How We Met: John Lloyd & Griff Rhys Jones


Griff Rhys Jones, 55, is a writer, comedian and television presenter, who came to prominence through his performances in Not the Nine O'Clock News. His latest series, Greatest Cities of the World, aired earlier this year. He will be appearing in a new edition of Three Men in a Boat over Christmas. He lives in London with his wife

I met John at Cambridge in the late-1960s. He was a senior boy and I was an innocent undergraduate. I'd come up to university with no intention of acting – I thought of myself as an unsuccessful schoolboy actor – but I got involved in a play called AC/DC and when we performed it, one of the Footlights committee was in the audience. After that, my friend Douglas Adams, who was in Footlights with John, asked me if I wanted to come along to one of their meetings and I went to what I think was John's room. John was sitting in a corner in a stripy shirt and started doing this free-association comedy routine about voles and small mammals. I thought it was so funny that I snorted coffee through my nostrils and choked, managing to ruin what was probably some kind of paisley Indian throw over the bed.

There was a lot of po-facedness around at that time, and whole-hearted laughter was unfashionable, so our first meeting was one of embarrassment on my part, as I actually laughed at what he had said. John was like one of those senior boys you might share time with on the bus; the kind who make in-jokes which you think sound so incredibly sophisticated. And that has continued over the 35 years of our friendship: he always seems slightly like a senior prefect to me. If John Cleese is the Pope of comedy, John is the Cardinal. He is the king-maker because he is this unbelievable source of comic wisdom.

In my first year I ended up appearing in the main comedy review. That was unprecedented. Normally people would spend three years slogging away; there was huge competition to see who would appear in the review and then go on tour with it. I was honoured, but I pissed off a lot of people at the same time.

Nowadays, like any old friends, we see each other at funerals, people's third weddings and each others' parties. We occasionally meet professionally. He has invited me to be on QI, which John created and produces, but I haven't managed it yet.

John is a tremendous giver in comedy and finds the world's foibles funny. His most extraordinary quality is his judgment. He has an obsessive comedy touch. He writes funny material and edits it very well.

John Lloyd, 57, is a British comedy writer and TV producer, who has worked on shows including To the Manor Born, Not the Nine O'Clock News and Spitting Image, and produced all four series of Blackadder. He created and now produces the Stephen Fry-fronted quiz show QI. He lives in Oxford with his wife and children

I remember seeing Griff before I met him. He was the student of his generation in drama and I saw him in a production where he had this great wig of hair, like an enormous bush. I remember these piercing eyes. And this massive chin. People were talking about this extraordinary young actor who was good at straight stuff.

I then remember catching him in rehearsal and seeing how funny he was. I often say that he was the reason I became a producer; I realised that he was 20 times the performer I would ever be. My other friend was Douglas [Adams], who was a writer, so I thought I would do the job nobody wants: producing.

When Griff did do comedy, he took to it like a cliché to water. I remember weeping with laughter at the things he would do. He is a funny physical comedian – a bit like Tommy Cooper: when he walks on stage you start laughing and you don't know why.

I remember this very funny sketch he did at university where he would have a bunch of people trying to get into a restaurant. Two scruffy people would not be allowed in by a waiter for not wearing a tie, then a smartly dressed man is thrown out for not wearing a tie. Then from the wings comes Griff completely naked but wearing a long tie. Sometimes it took 20 minutes for him to get to the waiter. The audience was screaming with laughter, and he would have this tie gripped to his nether regions.

I wanted him to appear in Not the Nine O'Clock News for years. He was terribly anxious that this untried series would not work. But soon he would become unbelievably famous. Mel [Smith], Griff and I would be the naughty boys and goto the pub at lunchtime during filming, and by the second series I could have gone into the pub naked and not been noticed: they were the most famous people in there. I don't think Griff has yet fulfilled his potential. In his twilight years you will see him pull something out of the bag.

Griff's thing, famously, is rage – he is famously enraged at work, though amazingly I have never seen him angry. There must be something about the relationship between us. He and I make each other laugh. At the end of the day, laughter and love of friends are the only two things that matter. It has been a privilege to know him.

The collected back catalogue of 'Alas Smith and Jones' is out next year; a DVD set of previous 'Three Men in a Boat' specials is available now (£19.99). 'QI: Advanced Banter', co-authored by John Lloyd, is published by Faber at £14.99

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution