How we met: Marcus Brigstocke & Bill Dare
'We hit it off at the party because we're both quite tall; it helps to have someone of the same height at noisy parties'
Bill Dare, 53
A comedy producer, writer, novelist and playwright, Dare (right in picture) has been behind some of the biggest comedy hits on TV, including 'The Mary Whitehouse Experience' and 'Dead Ringers'. He lives in north London.
I went to see Marcus perform on [Radio 4 satirical programme] The Now Show, in 2002, which I'd created but didn't produce much after that. And I was blown away by his performance, talking about the MMR vaccine and its alleged link to autism. I was struck by the passion, along with how well-informed he was – it made it proper satire.
I bumped into him at the BBC's light-entertainment Christmas party later that year and we hit it off because we're both quite tall, and at noisy parties, it really helps to talk to someone of the same height.
I've worked with a lot of comedians who are a bit feckless, with a shambolic attitude to work. But he gave the impression he'd work hard, so I invited him for lunch the next day to talk through some ideas, including a satire show.
Marcus is good with interviewees, as he's a good listener and doesn't barrack people; he talks about the issues. I remember he interviewed a Tory who was pro-Trident and Marcus had said to me, "Can we make a trident spear?" He then held it up to the interviewee and said, "Look, if I threaten you with this, are you more likely to do what I say, or pull out a gun?" It was a bit like The Daily Show in the US, but he's a bit angrier than Jon Stewart, and passionate about the issues.
Before I met Marcus I was a bit disillusioned with comedians, but he's restored my faith in stand-ups. We've done more than 100 shows together [including comedy chat show I've Never Seen Star Wars], but our approaches are different. Marcus sits and chats for several hours before getting down to work. I think he calls it research around the subject. I call it faffing about.
He's got a lot of interests – he likes to be busy and complicated, and he's very sporty; he loves snowboarding, for instance. I, meanwhile, live a simple life: after a show, I go to the pub. He's not a pub person as he's a recovering alcoholic, but we do lunch, as he's a foodie and drawn to the weirder end of things: he once made me have jugged hare cooked in its own blood.
We do talk about personal stuff, if it comes up; he's open about his eating disorder – his weight has been a bit of a battle – and his marriage [Brigstocke split with his wife this year, after his affair with former Emmerdale actress Hayley Tamaddon]. I think Marcus has the attitude that family is important and [his marriage] should have worked; that it didn't, hit him hard and he feels all sorts of guilt.
Do I tell him personal stuff? He doesn't know much about me; I'm not as open.
Marcus Brigstocke, 40
Brigstocke began performing comedy while at Bristol University, and won the BBC New Comedian of 1996. He has since undertaken numerous stand-up tours, and has forged a successful career on radio and TV with series including 'We are History', 'The Late Edition' and 'I've Never Seen Star Wars'.
Bill has a funny way with comedians. He makes a fair few performers feel uneasy. It's because he doesn't treat them like they're someone special. And if he doesn't like something he'll just say, "No, I don't think so."
We met at a Christmas party at the BBC, and I managed to have a long chat with Bill without realising who he was initially; once I did, I realised I had to flirt heavily. People think he's a bit brusque and glum and some think he's a bit aloof. But I haven't found that. And if you look at his track record, his hit ratio is astonishing. We agreed to meet for lunch and we talked about making what became [BBC Four satire show] The Late Edition.
It was a difficult time for me at the start, as my best friend died while I was working on the programme. I still had to come in to work to get the show done, but for me it was a good example of Bill's calm. I didn't go to him for hugs, but he made it clear, quietly, that he was there for me and he picked up the extra slack without any fuss. I felt that was pretty cool.
It did get a bit toxic at one point, as one might expect in a high-pressure environment. It's a tricky thing to approach comedy with a sense of discipline, as it doesn't come naturally to write that sort of material. I'd come in, have a chat, talk to my mates and suddenly we were running out of time. Bill tolerated more than he should have. If I was producing me, I would punch me on the side of the head and say, "Shut up and get going."
I would talk to Bill about anything. I am a bit like that; I'll talk openly with anyone I consider a friend. But I don't know loads about Bill. I know he likes to go to the Groucho Club after a show, but emotionally he doesn't offer up the sorts of things I do. But you do have to know Bill well to realise when he's flapping. It's not obvious, but it's clear: he mentions it more than once.
I remember one panicky moment he had, when I was having lunch with him and Frank Skinner to discuss Frank appearing in I've Never Seen Star Wars. I'd ordered jugged hare and after we'd had it he realised that it had port added to it. Between Frank and I, we had 60 years of sobriety as recovering alcoholics. There was this glorious moment when Bill was asking the waiter several times to check with the kitchen to ensure all the alcohol had burnt off. Luckily, all the port had gone.
'Brian Gulliver's Travels', by Bill Dare (£7.99, Pilrig Press) is out now. Marcus Brigstocke is appearing at the Latitude Festival today (latitudefestival.com)
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