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Transcript – Clive Tyldesley

Broadcasting Legend Clive Tyldesley joins Paul Boross and The Humourology Podcast to share stories from his career in commentary. Hear how humour can influence a broadcast and help you learn about the people on the pitch. From footballers to commentating partners, Tyldesley shares how humour sheds light on the human experience.

CLIVE (00:00:03):

Maradonna, uh, Alastair Campbell , back to Maradonna,

PAUL (00:00:14):

Welcome to the Humourology Podcast with me, Paul Boross and my 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 every aspect of your business 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 an award-winning legend in the world of sports commentary, best known for his iconic voice. He has built a career as one of the most captivating commentators in English football history, making a name for himself. During the epic conclusion of the 1999 Champions League final, he went on to commentate on countless sporting events from the World Cup to the Olympic Games. He has spent the majority of his career as a primary commentator for the Premier League UNICEF Soccer, a match the Champions League, and EA sports massively popular FIFA video game series. More recently, you can find his wildly entertaining commentary of everyday life on his social media channels and find your favourite football moments in his print series commentary. It’s an absolute treat to have his legendary voice. Grace, the show. Clive Tyldesley, welcome to the Humourology Podcast.

CLIVE (00:02:03):

I mean, given this is a podcast about comedy, I’m not quite sure how seriously to take all of those compliments, really? Are they double edged?

PAUL (00:02:11):

No, there’s no double edge in there at all Clive And one of the things is that I have a 22 year old son called Sam. He turned 22 yesterday, in fact, and he never gets very excited. We have some huge names on this podcast. Your name came up and he was suddenly excited cuz he grew up with you. Watching Playing FIFA – And so you are. And he was like, you know, oh no, he’s a legend. He’s an absolute legend. And he was going, cheers, Alan. Uh, you know, all your highlights were, were played to me by my son. So if I didn’t know that this important, it is now,

CLIVE (00:02:58):

It’s very gratifying to connect with somebody 22 years of age. I’ve got four big things, which I loosely call children, um, between the ages of 28 and I dunno, a hundred and thirty three. Um, and you know, whenever anybody suggests that we need 30 year old commentators to commentate to 30 year old listeners or viewers, my argument against that is that these four people are amongst my best friends on the planet and I have to communicate with them. That’s part of my parental responsibility. I want to communicate with them because I love and like them very much. I’m very proud of them all, and they kind of keep me current. You know, I have to listen to their music. I have to sample their content, which is forwarded to me on various, uh, platforms. And so, you know, I, it is really reassuring to me that somebody of the age of 22 I’ve never met in my life likes some of my work. I think that’s really important.

PAUL (00:04:06):

He doesn’t just like it, Clive. He loves it. He honestly, he, he said the word, you know, the, and the way they are, uh, at that age, they don’t bullshit as they tell it as it is. And he just said, he’s a legend. There you go. Doesn’t get better than that. And a current legend. And, uh, well, can

CLIVE (00:04:28):

We wrap the show up there? That seems to me a fairly good conclusion. Thank you very much indeed for having me on. And goodbye everybody. Goodbye <laugh>.

PAUL (00:04:39):

Alright, well, we’ll take it. Part two of the interview with Clive TILs. <laugh> is starting now. You grew up in Warrington, in Cheshire. Clive, uh, was humour valued in your family?

CLIVE (00:04:55):

I actually grew up in Burrick, which is not a million miles away from Warrington is what people of my generation would call Lancashire. Uh, it’s now greater Manchester. But, yeah, I mean, I think there’s a, as a loose, um, a very, very loose guide the further north you go in our country, um, the more important down to earth humour becomes. Um, I think a lot of the, the classic sitcoms were set in sort of northern settings and, um, yeah, I mean, some would argue that with rain falling on you every day and Barry, you probably, you’ve gotta find something to laugh at. Um, but I was very fortunate in so much that, um, I was as intrigued by comedy as I was by music from a very early age. You know, I think a lot of our early heroes in life are sporting heroes, obviously, but they’re the musicians.


