Duet for drolls

Puppet satire 20 years before Spitting Image

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 26 August 1962

MR. KRUSHCHEV’S face was split in an amiable grin — and he reached across to shake hands enthusiastically, president Kennedy accepted the handshake cordially — and slapped Mr. Krushchev on the back for good measure.

“You see,” said Chris Bryant, blandly picking up Mr. Nehru, and gingerly stepping over President de Gaulle, “we’ve been in England for only four months, and already we’re making history.”

It was the sort of crazy situation I might have expected to find, dropping in unexpectedly on satirists Chris Bryant and Allan Scott, who provide another droll commentary on life in Granada’s People and Places on Wednesday.

Bryant and Scott with puppets
Bryant and Scott – and their puppet friends Nehru, Kennedy, Krushchev [sic] and de Gaulle

Allan and Chris were rehearsing. And the international gentlemen were hand-puppets they had brought with them from Canada.

“We’ve been in Canada for years,” said Chris.

“But we aren’t Canadians,” said Allan.

“He was born in Scotland — near Gordonstoun.” said Chris.

“And he was born in Bolton,” said Allan.

“Why Canada?” I asked.

“It was the strong Empire-building streaks in our nature,” said Allan.

“We were young men so we decided to go West,” said Chris.

“To seek our fortune,” said Allan.

They are still young men. Allan is 23, Chris is 26. Allan is the one who plays the guitar.

“He carries it to impress people,” said Chris.

“It helps to cover up my inferiority complex,” said Allan.

Chris is probably the only comedian in the business with three university degrees.

“He graduated from Cambridge and studied law at McGill University in Canada,” said Allan. “He graduated from McGill and studied law with the Canadian Government in Ottawa. He graduated from there and became a comedian.”

“That’s life,” said Chris.

Chris is still retained by a leading legal firm in Canada — and he does regular long-range research work for them over here.

Allan manages to keep two careers running simultaneously, too, punctuating his comedy work with what he describes as his “serious writing” — criticism and review.

The cross-talk act I had interrupted started at McGill University some years ago.

“We didn’t know each other at the time,” said Allan

“I’d heard about him and was trying to avoid a meeting,” said Chris.

The featured act of a show was the West Point Glee Club — “One hundred and forty odd American Army cadets,” said Chris. “They were on a goodwill tour of Canada.”

“As they filed into the theatre I sat in a dark corner chanting ‘Yankee, go home’,” said Allan. “Suddenly I heard a still small voice coming from the other side of the theatre chanting ‘Yankee, go home, go home’.”

“The still small voice was Chris Bryant,” said Chris Bryant. “And a mutual taste was established ”

After leaving university, Chris and Allan toured America appearing in elegant nightclubs, but returned to Montreal to do their own television show.

“It was a sort of souped-up, personalised, late-night version of People and Places,” said Allan, “with interviews, jazz, sketches, film clips and free-wheeling discussions.”

“There was that well-known Canadian gangster who was going to tell us all about his — and others’ — criminal activities,” said Allan.

“On the night of the show he turned up sporting a black eye,” said Chris.

“He had not only forgotten what he was going to talk about, but he assured us, when reminded, that he didn’t know anything about it to begin with,” said Allan.

“However, the show was eventually saved.”

“He recited some of his own poetry for us,” said Chris. “Stuff he had written on an ‘extended vacation’.”

Which, for some inexplicable reason, took the boys back to where they were when I interrupted.

“I understand you’re writing a biography,” said Allan.

“An autobiography,” said Chris.

“Your life story?” said Allan.

“No — it’s about a car,” said Chris …

So I took the hint, and left.

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