer, takeaway beer, you know, Boddingtons. And it was called Boddingtons. Do you remember those? The cream of Manchester? That’s right. So with, with…
Paul Boross (35:36):
Boddintons on the top lip?
John Lloyd (35:38):
That wasn’t one of mine. I did the very first one and it was set and we made what looked like the coolest New York loft in Manchester. And it was very, very beautifully designed and a very funny thing where this woman putting cream on her face and then you see her hand go into the beer and it’s, you know, Boddingtons – the cream of Manchester. And then her boyfriend comes in. He says, eh you smell gorgeous tonight, pet, And then it was done… but what was clever about it was it was done to make Mancunians look incredibly sexy and cool. And when they usedto show this ad in pubs in Manchester, it used to get cheered. And it took the brand from the number 14 takeaway beer in the country to number one like overnight.
Paul Boross (36:33):
Well, there you go. Funny equals money.
John Lloyd (36:37):
It does absolutely quality, absolutely pays dividends andcomedy, especially
Paul Boross (36:45):
Brilliant. Well, we’ve reached the point in the show where we’re going to do Quick Fire Questions.
John Lloyd (36:53):
Speaker 3 (36:56):
Paul Boross (36:59):
Who’s the funniest business person that you’ve met.
John Lloyd (37:03):
Jimmy Mulville who runs Hat Trick. Very funny. GriffJones is an extremely, good financial operator and, in his own little way, and is hilarious. One of the best anecdotalists ever. Richard Curtis runs a big thing. He’s an extremely funny public speaker. I did meet a few sort of chief execs in my time in advertising, but I don’t remember. I always remember that if you get right to the top, that person’s usually rather wonderful, brilliant, got plenty of time, listens. Not at all a bully. The middle ranks are often quite difficult. The people at the top are good, but I don’t remember them being particularly funny. And then other people, again, I dunno if you call them business, but my bosses at the BBC David Hatch who ran comedy. And then the whole of radio was a brilliantly funny man, Jim Moir. Who’s still with us who ran Radio 2 and BBC light entertainment for a long time. He’s also funny
Paul Boross (37:59):
David Hatch and I have a connection, which is when I was 11 years old. They wanted ordinary children from ordinary backgrounds, not stage school children to do a BBC radio four show called From Us To You. And I was one of the five chosen to do it. Wow. So I worked with David Hatch and Simon, Brett, you know, Simon as well?
John Lloyd (38:22):
Simon, well, Simon’s my great friend. He, you know, I’m godfather to one of his kids and he and David were the people who recruited me to the BBC.
Paul Boross (38:33):
What book makes you laugh John?
John Lloyd (38:35):
Lucky Jim’s a very funny book, but probably terribly politically incorrect. Now I dunno, but I haven’t read it for years and years and, you know, plug my book, The Meaning of Liff, I still find that funny.
Paul Boross (38:46):
It’s a brilliant book
John Lloyd (38:47):
That Douglas Adams and I wrote in, in the early eighties and that, um, that tickles me. But no, I don’t, it’s a bit of a busman’s holiday reading, funny books, you know? Hmm. I don’t even, even going to see comedy, I’ll go to see, you know, Bill Bailey or Sean Lock, because they’re…. was so sad about Sean, so
Paul Boross (39:13):
John Lloyd (39:14):
But go and see friends to support them, you know, uh, Rob Brydon or Jimmy Carr or whatever, but I wouldn’t, fortunately somebody else has to go and see the, all the young up and coming comics as their job, which they’re happy to do, but I would, you know, I’d say it’s too much like work to me.
Paul Boross (39:31):
No, I get it. You mentioned Jimmy Carr earlier on who I think proves that for fact beautifully when it, because he takes very, very difficult topics and approaches them in a way that makes, that makes them funny. I think that that’s a real art and I just wondered if there was anything personal that you think, but I’m with you. I think if it’s approached in the right way, with the right attitude, anything can be funny.
John Lloyd (40:01):
Well, I think Jimmy certainly does that. And what’s so amazing about him is that he makes jokes about Paralympians and they adore him. You know, the thing is Jimmy’s, Jimmy’s a very good man. I mean, I, he’s a very good friend. He’s a great person. He’s somebody who’s developed very well. He’s had his crisis very early in his twenties where he lost his faith and walked out of his job and went into therapy and rebuilt himself. And he’s now bit like you becoming something of a psychologist, you know, he is writing books on how to live better. And he’s got a little boy and he’s happy. He’s, he’s the most generous person you’ve gotta see Jimmy with… I remember he used to be very good friends with Stephen Hawking, most unlikely thing. And Stephen used to come to Jimmy’s parties, which are the best in London, in his wheelchair with his carer. And, you know, obviously he looked as he looks, but when Jimmy went to speak to him, his eyes twinkled like little diamonds. It was so, and his little smile came on his face. It was so moving and Jimmy would, you know, tease him, make jokes, you know,
Paul Boross (41:16):
That’s well, that’s beautiful, isn’t it? Because actually when you know, you are very close to a person, you can tease, you can’t chide, you can play with somebody and people love it because it’s done in the right spirit.
