Dom Joly: Beadle? Not my cup of tea, but I'm sorry he's no longer about

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The Independent Online

I met Jeremy Beadle once. When I say met – I didn't actually meet him, I was just in the same pub as he was. It was in The Flask in Highgate, back when Jeremy was king of the hill in 'Game For a Laugh'. He was on his way back to his table after getting a round in when a huge, tattooed thug of a man stood up and blocked his path.

"Are you Jeremy Beadle?" He shouted triumphantly.

Beadle nodded politely.

"Are you game for a laugh?" Beadle half-nodded as there was clearly no correct answer. The thug threw his pint all over Beadle and roared with laughter. I remember having mixed emotions – feeling sorry for him but also that he sort of deserved it.

Fast-forward about 15 years later and 'Trigger Happy TV' was coming out. I was terrified that I had sentenced myself to a life of this sort of public revenge. One of the programme's first reviews had already described me as "Beadle on acid".

Beadle had influenced me, but mainly in what not to do. I used to watch 'Beadle's About', but I hated myself for it. When I came to make 'Trigger Happy TV' I tried to do the complete opposite. No studio element, no cheesy music, no horrible reveal at the end where everyone tried to pretend it was fine and that we were all great sports.... And his theme tune? Surely the worst in the history of television? "Watch out, Beadle's about, watch out Beadle's about, watch out Beadle's about, well you'd better watch out 'cos Beadle's abooouuut...." Aarrrggghhh, the aural nightmare of that tune.

And yet he was a huge hit and fair play to him for that. Television is a very difficult thing to do right and he managed to stay at the top for a long time.

People always ask me about the various things I've filmed, how so-and-so reacted and whether I've ever been thumped. I used to wonder about the people in one of the most common Beadle hits. It would involve an employment agency that would send their young workforce off to Beadle's prepared traps – either a factory where everything exploded or a shop where someone came in and took something valuable away.

There were two things I was curious about. First, these jokes always involved the "boss" announcing to his new employee that he had to pop out for a second, leaving the target in charge. Now, if this happened to me, the moment my boss left I'd be on the phone to mates, rifling through the drawers, stealing some money.... I'm sure there were a lot of out-takes where this stuff happened as the "targets" were always too well behaved. The other thing that used to bother me was that Beadle's success was at the height of the Thatcherite Eighties, when unemployment was rife. How did these poor souls feel when, after years on the dole, they'd managed to secure a job only to be humiliated on television and then hurled back on to the employment scrapheap?

My favourite Beadle hit was probably his most ambitious. He'd built an entire "alien spaceship landing" scenario in somebody's back garden. When the poor woman returned home she found a huge crater with a smoking spaceship plonked there. There were the usual comedy men in "radioactive suits" wandering about and Rob Curling from 'Newsroom South East' reporting. The woman's reaction was fabulous, particularly when the "alien" slowly appeared out of the craft. Beadle asked her to say something to the creature.

"Would you like a cup of tea?" she stammered. So British – so perfect.

Jeremy Beadle clearly did a huge amount for charity, and was also a very bright man. He might not have been my cup of tea but, for 10 years or so, he ruled television.

RIP, Jeremy. And this had better not be a joke....