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Podcast Transcript – Dame Arlene Phillips

Podcast transcript

I think the funniest of people have grown up in funny households where laughter is present every day, where quick wit and smartness is used as a part of life, so they grow up with humour inside them that’s ready to come out.

Welcome to the Humourology podcast with me, Paul Boross by glittering lineup of guests from the worlds of business, sport, and entertainment who are here to share their wisdom and their use of humour with you. Humourology is the study of how humour can dramatically improve your business success and your life. Humourology puts the fun into business fundamentals, increases the value of your laughing stock, and puts a punchline back into your bottom line. Please remember to like, subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts.

My guest on this edition of the Humourology Podcast is a multi award-winning icon in the world of dance and philanthropy. As the founder of the Seminal Dance Group Hot Gossip, she has built a career as a high quality choreographer having done work in the West End, Broadway and Hollywood. In addition to her creative career as a choreographer, she has also had a cracking career creating television magic as a judge and presenter on programmes like So You Think You Can Dance and of course strictly come dancing. She was appointed in the OB 2001 a CBE in 2013 and A Dame in 2021 for her work in the world of dance and charity. In addition to being a legend of choreography, she has created several charitable events to raise money for survivors of Tragedy Day. Arlene Phillips, welcome to the Humourology Podcast.

Thank you and was a lovely introduction. That was fun.

Oh, you see we’re having fun already, Arlene. No, it was all true and quite a remarkable career. I’ve been following your career from afar for quite a while and I’ll explain how later, but firstly, I wanted to take you back to Prestwick near Manchester where you were born growing up. Was humour valued in your family?

I never thought of humour at all in my family, but I do remember my father laughing. Anything he saw of Charlie Chaplin, he would be on the floor laughing and so that sticks with me. That physical humour was there even though I didn’t notice it as what it was. One could laugh at fully and literally it didn’t matter if you wanted to go and pee. The laughter was so great.

That’s funny you mentioned physical humour because so much of what you’ve done in the world has been about physicalizing actually movement and enhancing things through physical humour. What your father was a barbo he, and so I’m always imagining that barbers have to have a bit of pat and have to have a little bit of humour.

One would think, but my father was actually quite a serious man. He’d have a tough life growing up. I mean really tough. Thrown out of home at 12 years old by the archetypal, almost wicked stepmother who had her own son and my father mother died when he was very young two years old, and the stepmother came in and then she had her own child and that was time for my father to go. So he carried the weight of the world and so it was incredible that it took Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin to make him laugh. There wasn’t a lot of humour in the air or humour which is what I love, what I call accidental humour. People are funny and they had no intention of actually being funny. So there wasn’t a lot of that around. So to me laughter was something you had to see to experience.

Oh, isn’t that interesting that you had to, the physical humour was the humour that actually resonated with you, which makes sense, doesn’t it? In given what you’ve done all your life.

Yes, it certainly does. And I wouldn’t say that I was someone that was specifically brilliant physical humour. Often even when I’m creating humour, the comedy happens accidentally but there are the most incredible directors whose work in actually timing a look is extraordinary. And working with Eric Idol a great deal and the pythons, their humour would be not accidental, but it was about who looks at who, what makes something funny. It’s about timing, comedy, timing, Ben, Elton, comedy, timing, the people I’ve worked with and experience and taken great knowledge of how to make something funny. When is a joke no longer funny? It’s what Eric caused. He never put a hat on a hat. Find that moment, get away from it. That’s the moment. Don’t try and build a comedy. There’s all about timing.

It’s so interesting that you talk about timing because you choreographed, I think for me, one of the greatest moments of comedy on film ever with Monty Python, as you mentioned, “The Meaning of Life”. “Every sperm is sacred”, is absolutely perfect in every way from the physical comedy they get into it. Could you just talk a little bit about how you created something, what that has lasted forever?

