Sunday 9 July 2017

Carry On Blogging Interview: Georgy Jamieson

One of my very first followers on Twitter was the lovely Georgy Jamieson, also a huge Joan Sims fan as you will see. I asked Georgy if she fancied having a natter about her working life on radio, as a writer and also her work with the British Comedy Society. Thankfully she agreed and we spent a very entertaining hour and a half on the phone talking about the very best of British comedy and why it’s so important we celebrate and remember our comedy heroes.

Firstly, can you tell me a bit more about yourself and all the different things you do?

Well I’m a Mum first and foremost, I’ve got a lovely seven year old boy. I live in Suffolk and obviously I love everything to do with classic British comedy. I grew up watching old films on BBC2 on a Bank Holiday and they just don’t show them any more. They were part of my education. Films like Nurse On Wheels and Double Bunk. I watched them because my parents did, they were a comforting thing to watch.

By the time I was a teenager I had discovered radio comedy – programmes like Round The Horne and The Navy Lark, all the shows that BBC Radio 4 Extra put on now. These shows were always on in our house.

I also run my own business, “By George” – I do social media content for businesses and write copy for websites. I also write articles for other publications and online magazines and book reviews. I have my own blog too but I don’t write as much of that as I’d like to because I’m so busy with other things. I’ve been working for BBC Radio Suffolk for a while too, as a Broadcast Assistant, travel presenter and also now presenting shows myself. And more recently I’ve become more involved with the British Comedy Society, becoming one of their Directors.

You contribute regularly to radio. What do you love so much about radio and particularly radio comedy?

Radio is very personal, the audience can’t see the performers so they don’t judge them. I love to listen to the radio because I can get on with other things whereas I end up just staring at the television! There are no limitations on the radio, you can paint all sorts of pictures, a bit like reading a book. The audience is allowed to use their imagination. Also it allows actors and performers the chance to play roles they’d never get in vision due to their appearance, their physicality. It’s all down to the voice which is a huge skill. I think my all-time favourite radio comedy is Round The Horne. It’s still so funny now and given it was broadcast on a Sunday, they got away with so much!! It was subtly done though. 

I understand you used to write for The News Huddlines? What are your memories of that experience?

That was a wonderful experience! It was back in the final series of the show, probably around the year 2000. A good friend of mine, Alan Stafford, would submit gags to the show and he suggested I should try so I did and I had a call from the producer Carol Smith who said she liked my stuff and wanted to use some of it. It was a great thrill. It was the last two series really, before it stopped when Roy Hudd started working on Coronation Street.

Can you tell me a bit more about the British Comedy Society and your involvement with it?

It all started through Twitter. Morris Bright and Louis Barfe became good friends and another wonderful friend is the writer James Hogg. Through all this also got to know Robert Ross. I helped out with a book they were writing on Kenny Everett and was invited to attend the unveiling of a blue plaque to Kenny, following by the book launch in London. It was one of those events where so many doors opened up to me because I met so many wonderful people who all became friends. I met the BCS chairman Gareth Hughes that day too and then started to help out with the society, first of all with their social media output. 

The British Comedy Society is a not for profit organisation which raises money for charity, so far around £250 000 for good causes. The Society aims to preserve and foster the tradition of British comedy and I’m very proud to be a part of it. The BCS has also been involved in the Pinewood Studios Hall of Fame which features blue plaques for the likes of Peter Rogers, Gerald Thomas and some of the Carry On team.

I’ve recently been described by Radio 4 as a Comedy Historian and I love tracing the history of comedy. The Society hasn’t been as active of late as everyone has been very busy with other things but we are planning a major event for next year so stay tuned for that!

Why do you think the Carry On films are still so popular so many years after they were made?

Timelessness. Some of the films are more popular than others, for example I think the historical films don’t date. Cleo looks amazing, as does Khyber, Cowboy and Screaming. All the pastiches of other genres work very well. I also love Abroad which is probably very dated to a younger audience. For me I think Cabby has the strongest storyline in the series – Esma Cannon is just brilliant in Cabby and also in Cruising, that wonderful drunk scene with Dilys Laye! At the time it would be very rare to see women getting drunk and being funny. So the timeless quality and the real innocence of them I think.

Who do you think is the ultimate unsung hero from the Carry Ons?

