New Interview: Kevin Eldon

8/12/18: Kevin Eldon is on Pointless Celebrities on BBC One. Here's some background. 

I recently interviewed the legendary Kevin Eldon for the Guardian to tie in with his eagerly anticipated debut BBC2 series It's Kevin. You can read the original feature here. It was greeted with enormous delight – the Arts Editor called the comments column a "tidal wave of love" while one commenter – is that a word? – said that it was the most positive comments section they had ever seen in the Guardian. Not difficult I know, but still nice for Kevin.

Eldon was very chatty and there were things he said which didn't make it into the Guardian feature so I thought it might be worth posting the entire interview transcript here. Sadly we ran out of time just as I was about to ask him if he really likes weak lemon drink in real life...

KE: Sorry I'm late. I was at a meeting somewhere else. I  went through Mayfair and it has got people in monocles and top hats. If I had 20 million pounds I still wouldn't buy a house there. They didn't seem very friendly.

BD: So, after 20 years here's your own show. What kept you?

KE: Let's not sling blame about. It hasn't taken 20 years. You've got to want to have one first and it hadn't even entered my mind until maybe two years ago. It all kicked off when I did the Edinburgh show in 2010 which was a personal challenge. I dared myself to do it because I'd never done it before. It was always easy turning up at other people's parties doing a little dance then relaxing and going home so I set myself the target of doing my own show.

If something is daunting and scary it is probably worth it, but about six weeks in I was really scared, but I got stuck in and was so relieved when it went OK. As a result of that a couple of bods from the BBC whispered into my agent's ear the possibility of having my own series. I was offered a pilot and did it, I more or less did what I wanted then thought there was no chance and to my astonishment they said yes. I'd tried a pilot before as (poet) Paul Hamiliton. Anyway, I forged on and last June they asked for a series but wanted it to be delivered by January. I actually nearly turned it down becase in that time I had to co-write another 2 and half hours of material, prepare it and record it, but then I thought 'oh shut up and do it' so I just cracked on. Having such a short time has advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes it doesn't quite work out but, it was a kick up the arse.

BD: The challenge isn't getting the army of Eldon watchers to watch, it's getting the people who have never seen you to tune in. Cameos from Julia Davis, Bill Bailey and other familiar faces should help.

KE: There is absolutely no strategy and hats off to the BBC. They minimally interfered. The exec producer was Mark Freeland who offered some apposite salient points but basically if we thought it was funny we put it in. We had a good producer, Richard Webb. What I found is that there are two kinds of producers and the ones that I find are no use to me are the ones who find everything absolutely hilarious. That's worse than useless. The ones that are really hard to please are the most useful and that was the case with Richard Webb. Your paragon is John Lloyd who was completely hands on. He used to write too, it makes it a team effort, I'll always praise him to the rafters. About a year out of drama school I sent him an unsolicited script and he phoned me up out of the blue to discuss it with me. I met him about 20 years later and reminded him and he said 'that's what producers do, they try to coax writers starting out.' Everything was 'written' and my influences were so massively obviously on my sleeves, it was  a Young Ones carbon copy with a bit of Python..

BD: Was it always planned to go out on BBC2?

KE: That's where I wanted it to go. Maybe a whorish side of me would have taken any commission but this is the spiritual home of good comedy – Milligan...Python started there. I guess today it is an almost unrecognisable beast but it is stll BBC2. In my dream I'd have done it in TV Centre but it was on an idustrial estate in Hendon. I was still really chuffed.

BD: I guess at 53 you are officially too old for BBC3? (Fact - Wikipedia at the time of writing is wrong by a year, he was born in 1959)

KE: I don't even know if I'm young enough to play a character's father on BBC3. 53 year old men don't get their first series on TV very often. I do recognize it is a slightly odd set of circumstances. Is it a record? Age does care to creep up on you.

BD: How well do you think you are known?

KE: I've absolutely no idea what kind of viewers there will be, so I honestly don't know. I haven't the faintest idea. At the moment I have a level of recognition which is pleasant and acceptabe. I have a couple of mates who are really famous and I don't envy them getting stopped every 200 yards to have their photo taken. I just hope people like it, I've done me best, it's not perfect but it's not bad.

BD: How many yards can you walk without being recognised?

KE: The length of Britain. I hardly get recognised. Unless I go to a band gig or Glastonbury I hardly get recognised. Mostly my experience is someone looking at me a bit funny and thinking I'm that bloke's cousin at the wedding. It's not a daily thing.

I wont say names but it can be so rude, like being woken up on a train to be photographed or getting your girlfriend elbowed out of the picture literally. There is an element where with certain kind of fame people think they own you. Very odd. Bill (Bailey) gets a lot of attention and is unfailingly curteous.

BD: I think it's more accessible than Stewart Lee's BBC2 series

KE: It's not a sketch show more a variety show. There is as much studio business and character stuff as well as sketches. It's got the sparkly staircase which puts it in showbizland. But it might slip under the radar. My girlfriend goes on Tweet (sic) and laughs out loud at some of the things that people say. It seems very nice. It's not Mrs Browns Boys - and for that we should be grateful – I'd be very happy to get Stewart Lee's figures and criticial reaction.

BD: And it's got puppets too

KE: It's funny, you write something and forget that they will be there in 3D when filming starts. I don't get to keep them. I showed them to my one-year-old daughter and she is more besotted with the puppets than she is with me. It's rather like being a God staring down at his puny creations.

Interview continues here.


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