John Lloyd (41:29):
I’ve seen I’ve for 10 years. I was the sort of a talent Booker for a show we put on at the New theatre in Oxford, in aid of a children’s hospice called Helen Douglas House. And I used to, you know, pull strings to get Rowan and Jimmy and people like that. And I remember how kind Jimmy was to ordinary people who particularly, you know, disabled people or kids or whatever. He’s always got the time. And he treats everybody exactly the same friendly, teasing, respect.
Paul Boross (42:05):
John Lloyd (42:06):
But I was gonna share with you this thing, you probably never even seen this. We did this book Richard Curtis, and I put this together for Comic Relief the definitive Blackadder books and it’s got all the scripts in there, but I did the bits in the middle, which are the, um, little extra bits and talking about silly words. This is the Prince Regent, you know, he’s bit of a fop. Hugh Laurie’s Prince Regent. His laundry list, Turtle and Son – Gentlemen’s Launderers and Sprucers, 3 Bun Lane Clerkenwell. And it’s gonna all these. So you’ve got Sporans – none. Kimonos – informal -3. Kimonos – foul weather, Shoulderettes – 3. Canties – 44, Folder Rolls – 2. Skimpies – 9, Underskimpies Under skimpy – 9. Over Skimpies 4 four. Arbroath Smokies smokies. Halter neck swagger flopsies, Whoopsdaisies, Bosom hearties, Log warmers, Boleros, Bobbynickers, Varsity roasters, Rap Rascals, Bunny Lariettes, Toggerelos, jellos billows, bufflers Bungnasties, Ossops, Ottertops, Hair shirts – nil, Sarongs – 4, Squeamishes – 9. Under squeamishes – 8, Squirters, Dinner Dirndls, Night panties, Club Dorises, Slip Goslings – fur, Slip Goslings – Tweed, Blouses – 52, Chemises, Chive clamps, Hug bunters, Dressnancies, NAS Swallow-breasted Port Scathoes, Skugs – 50, Scroatles -10, Nipple Loops – 2. Anyway, it just goes on. That makes me laugh. It’s just kinda pathetic,
New Speaker (43:48):
Superb. Absolutely superb. Oh God, that is hilarious. What sound makes you laugh?
John Lloyd (43:58):
Paul Boross (43:59):
John Lloyd (44:01):
Um, well, I think when I was very small, when I said I first went to prep school and I was sort of quite shy I suppose. And I had to read out something in geography, which contained the expression wood pulp. It was about, you know, logging in Canada or something. And I mispronounced it as wood plup and I just completely lost it. I couldn’t stop laughing for the whole of the rest of the lesson. I don’t know why that is but the sound of plup makes me laugh.
Paul Boross (44:34):
The sound of Plup which is a lovely album
Speaker 4 (44:40):
Paul Boross (44:47):
and the name of Waiting for Smith’s new album. The sound of Plup
John Lloyd (44:50):
Paul Boross (44:54):
Two grown men giggling, and finally Desert Island Gag. Number two, if you’d be so kind.
John Lloyd (45:04):
Well, this is my current favourite because it’s sort of quite topical and it’s about this two old couples, who’ve just come outta lockdown and they, they go for a walk in the park and, one old chap, says to the other, he said, we went out to had a delightful evening the Mrs and I, the other night we went to this I believe they called gastro pubs. Oh, very nice. Yes. Yes. She said a very, very pleasant, congenial atmosphere, excellent food and very good company. Indeed. I would highly recommend it. The other chap says, oh, well, and what is the name of this establishment? If I may ask. And the chap says, oh dear, oh, uh, Oh dear, no, it’s gone. Uh, oh, it’s come quite. You have to help me out. It’s gone quite on my head. I can’t remember. He says, uh, it’s a, well, uh, it’s like a flower, uh, which is like, uh, and it’s got these like often red and white, sometimes pink. And it’s got these like thorns sticking out the side. Isn’t it what’s that? And he goes, oh, that would that be a rose, wouldn’t it. He goes, thanks very much. He says, Rose, what was the name of that restaurant we went from the other night.
Paul Boross (46:25):
Oh, absolutely superb. John Lloyd, thank you so much for being a wonderful guest on the Humourology podcast.
John Lloyd (46:32):
Thank you, Paul. It’s been great fun.
Paul Boross (46:36):
The Humourology podcast was hosted by Paul Boross and produced by Simon Banks, music by Steve Haworth, creative direction by Les Hughes and additional research by Helen Sykes. Please remember to subscribe like and leave review wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a Big Sky production.