Um, the bands, the, the songwriters that, you know, touch our teenage sensibilities. But I found several comedians in that part of my life who probably had as big an impact, uh, on me as, um, as the musicians that I was listening to. So, I wanted to be funny <laugh>, I was in a boarding house at school. Um, and when you were living in a culture which is essentially governed by boys in this case who are older than you are, you’ve gotta listen to them. You say you’ve gotta listen to their humour, you run the risk of being alienated just by your age unless you can engage with them in some way. And if they run you into a corner of any kind, you’ve either gotta better fight your way out of it or talk your way out of it in a boarding house. I’ve never been in a fight in my entire life. So I talk my way out of the mo most difficult situations that I faced as a young person and probably still do to this day.

PAUL (00:07:09):

You said you were in a boarding house, so you were at boarding school and, uh, and that is, you know, to a lot of people, quite harsh. Well, I mean, were you seven when you went there or was it older?

CLIVE (00:07:21):

No, 12. and it was a day school with a boarding house, so we were actually outnumbered five to one by the day boys, which in many ways probably gave us more of an identity than it would have done in a, in a bigger onboarding school. You know, we were 50 kids from whatever it is, eight, eight or nine different year groups. And so I say quite literally, you, you learn the, um, the uh, the deadly sins of of teenage life a little quicker than you would’ve probably have done if you were just mixing with people of your own age. So, you know, I was a smoker and a drinker long before I should have been <laugh> or at least I toyed with those things much earlier than I should have done. And as I say, I listened to the music of boys 3, 4, 5 years older than myself. And therefore, inevitably I was introduced to their humour, you know, um, Monty Python’s Flying Circus I probably got earlier in my sort of adolescence than I would’ve done if I hadn’t had been around boys who, who were 3, 4, 5 years older than myself.

PAUL (00:08:36):

So was it important to the, if you like, social status at school that to be able to remember, cuz I remember at school, I probably like you very, very young, was remembering Monty Python lines. Cuz you know, our younger audience won’t realise that you didn’t have any recording, you had to have a good memory and if you wanted to know the parrot sketch, you really had to practise it again and again in your head, until the records came out, of course. But was it important to the social status at school that you could make people laugh? And when did you realise you had that gift?

CLIVE (00:09:17):

I think, I was almost a student of comedy in, in a sense, you know, the, the, the comedy I enjoy is what I would call wit rather than jokes or slapstick of people. I don’t laugh at people falling over, you know, clever is a double-edged word in, in humour because you can be far too clever for your own good. And some of my commentaries down the years have suffered from precisely that. But cleverness in humour, in dreaming up surreal twists on ordinary life situations is what Monty Pythons Flying Circus was all about. And that’s why it grabbed it. And that’s why every addition of the programme, the weekly addition of the programme became a communal event in, in a boarding house or later at university. And it was that kind of, I suppose you’d call it observational comedy. You know, the people I find funniest are brighter than me.


They’re clever than me, you know, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, Dara O’Briain and my laughter is a kind of a round of applause for their kinetic intellect. You know, their, the imagination in their intelligence, that kind of mental dexterity that you see when O’Briain comes on stage and spends most of his act just engaging with the people on the front row. I mean, what, you know, what kind of an act is it? Well, you’ve no idea where you’re going every night, but you’re able to hold your own. And that, as I say, a cleverness in the very best sense of the word is very important. And I think probably in the environment in which I grew up, I had to learn to be clever.

PAUL (00:11:02):

Yeah, it’s clever and brave, isn’t it? Because it, it, it’s kind of like putting yourself on the tightrope. I I spent many years at the Comedy Store and, and some of the bravest people I knew were the ones who went out to the late show, which started at midnight and would go on and then improvise.

CLIVE (00:11:23):

Yeah. And I think humour is, um, it’s the very, it’s the very best form of human checks and balances. If someone or something is getting above themselves, getting ahead of themselves, getting too full of themselves, nothing cuts them down like a great cut down. And that’s why some of the dictator dictatorial figures in the world have tried to censor or ban humour, not just despots and, you know, Trumpian leaders, but people that try to control the frontiers of, of humour by imposing their own kind of moral red lines. And the problem with all of that is you can’t stop people laughing, even if they do it in private behind your back. What makes us laugh tells us more about ourselves than virtually anything. Sometimes I don’t like myself for finding something funny, and that actually prompts me to take a good look at myself and maybe address a prejudice or a preconception that I have about somebody or something.