Well, what is truly interesting is that working with Terry Jones, who is and certain was the most extraordinary comedian, but also an artist. So working with Terry, he would draw frame by frame. What he wanted to see on the film underneath would be the bars of music and the lyrics. And I had to turn those little pictures has into choreography and that’s the way we work together. I would look at these drawings and I would connect them to the music, to the lyrics and we would shoot it together. So we built that musical number frame by frame from his wonderful little drawings

That, I mean that’s extraordinary because every moment of those visual gags hit it. You talk about timing, there is not one bit of timing that is out there. And so for somebody who choreographs, that must be such a delight to work with somebody visual like Terry Jones who could actually interpret that and make the timing hit every time.

It was incredible. But I knew that on every frame or lyric what Terry wanted to happen. So I would create, he would just like for instance in the prams, the nannies and PRMs I would create the choreography. He would just say, I want nannies and prams and I would create it.

Really, that is one of my favourite things. Seriously, I think it is the greatest comedy song on film ever and I’ve spent my life around comedy and it, it’s perfect and I would advise all our listeners to rush out and look it up again because it just gets better with time and there is no beat out of place either comedically or choreographically. It’s just perfection on screen. So let’s go back to when you were growing up because I know that both your parents loved ballet and you talked about your father who was a barber loving chaplain. Obviously there is something inherent in there about the physicality and loving, even coming from a poor background getting taken to the ballet. Is that what fired you up first of all?

Absolutely. Seeing ballet was something that I can’t even express what it did to me. The way you could combine music and movement, I knew from a very young age this is what I wanted to do. I spent hours in the library as soon as I was old enough to go myself every ballet book off the shelf and just lived in a world where I was going to dance. That was my go to place, to be in a ballet studio, to listen to the music, to feel the music, to exercise my body. It was really, I look back and think this was a gift of escaping. I didn’t enjoy school. I wasn’t particularly bright at school and as ever, it feels that the brightest children are the ones who come in for praise. And when you are back at the class, no one ever thinks anything of you. But I had my world where I was dancing and so nothing else mattered.

It’s funny cuz I can see you for those people listening at home and not watching. I can see you Arlene, transform even as you speak about it and you remember the kinesthetics of what actually happened to you and your face transforms into joy that you remember the joy that gave you. Do you think that actually finding that at an early age transformed your life?

Without question, finding dance and knowing I had that in my life as a big part of my life, has really from a young age always, always held me together knowing what I wanted to do, falling in love with dance and being together with movement and music. I’m still the same and I am still not just in my work, but everything I go to see still has everything to do with dance and it’s given me a life that I never expected to have ever.

Well it it’s funny because it has given you this extraordinary life and you started from like I said, impressed wick, which was not very salubrious circumstances and now you are mixing with the highest echelons in the world. Do you think that having a sense of humour, having a sense of lightness, having a sense of joy that you talked about with the dance has helped you bond in all sections of society?

I think all sections of society and bonding doesn’t quite go together with me somehow I think when you have grown up with problems with poverty, with difficulties losing my mom, I think you never feel quite good enough. So there’s a certain section of society that I feel I don’t belong in. I still can’t come to terms with being a, it seems just so unlikely, but I am at ease. If I am working, I’m always there to tell ’em what to do to make them feel good, but make sure that I get my way choreographing music videos or films or whatever it may be. I find a way to encourage the stars I work with that no, don’t necessarily always want to do what I ask them to do to find a way through lightness and air and fun and oh, I’ll get up and do it, I’ll show you what it can be. You just find a path and I think I would say I found a path.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that through dance, when you are in your own safe space, if you want to call it yes, then there is full confidence because the joy just seeps out of you and everything. And in other situations you talk about, and I may be over egg it, but from a psychological perspective, slight imposter syndrome,

<laugh>, Yeah, yeah, imposter syndrome. I think a lot of people I know feel like that, who unexpectedly have found that they have become a celebrity. And generally when you step into that world, you find yourself being asked to talk about all sorts of things you mostly know nothing about just because of who you are. So yes, you do feel like an imposter. How can I talk on this subject? How can I get involved in this? Do I really know enough about it? But because of who you are, you get asked to do a lot of things. And in a sense the good side of it is charity because by just being who you have become, you can help, you can fundraise, you can support, you can give people hope. And that is really one of the blessings of becoming that so-called world a celebrity. I mean, celebrity dies just as quickly as it comes. We all have to know that we all grow outta it. Or there’s time when your importance is no longer relevant, but that’s something you just accept because people have to keep on having their chance to step in and then gracefully step out.