I will always have a very dear place in my heart for Joan Sims. Of the women, Barbara Windsor is always mentioned but she only made nine of the films while Hattie made 14 and Joan 24! Barbara played the same kind of role each time but Joan displayed a depth of acting talent and an incredible range – from femme fatale in Cowboy and Camel to Frankie’s downtrodden, dowdy assistant in Carry On Doctor. Such a great character actress. Joan was such a gentle person and I never liked when she played the battleaxe, like in Carry On Screaming. She had private battles like all of us and some of the comedy against her must have hurt. I preferred when she was looking glamorous like Belle in Cowboy. Joan was the First Lady of Carry On.

Of the men, probably Kenneth Connor. Another incredibly versatile character actor. He went from bombastic Colonel to bumbling little man. He was the star of the early black and white films really. I guess Kenneth Williams, Sid and Barbara were the most popular at the time because they grabbed all the headlines.

Peter Butterworth was another one who played all sorts of different roles in the films and his back story was fascinating, as a prisoner of war alongside Talbot Rothwell. And big Bernie Bresslaw too, he had a range as well, from Sid’s daft sidekick to smart PR man in Girls to terrifying villain in Khyber. All wonderful.

Of the main actresses involved in the Carry On series, who would your favourite be and why?

As I’ve already mentioned, Joan Sims, definitely. Extraordinary, wonderful actress. She just owns films like Cowboy. The photo of her all dressed up in her black gown with her hair up, totally gorgeous and how I like to think of Joan.

What’s been your ultimate highlight of being involved with the British Comedy Society?

I think the highlight so far has been the Kenny Everett event. The plaque unveiling, the book launch at the London hotel with champagne and lunch afterwards and the opportunity to meet people like the brilliant Barry Cryer. A wonderful experience. 

If you could invite four living or dead comedy stars to dinner who would they be and why?

That’s a really tough question! I’d have to invite people I knew would get on and be happy together. So two ladies and two men. Has to be Joan Sims and Hattie Jacques as they were the best of friends. And Hattie was a great cook so she can make the dinner!

The men – must have Eric Morecambe there, I’ve always been obsessed with Morecambe and Wise. And also Bob Monkhouse – such a talented man. I never met Bob but I miss him and wish he was still around. He would have owned so many of those panel shows on television today! He was always very encouraging towards new talent and very giving with his time.

Why do you think it is so important we continue to highlight the legacy of comedy in this country?

It’s part of our heritage and our make up as a nation. You see it all the time on Twitter when something awful has happened, we always find humour in even the darkest of situations. It’s very British. I think there’s a great deal of social history involved too. You look at Kenneth Williams’ diaries for instance. They cover forty years of personal stuff but also his unique take on major national and international events. I find it so fascinating. The Carry On films teach us a lot about what life was like at the time. When you look at the films from Sergeant all the way through to Emmannuelle, you clearly see the huge changes in British society over that twenty year period.

One question I must ask – what’s your favourite Carry On film and why?

It has to be Khyber I think. I think it’s the most rounded of all the Carry Ons and all the actors are at the top of their game. Although I think the best storyline is Cabby. If Cabby had been made in colour I think it would be shown much more often.

The sets, costumes and story in Khyber is second to none though. The dinner party sequence is iconic and Joan’s wonderful adlib about getting plastered steals the scene. You can see from Julian Holloway’s reaction that it wasn’t planned! She did another wonderful adlib in Don’t Lose Your Head, My brother the count…all in the intonation! You can see them start to break up on screen! Wonderful stuff.

Sid is also fantastic in Khyber and Peter Butterworth plays that dinner party scene so well as the only one who realises something bad is happening! I can’t eat a strawberry mousse without thinking of him in that scene!

Finally, what’s next for you?

More presenting hopefully later this month, for Radio Suffolk. I’m currently working on a book about Dick Emery with his son Nick. That’s in the planning process and will take some time to happen. Dick was so popular for so long, he was write up there with The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise at the BBC and would pull in millions of viewers but some of his material has gone out of fashion which is a shame. There is also hopefully going to be a special project with BBC Radio Suffolk but I can’t say more than that at the moment! And also the big event with the British Comedy Society for next year, so plenty to look forward to!

I had the best time chatting with Georgy! I could have spoken with her all day long. She was an absolute joy and I wish her all the best with her future projects.

You can follow Georgy on Twitter here and visit her website here 

And you can find out more about the British Comedy Society here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

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