The Goodies ride back to the Edinburgh Fringe

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The Independent Online

They are all in their sixties and their final show as a comedy triumvirate aired on British television a quarter of a century ago.

But this week, The Goodies begin their first UK tour since they disbanded in 1981 with a residency at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

To be more accurate, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden will appear in person - more than four decades after their fringe debut as Cambridge Footlight students - while Bill Oddie will beam in on video; the television ornithologist has a previous commitment filming migrating birds in Canada.

Brooke-Taylor, 66, said they were "thrilled" to be returning. With the exception of a few episodes of the BBC Radio 4 quiz show, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, with fellow quizzer Garden, Brooke-Taylor has not been back to Edinburgh since 1962.

Then he appeared with future Pythons John Cleese and Graham Chapman under the direction of Trevor Nunn, performing Henrik Ibsen's Brand as well as a Footlights review.

"It was brilliant, one of the happiest things I've done," he said. "I've always wanted to go back, but to do something rather than just visiting. I think it will be fairly overwhelming."

The Goodies, who worked together for 11 years from 1970, reformed for the first time last year at the request of the Big Laugh Comedy Festival in Sydney.

In Britain their shows have scarcely been aired since the Seventies, but they are enormously popular in Australia. Two tours, the first with Oddie and a second without, proved so successful that the idea for Edinburgh was hatched.

The show is a mixture of reminiscences, clips from the shows, new sketches and their chart hit song, "The Funky Gibbon". Then there are the recordings of Oddie, 65, "who we can switch off at any moment". Among the sketches is one about the Goodies' invention of Ecky-Thump, a Lancastrian martial art, at which a man in Scotland died laughing when it was originally broadcast. "We'll have medics on hand," Brooke-Taylor said.

He admitted he was "pleasantly surprised" when he saw the shows again. "There are bits that frankly make you curl up and die, but lots more bits where I found myself laughing," he said.

Both Brooke-Taylor and Garden, 63, admit they are not sure who their audiences will be in Edinburgh, but if it goes well there is a chance of a national tour. Garden seems slightly nervous. "In Australia there was this great fan base. In this country, nobody has seen the show for 25 years," he said. For anyone under 40, features included a rip-off of King Kong with a kitten on the Post Office Tower, and the Goodies' bicycle for three. The show routinely attracted audiences of up to 14 million.

Garden said: "What was fun about it was the BBC took a kind of risk with shows like ours and Monty Python. They gave us virtually carte blanche and a lot of budget."

The show earned itself a place as part of comedy history and younger comedians, such as the Mighty Boosh and the League of Gentlemen had acknowledged a debt, Garden added.

"And it crops up all the time as answers to questions in quiz programmes," he said.

The Goodies Still Rule OK! is at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, from 4 to 27 August