I think the important word to use there is gracefully cuz – and there’s a word that a choreographer and a dancer would use. I think you are incredibly graceful, not just in your movement and the way you teach, but in your attitude. And I think attitude is one of those things. I mean everybody, when I said I’m going to interview Arlene Phillips said, ask her how she stays so young. And I said, My guess is that she has a great attitude and you’ve just shown this attitude. What are you doing internally to keep this attitude of joy and youngness?

I think a little like Cher, my age is not the chronological numbers. My age is what’s going on inside. And that’s the only way I can describe it. If I feel energetically bright internally, it’s just going to pop out without whether I like it or not. And yes, the ageing process without question is happening. Am I as fast? Am I as quick? But inside I’m still there. I’m still whatever age I wake up feeling,

I love it because actually your face lights up when you start talking about that. And the Americans have a saying, which I’ve always liked, which is your attitude is your altitude, ie, that’s how high you can go and with the right attitude. But I’ve talked to our producer today, David, who you know very well, and David said he was astonished that he was at a party with you a few months ago and you were still dancing away at two o’clock in the morning with all the vim and vigour that is there. But that’s about attitude. And the Humourology project is all about having fun, about having joy and how that can impact on people’s lives. And I think you are a great example and that’s why I want to hear more about your attitude, your joie de vivre, you know and how that helps you.

I think that movement to music, which is one of life’s greatest forces, should be encouraged from nursery school age, right through schools, right through. So people can use movement and music together. Any music. Music they love to listen to physically just dance. It may not be dance as we know, it may not have the perfect steps, it doesn’t matter. It’s what it does for you inside the most beautiful lesson anyone can learn.

And I suppose what it does, it grounds you, it gets you in touch with your own body, doesn’t it? Because so many people aren’t and that’s where the joy comes from, isn’t it?

Yes. And it’s not just about being in touch with your own body, but how quickly you access and left, how quickly you understand rhythm and timing and counting and moving in all directions. It really, it’s is really good for the brain. It really keeps your brain active and being able to access instantly. Physical movement can teach you so much when you understand how to use different components of the body together, including the mind, because you are using instructions when you move, it’s one of life force’s greatest lessons. You put steps together, one after the other. What do we do when we read? We learn the alphabet, we learn words, we put them together, we learn to speak. It’s that constant chain of movement that helps you move forward in

Life. Yeah, I think that’s beautiful. And the mind and body are one thing, aren’t they? Because one can’t do anything without the other.

Totally.

You mentioned Cher when you talked about attitude and staying long and you have recently directed the Cher story. Can you tell us a bit more about that and what you discovered about her attitude and a bit more about the show as well?

The show which is on tour at the moment, there are three women playing the shares, young, Cher Middle, share, share now. And her life is really interesting. She was dyslexic. She could read a very, very, very difficult, but at the age of six she knew she wanted to be a star. That’s what she wanted to be, a star like Dumbo, dumbo’s a star. Which is funny because it’s an elephant as her mother tells her. But she knew that she wants to be a star and she knew that she struggled. But through her life she became very, very strong in empowering women to be as strong as men, which women never felt that it wasn’t really an experience. Men were the dominant ones, women followed, she changed all of that for women. The sense of also today, her being young inside, she treats every day as a day to enjoy, a day to love and day to stay young. No matter as the days creep up, she’s gonna use them for her own self and how she wants to use them. The show is her life story. It’s full of all of the hit she had in every decade. She had a number one hit. I mean, she’s astonishing and also a real activist. So what more could you want? And when her mother says to her famously, Why do you know you need to marry a rich man? She says, Mom, I am a rich man. Oh, I think that says it all.