And as you say, comedy is cruel. It’s invariably it’s somebody else’s expense. You know, satire irony are really powerful. They’re extreme uses of the language and they’re usually to highlight some kind of extreme behaviour. And when I was watching, I don’t know, again, the, the danger is losing part of the audience, but I, I would actually urge people who have, who have never watched Till Death Us Do Part to go and find it and watch it, it would never be aired today. It would seem to be totally inappropriate and you would find it an uncomfortable watch, but set in its moment, it was actually full of social comments. It was full of challenges to us to take a look at ourselves and make sure we weren’t that central character of Garnet ourselves. And that is the power of comedy, that that’s what really grabbed me about the cleverness of the writing and even, Mitchell’s performance as Alf Garnet. Cuz he wasn’t that kind of man. It was a totally fictional, uh, character and the word checks and balances in the show in so much that his daughter and son-in-law were always challenging him. Um, and even though they say the language you would find very uncomfortable today, it would actually be a really good snapshot of some of the issues of the late 1960s and early 1970s that I as a, a young impressionable person grew up with.

PAUL (00:13:55):

No, it’s very interesting because the writer of course was Johnny Speight, and  Johnny was… I funnily enough, as a young boy, I met Johnny Speight quite a few times cuz um, my best friend’s father when I growing up was William G. Stewart, who directed some of Johnny Speight’s later works like The Ladies a Tramp and things like that. And, uh, Johnny was always really angry that people couldn’t see the satire. And he was always saying that actually Warren or the character Alf Garnet always got his comeuppance. And actually Warren was a Jewish actor, you know, so there were all these levels where he could do it. But, um, I was interested cuz in your excellent book, Not For Me, Clive, Stories from the voice of Football, you have a quote, and, and I I love quote, you said, there are only so many things that I would march on Parliament in support of, but the defence of comedy is one of them laughing at something we don’t think we should be laughing at is a revolutionary act and not involuntary act, as we just said earlier on, it tells so much about ourself.


Not only that, but it gives us a peep into how others see us. It’s enlightening and it’s also kind of healthy as long as we find the answers, which is what you are talking to the questions, uh, we ask or why do you feel so strongly about why humour is healthy and do you think it actually helps to level the playing field? I

CLIVE (00:15:33):

Totally respect the need to protect the feelings of the outnumbered and the vulnerable, but cancelling is not the answer to that. Not in my opinion anyway. Any more than editing or rewriting pieces of popular content from the past. Is, is a solution or a valid solution in, in my opinion, I think that it, <laugh> speaking publicly comes with important responsibilities. And I, I think two particular responsibilities, when you have the platform that I have, and you have, and they’re kind of linked, one, you’ve gotta be careful not to impose your experience on others. I mean, I have strong opinions on, on politics and current affairs, but I can’t speak from the point of view of anyone in poverty or disabled or gay or black or, uh, I mean, for that matter, anyone who’s athletic or musically gifted or, or multilingual and a litany of things that I’d love to be, I have never been that person.


I can’t dictate what will offend or upset any section of my audience. And I therefore have got to listen and try to understand and respect someone that is uncomfortable with something that I’ve said. And I’m not even a comedian in the social media age. We all get to speak in public. And so we should all try to accept those responsibilities. You know, empathy is a walk in the shoes of others. I, I don’t mind political correctness at all because it is merely a sensitivity towards difference. And difference in, in life is great, but harmony is not empathetic. It’s not sensitive. There is invariably a but of the joke. There’s, there’s an argument for saying, I think that comedy should be free from the constraints of, of living a, a respectful, caring, responsible life. Because comedy is cruel. It feeds off human failings and weaknesses.


