WHEN you do an interview and ask a question and are then met with a few seconds of silence you know something good is about to be said in reply.
This happened when I spoke to Sir Tony Robinson.
The final question was: What does comedy mean to you? The silence down the phone was only for a few seconds but it seemed like minutes and then the answer: “It is so deeply ingrained into who I am I can’t imagine life without it.”
Not the most profound question he will ever be asked, but perhaps the one which elicited the most thoughtful response.
For many generations, Tony will be known for three roles, firstly Baldrick from Blackadder; secondly as the presenter of Time Team on Channel 4 and creating and starring in the children’s comedy series Maid Marian and her Merry Men.
While entertaining us throughout this career, Tony has learnt a lot about himself thanks to his acting life.
He said: “In a way I have learnt everything and it some ways I have learnt nothing. It amazes me when I am doing television I am still making the same mistakes I made when I was 17 years old. On the other hand I have learnt from all the travel and experiences I have had by travelling around the world.
“What acting has done for me is give me a university education.
I was working with people especially on Blackadder who were all incredibly brilliant.
They had all been to Oxford or Cambridge. While on the other hand I had left school when I was 16 years old with four ‘O’ Levels.
“Richard Curtis was brilliant as he taught me how to write a book. I had been commissioned to write three books about Greek Myths. And these ended up being co-written by me and Richard.
“For me it was a real education.
So by the time I was asked to do a fourth book, I felt I could do it on my own. When I told me I wanted to do it myself, he said that was the news he had been waiting to hear.. I was great to be flying solo on that but at the same time a bit scary.”
For all his roles, perhaps Baldrick in Blackadder is the one which Tony is most fondly remember for as the programme has become a comedy classic.
Tony said: “It had an immense effect on me, it transformed my life. It was very good and I do not say that because I appeared in it.
What was produced was done by some of the funniest minds of a generation. It had and still has a big impact.”
Episodes of Blackadder Goes Forth are used to teach students about The First World War.
The final scene was poignant and moving as we witness the main characters (Blackadder, Baldrick, George, and Darling) finally going “over the top” and charging off into the fog and smoke of no man’s land to die.
Tony added: “I feel incredibly humbled it is used in schools.
When we filmed the final scene I thought it was dreadful as we had to go to a separate studio.
“The set was totally unbelievable and you could see the polystyrene and when we charged over the top you could see us bouncing.
“It was only when I saw it in post production when the director and producer had crafted a silk purse out of a sows ear that I could see how moving it was.”
One of the life changing moments which has happened to Tony was when he wrote his autobiography.
He said: “When I wrote my autobiography (No Cunning Plan) it helped me understand much more the younger Tony Robinson.
“Up until I was 30 years old I had always thought my life had been a gauche mistake and one full of selfish acts.
“I thought I had done a lot of stupid things. But writing it made me learn more about myself and made me understand my mistakes and learn from those feelings.
“It was a real privilege to write the book.”
- Sir Tony Robinson will be at the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton on May 13.
The one man show starts at 7.30pm.
Tickets cost £16 for an adult, £12 for a student/ child.
For further details and to buy tickets go online to thebrewhouse.net or call the box office on 01823 283 244.