Oh, I think so. And she is a force of nature. And you have been around so many forces of nature. You’ve worked with so many divas in your life. Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, and kindly Elton John as well. I would class out and

Freddy Mercury

And Freddy of course, we used to be produced by John Deacon of Queens, so I used to see them a lot. Yes, Freddy was remarkable. How important when working with these extraordinary people is it to connect with them on a human level and use humour or good humour to find the humanity and the humility in them?

You have to connect with stars. And some of ’em are very different. I mean Elton used to come to make the music videos and he was right. He wasn’t fun of getting up early. Tell me what I’ve gotta do, just show me what I’ve gotta do on the day. Freddy on the other hand, was there from the start, right? I want you in a meeting, let’s talk about the music. What are we gonna see? This is what I want, what can I do? Freddy’s really funny off the cuff. Elton more serious, but then he can just land something that just has everybody on the floor. Very, very different working practise. But you have to be there, be ready. You have to measure their moods and be serious when there is a moment to be serious and just get the humour in when you can sneak it in you. I always take my tone in a reaction to the way they are. I’m very, I think sensitive and quite good at reading people so I know when is the right time to laugh it off and when is the right time just to focus and keep somebody centred.

That’s really interesting because you said measure the mood, which I thought was a beautiful phrase. And to me as a psychologist, I think that’s about listening. And I think all the people who connect best with everyone are the people who can listen to the other person. And I’m go, I’m thinking measure the mood is such a perfect phrase that I think I’m gonna steal it, I’m gonna put it in a book one day. Oh, and you’ll get a credit, don’t worry.

<laugh>. Yeah, I always think of my work as measuring the mood

And obviously sometimes it’s easier to measure the mood than it then it isn’t. Have there been times when you’ve found it difficult to find a way into somebody’s psyche and measure their mood? Or can you pretty much turn it on at will?

Sometimes it’s hard, you know, are working with highly emotional sensitive people and for no reason at all. I mean, Andrew Lloyd Weber is famous for his outbursts and they spring from nowhere. I think I was pretty good at getting through all of that with Andrew because I think within me is a great mothering instinct, which I can pull out when needed.

That’s really interesting. You called it a mothering instinct and I just call that caring and that they can tell that you actually care and you want to take them with them on this journey because I mean obviously you’ve been around incredibly creative people all your life. And actually one of the things I was gonna ask you is creativity enhanced by humour.

I think creativity and humour goes side by side. Absolutely. Bring humour into your creativity. Everybody loves to laugh and smile. For me it’s the unexpected humour. I like the unlikely humour I love. There was a series on TV called Flowers with a very creative director, actor called Will Sharp who plays a character in flowers called Shun that had me on the floor, Shit Creek and Saha Baron Cohen is another one that completely bonkers over the top humour have me on the floor laughing. Whereas sometimes I can watch a comedian do a whole show and the set jokes just don’t make me laugh. But that incidental practise, clever humour that just falls outta people I can watch nonstop. When

You are watching humour, is an element of physicality important for you to actually get it? I mean obviously the John CLEs is the Rowan Atkinsons who are extraordinary with their bodies. Does that enhance it for you?

Completely. Not kind of almost deliberate. This platform is gonna make you laugh. It’s the way of using comedy physically that is the unexpected. And I know how well practise it is, but you would never know. You would think it just happened on that spot somewhere. That’s my passion. That’s what I love and that’s what I always try and learn from.

Are you one of those people who when you are surrounded by brilliant people are going, I can learn something here

Completely all my life? I think I’ve always searched for people that I can learn from and watching the pythons also very, very different. Each one with their own way of expressing humour. Of course you can learn from that. And as I say, watching television, watching looks passing between people or the way humour is set up.

Well no, but you see, I think that’s fascinating and for our listeners to get a sense of the smartest people I think are always listening and learning to what they do. And I spent a lot of my life training business leaders to be better at pitching and presenting. But one of the things that I say, and you are a great example of this, is look at people who do something really well. If I wanted to learn how to choreograph or get on with megastar, I would look at you and unpack everything you are saying. You’ve had an extraordinary life where you’ve mixed with the great and the good, but you’ve used every bit of that life by going, here’s a question. As a psychologist I would go, what are they doing that’s different and better? And what can I learn from this? And I think that’s all the smartest people in the world are doing that. You agree?

