I get the best of both worlds, really, because I direct ads, which is the fun bit there, and I produce telly, with brilliant guys like Ian Lorimer on , to do the hard work of multiple-camera directing. The producer makes the map of the journey, but he doesn't build the boat or trim the sails.
I can't compose songs, make costumes, act, or focus-pull even the simplest moving shot.
Most people know what writers and directors do, but what about producers?
In TV and radio comedy the producer is the best job: you generate the ideas, work on the script, cast the actors – everything down to doing the coconut shell sound-effects. A director can blame a terrible script, but a producer has no excuse.
My main quality is that I'm extremely stubborn and don't like to admit that a good basic idea is wrong.
Most shows I've done – Do you feel you get enough credit?
When I got to London, because stand-up wasn't an option, we used to put on revues at places like the Bush Theatre, with seven of us in the cast and 14 in the audience, and lose all our money. I was trying to make a living as a writer, and starving, when David Hatch – who went on to great eminence as Managing Director of BBC Radio and Special Assistant to the Director General – called me into his office and asked me if I wanted to be a producer.There I was, at just 23, having never wanted to produce or direct anything before, and I found myself completely riveted by it – it was really exciting and difficult and satisfying. ” But you can imagine how cross the rest of the department was, because: a) it wasn't 'my' Just a Minute at all; and b) you never got reviews in radio, then as now.Then I went on to the main producer-training programme at the time, , a 15-minute topical show that went out late at night just before the news.The first thing that comes to me, even before the concept, is the flavour. ” All great programmes are about tapping into some universal human need or emotion. And then, if it turns out to be a poisonous fish, you need to make the best of it.I start by thinking, “What's not on telly that I'd like to see? , I wanted to see a show which: a) was 20 years 'younger' than The Two Ronnies (where people were still wearing cravats); and b) had a sense of going to your favourite rock concert, with girls and music and a terrific sense of excitement and joy. It's the difficulties that produce the wonderful, golden stuff.The only shows I count as 'mine' are the ones I was in at the beginning of.I like starting with a blank sheet and trying to create something where nothing was before. The trick is to be open, to see them floating by and seize them.But crews will do anything for a producer/director who's polite and who knows what they want.So you're the steersman, giving it a light touch here and there to keep it on course.There was a rotating cast, including Bill Wallace, David Jason – none of us could understand why he wasn't amazingly famous – and Nigel Rees, with whom I went on to start in '76.The cast were incredibly good at their jobs and used to putting up with producers who were wet behind the ears, and with a rag-bag of new writers doing one-liners.