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Commercials turn quick snack into student cult

Potted history: Comedian captivates young audience with TV satire on health-conscious fans of 'faffy' foods
In the canon of cult heroes, he is no Jim Morrison or James Dean. But in classrooms and on the campus, Terry the Pot Noodles promoter has a fan club.

Legions of teenagers are writing to demand signed pictures. "Gorgeous" is becoming a staple of the student lexicon. You may have dismissed Pot Noodles as a Seventies fad but the latest advertising campaign for the add-boiling-water quick snack has captivated the nation.

"It's very funny," said the comedian Peter Baynham, Terry's alter ego, yesterday. "I keep on getting calls from people saying, 'You're a postmodern cult'. I say, 'Oh, that's nice'. "

It all began at the end of September when Terry hit prime-time television advertising. He and fellow Welshman John, played by Martin Ellis, see a poster promoting the fibre goodness of Pot Noodles and launch an attack on healthy sticks-and-leaves "faffy" food.

Faffy food eaters are idiots who look particularly idiotic when exercising. "Oh, I feel so fibrous," they say.

The wise guys shovel Pot Noodles down like pigs. "How can Pot Noodle be faffy food? It's too gorgeous," they say. In the style of a home video, the snack is transformed into a scrumptious yet healthy treat.

"I didn't know what to expect," Baynham said. "Then about three days after the first ads, some guys were driving down the street and leaned out and shouted, 'gorgeous'."

As Baynham, 32, launched a national tour of universities and colleges with his BBC television comedy colleagues Lee and Herring, the words "fibrous" and "gorgeous" besieged him.

In Llandudno, a fan threw a Pot Noodle on stage. "I like to think it was to me, not at me." At one college, he was told they had renamed the refectory the Fibrous Building. "By the time we got to Cardiff, there was uproar. I'd become some kind of anti-hero. A hero even. Apparently 'gorgeous' is a big catchphrase on the student campuses." Even the pop group Oasis ordered Pot Noodles to take on their American tour.

It brings a smile to the face of Jeremy Woods, marketing manager of Instant Hot Snacks. "A lot of people think it's a small niche brand which nobody eats, but Pot Noodle is the 25th largest food and drink brand in Britain. Currently worth pounds 85m a year," he said.

In between answering fans' letters, he tried to explain the phenomenon. "The people who eat them eat a lot of them. Those people in the know love the product. Those people who don't, eat faffy foods."

Steven Huntley, 14, from Blyncethin near Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan is a chicken-and-mushroom flavour fan and he loves the commercials. "It's when they say the word 'gorgeous'." His father, David, confirmed: " 'Gorgeous' is a saying round here now."

In Lampeter in Dyfed, six "Pot Noodle-obsessed" students - Claire, Nadia, Ann, Jane, Marie and Lou - have declared their home a shrine.

"Before your heart-wrenching adverts entered deep into our home, our lives were a stirred existence of plain and tasteless slops," they wrote. "But now we can truthfully say we have changed our diet through the awakenings of the Pot Noodle and FIBRE!"

The current run of commercials has just ended but a new saga of Terry and John returns in January.