I think so. Everybody I know listens and learns. Everybody takes something from somewhere and stores it. We all have these little boxes in the back of our head where you can open the cupboard and bring something out.

Yeah, I just think it’s really useful to know that you are still looking and learning at that level. So all these big characters that you’ve worked with what do you think that they are doing that’s different and better? What is that special source that makes somebody brilliant at Kumo? I mean, you talked about the pythons, you’ve worked with Elton and Freddy and all those people. What’s that special source that makes somebody charismatic?

I think the funniest of people have grown up in funny households where laughter is present every day, where quick wit and smartness is used as a part of life. So they grow up with humour inside ’em ready to come out. I don’t think anyone that maybe has grown up in a very very serious household will think about humour. I think there’s always that energy within people that have grown up with humour.

So do you think it’s sort of by osmosis in a sense that you catch it?

I think it’s by osmosis, but I’m also surprised how so many doctors and some I know who have been practising doctors are now comedians. Where does doctor and comedian come together? One of the funniest people I know is a man called Harry Bruns who is the chairman of the English National Opera. And he also has this huge, huge practise as a doctor. He’s one of the funniest people I know and in his life training as a doctor, his sideline was end of the pier doing comedy at the end of the pier. But when you think there are many doctors who have become heme comedians, what is it? Is it a certain brain? Is it a certain comedy brain? Because a lot of academics are comedians. Is there a connection between academia and comedy? Well,

It’s very interesting cuz we’ve had Dr. Phil Hammonds. Do you know Dr. Phil?

Yes.

On the show and I advise anyone to listen back to that episode because he’s not only very bight and smart and gives great advice, he’s also hilarious. But he does essentially stand up and being a doctor at the same time, that leads me onto my question. Is everyone funny?

No

Or no? There you go. Very quick answer to

I’m not funny. I do find people laughing at me, never know why. I always think something I’ve said is funny, but I’m not funny. I’m not someone who is stored with great humour. If I say something funny, it’s totally by accident. It’s not planned. So I don’t think everyone’s funny. I think it’s actually rarer than we think. I have a couple of friends who are hilarious. One of them is one of my associates, Richard Rowe, who can make me laugh. I’m crumbling up. He loves Christmas. He starts Christmas in October and he’s just funny. But I can’t count on two hands the people I know that are really funny.

Isn’t that interesting though that you don’t class yourself as funny? But you see the whole Humourology project is about about having a lightness of touch. It’s not about always being the person who does the gags and they’re traditionally funny to be part of the ecosystem or in your world, the troop. You need people who will laugh easily as well to be the audience. Are you a good audience? Are you a good laugher, you a good, Do you bring out the best in these people?

I think I’m a pretty good audience because often on my WhatsApp to various people that I WhatsApp and the amount of times they come back with the laughing, crying…

Emoji.

Symbol emoji is frequent. So obviously I make people laugh and I’m there to laugh at them. And I love humour. I will search for people that make me laugh, which as I say Will Sharp. I have to say that I first fell in love and I can use that word when he was in a series called Giri Haji, which was very serious but incredible. And then I discovered this series Flowers where he plays his character Chan and I watch and rewatch and re watch. He’s so funny. He’s, He’s a brilliant human being. I don’t know him, I’ve never met him, but if I ever do, my gosh, he’s genius.

The Humourology podcast will try and facilitate that meeting as soon as possible. No, you talked about not being outwardly funny, but I actually think you have funny bones, you understand funny if that makes sense and you appreciate it and you’ve been able to actually enhance funny through the choreography. So when you talked about working with Terry Jones and Monty Python, that’s enhancing it. And a lot of the amazing videos you’ve done over the years have included things that are fun and funny. I’m still standing is a absolutely hilarious.

It certainly is. And when you think about the lyrics, it’s even more hilarious. But that was an accident we had not planned to make actually that video, but when we arrived in lease, we weren’t allowed to make the video we had planned because it was too dangerous. So all of that was literally on the spot. My friend in the south of France had this huge dance school. I said, Send me your dancers. We got face paint. I choreographed each a little bit piece by piece and then say, Right, remember that, do this, do that else. And I love that moment of his joy walking down with his cane as he’s walking down the promenade. It’s so full of light and joy and it was a lot of fun to make. We laughed and smiled all day long

And that’s what comes out. If people are having joy in the workplace that actually comes out, do you actually deliberately set up an atmosphere whereby people can be more creative because they are in a joyous mood?

I am totally keen on trying to give everyone the opportunity to express themselves, everyone to have an opportunity to feel that they can in that they can get involved. And yes, lightness and humour in a workplace is definitely beneficial. Humour and laughter is good for the endorphins without question, you’re releasing so much by just allowing yourself to laugh and everybody else to laugh.

I couldn’t agree more. And it’s a perfect reason to be talking to you because I can feel the energy and the laughter and the joy seeping out of every bone in your body. And all I can think of is, who else could have got Elton to John to do that silly little dance when feeling like a little kid in, I’m still standing. Yes, it’s an iconic image and I don’t think somebody else could have got that out of him.

It was a power of persuasion and eventually surrounded by our wonderful dancers. Elton just got with the groove and just went with it and it was such a delight and such a wonderful moment.

Well, I think it’s an iconic moment. And by the way, when you bring that out in people, I think that humanises them, doesn’t it? And it makes them more loved than the words national treasure of than both of you and Elton are national treasures, often overused. But that’s because people can actually feel the humanity and that humanity through those kind of movements, I think is so powerful.

I would agree. I love seeing and watching Elton in that moment.

Oh, it’s wonderful. Well, we’ve reached a time in the show, which we like to call quick fire questions.

Okay, great

Arlene who is the funniest business person that you’ve met?

I think I briefly mentioned him before, but it’s Harry Brünjes, Dr Harry Brünjes, a doctor and a chairman of ENO is one of the funniest men on the planet.

And what makes him so funny? Is he physical with that funny or is it just verbal?

He’s not very tall, so he’s quite sort of physical and animated. But it’s the way it just comes out so fast. He’s a quick talker and he has a quick comedic answer for anything and everything.

What book makes you laugh, Arlene?

I cannot even think of a book that has made me laugh. Maybe reading a cat in the hat to my daughter is about the closest I’ve got to actually laughing in a book.

That’s a lovely answer. Dr. Ze and all those books are magnificent. And isn’t there something about laughing because your child laughs and you get that sort of feeling, that bonding feeling as well.

It’s completely about the response your child has. Totally. And utterly hearing them laugh. Best thing in the world. It’s like medicine.

Absolutely. So what film makes you laugh?

I think I have to do a recent film, which is the Boak film. Subsequent I was crying. I was crying in the cinema when I watched that. Yeah.

Do you think because of what you do, that physicality which Sasha barring Cohen really is probably one the best of his era at doing?

I think it’s not just physical, it’s the way he makes everything feel so fresh and of the moment and the fact he’s so damn fearless. Who else would go that far? Who else but Sasha Baren

Cohen. I think he’s a genius and it’s a overused word, but I genuinely do think he’s a genius. We’re gonna take a shift to the other side before we go back. Not funny

Me.

You see, I disagree. I think you are great fun and therefore funny.

I would like to think I is funny, but overall I’m not somebody that people would come to have a laugh. I really am not. And I don’t see myself as funny.

Do you have any red lines of things that you think aren’t funny or aren’t doable about? Or do you think everything can if done in the right spirit?

I’m all for humour. I think there are red lines you can draw because I am very keen not to be offensive. And I know people say you can get away with it within comedy and you should, but I think that I’m pretty hard on a minute that isn’t funny. Yes. I think I’m someone that squashed humour. I also can go and see a show and I, I’m embarrassed to say this, I don’t know that I should, but there are certain comedians who I cannot get on their level of humour. I cannot get what the audience is roaring at.

But that’s humour, isn’t it? It’s something different for everyone. It’s attraction. It’s in the eye of the beholder or the ear of the beholder. Is it

Not? Yeah. Yes, Yes.

Think Well, we won’t ask you for which comedians, because they might have been on the show.

I dunno. Yeah. I don’t wanna say witch, a couple of really famous ones but no, Billy Connolly can always make me laugh.

It’s funny. Billy’s name comes up again and again and again. Really? It’s just Well, because I mean there he’s just naturally funny. Yes. And I’m always, My mother was from the east end of Glasgow, and so I think there was something about that working class thing, which is so real, so earthy. But actually from your standpoint, is it not? Also he’s incredibly, I mean the, bless him at the moment, he’s obviously got Parkinson’s, so he’s losing some of his physical attributes. But as his peak, he was so physically powerful as well.

He is brilliant in every way. He’s a musician, he’s a comedian, he’s physical, he’s an artist, he’s a storyteller. There’s so much about him. But he is funny. And it’s always with that kind of quite serious face on. And then he all burst out laughing. Yeah. He’s very much almost connected to the animal world in his physicality and his big roar of laughter that will come out from nowhere it

That is the best description I’ve ever heard of Billy Conley. Almost connected to the animal world, but yes, you can see it. Yeah. Cause of the physicality, the raw at the end. I absolutely love that.

Yeah.

What word makes you laugh?

I’m going to go back to shit’s Greek because it’s the sister Alexis, the way she said I can’t even do it. My daughters do it brilliantly. It’s the way she used the word, I suppose it’s E U g H. Yeah. It was just hilarious. Which makes me realise, you can make one word, you can find it and you can use it and use it in different ways and make it funny. Whatever that down is, it can even be, damn.

Yeah. Well this can be interesting when we’re trying to write this down when it’s, Yeah.

Yeah. I mean, she was brilliant.

Is there a sound that makes you laugh, Arlene?

Oh, a sound. I suppose the unexpected fart can always draw some laughter from me when it from nowhere. Yes. Yes.

Well, I’ve just had an image of these beautiful ballet dancers, actually PR and then a fart appears,

Which yes, Walking up a street, <laugh> behind someone. <laugh>. And they dunno. You’re behind <laugh>. Yeah. Yes, <laugh>.

No, by the way, just so you know, an unexpected fire

<crosstalk> do that in the street. <laugh>. <laugh>, yeah. Can make me laugh

Right. I dunno. I think that that’s wonderful. I think I would you rather be considered clever or funny, Arlene?

Oh, I’d love to be really funny. I think if you are really funny, You’re clever too. You I the best of both worlds.

Well, no, you can have the best of both worlds. And actually I would agree with you I’ve never met somebody who’s really funny, who isn’t really intelligent as well. Because yeah, in order to actually make those neural connections, you have to do that. And you talked about your friend Harry at the ENO being the funniest person, business person. And you go, Well, actually they have to be really intelligent as well, don’t they?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

And finally, Arlene Desert Island gags. You can only take one joke with you to a desert island. What is it?

My joke would be – man cleaning toilets. “I’ve been cleaning these toilets for 20 years and the things I’ve seen, you wouldn’t believe it. No one comes in for a shit anymore.” <laugh>.

<laugh>. It

Always makes me laugh.

I don’t know who. And I see why it’s brilliant. And what a lovely way to end Dame Arlene Phillips, thank you so much for bringing so much physicality and joy into our lives and actually bringing so much laughter into our lives. You’ve actually really changed a lot of lives to the better and I thank you very much for being a guest on the Humourology Project.

It’s been a real pleasure, Paul. It really has. And I’ve actually laughed. I think my eye makeup’s probably running.

Oh, well there’s the greatest thing ever. We’ve laughed together. Thank you so much.

Thank you.

The Humourology podcast was hosted by Paul Boross, produced by David Rose. Music by Steve Hayworth, Creative direction by Les Hughes, and additional research by Helen Sykes. Please remember to subscribe, like and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a Big Sky production.

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