You shouldn’t really be booking a comedian and then telling them no jokes about blondes or cyclists or vapours or whatever. We should be able to take or leave comedy like we do country and western music, or I dunno, darts, you know, but, but cause comedy is so powerful, it’s become liable to censorship and who decides what is good and bad for us in the UK in 2023, the Daily Mail, you know, <laugh>, the Keeper of the Nation’s morals and ethics is something like the Daily Mail. And that’s why you end up with virtually no sitcoms anymore because the sitcoms of the past that I grew up loving and were really an institutionalised part of my life, they’re too dangerous. And that’s, that’s why you end up with Miranda and Mrs. Brown’s boys now.

PAUL (00:18:29):

Well, it’s very interesting. We had Jimmy Melville, who, I dunno if you know Jimmy, but he owns Hatrick who make, Have I Got News For You and other Derry Girls and all that and we had this conversation, and by the way, he comes from the same standpoint, he said, now if he puts a racist or somebody who’s sexist in a sitcom to show them up for their racism or sexism, people before they realise the arc of the story will say, you can’t have that person in there. And his point being, you have to have that there in order for them to be taken down a peg or two.

CLIVE (00:19:15):

Absolutely. I mean, you know, funny is a personal thing, it’s a matter of taste and taste today is a dangerous place. I mean the, some of the things that are funniest to me are some of the things that are closest to me, I guess. I mean, there’s a, a younger comedian by the name of Daniel Sloss, who’s originally from Scotland, um, yeah, who I find really interesting and I find funny, and I have to kind of hesitate before I say that I find him funny because he does entire routines about the loss of his disabled sister who died and you can’t get more unfunny than that, but he’s brilliant. And, you know, my late father was particularly unfunny in the last couple of years of his life. But when I think back on those last couple of years, when I look at the, the rose that I planted in the back garden, the red rose of Lancashire and see him and his ashes beneath them, I think back, all that grief that he caused me a natural comedy in some of the moments that we shared together in the last few difficult years of his life.


And I think that’s the only way you can look back on those things and, and come out of them with any kind of, I mean, context is probably dead in the modern world, but with any kind of context, um, as to the effects and the, and the lasting delights that, uh, his memories leave with me, you know?

PAUL (00:20:49):

Well, but again, that is using humour as a tool and the whole Humourology project is about using it, it’s using humanity, humility and humour, and good humour to get a perspective on life is there and that’s what keep, and, but that’s all it is, is perspective. And I, I went to a big comprehensive school where there were 2,100 boys and it was a zoo, but comedy was the binding force between whatever race, whatever year, whatever person it was. That was still the bonding tool that you get if you managed to make somebody laugh. Surely there’s no bigger bond between you at that point.

CLIVE (00:21:42):

I remember the day that I, in a, in a very ironic moment of role reversal, I took my dad’s car keys off him. He was nearly 90, and I mean, I, he was like a scolded child really, when I said, no, no, no more, dad, the cars, you’ve got to stop driving. I’ll set up an account with a local taxi firm and anywhere you want to go, it’s all on me. It’s no problem at all. And in order to try to appease him, I volunteered and I lived like 30, 45 minutes away from him. Then I volunteered to take him on his weekly shop to the supermarket, which as with most things, as you, as you get on in years, becomes something of a ritual, something of a routine, you know exactly where you’re going to go, what you’re going to buy who you’re going to see, what time you’re gonna arrive and leave.


And so I did all this for his timetable and, um, we arrived at the supermarket with his blue badge in my car, and he’s directing me towards a parking spot. And as we approached it I saw the sign for mother and babies and I said, no, dad, this is not your parking spot. This is for parent and child. And he said, park there. I said, no, no, no, there’ll be some spaces for, you know, people with physical difficulties disabled spaces that they were once called. And he said, no, no park there. So <laugh> with a couple of cars behind me and me looking around, I parked in the spot, and as I’m getting out the car, I point to him at, at the sign and the, the illustration of the, the mother and child. And I said, this is for parent and child. And this 90 year old man looked across at his six year old son. He said, well, what are we, I thought, you know what? You’re right, dad. I said, exactly what we’re, we’re a parent and child we’re okay, <laugh>.

PAUL (00:23:43):

Oh, well that’s lovely, isn’t it? But by the way, my mother who will be listening to this at some stage is 91. And my mother still tells when I go to her house and I say, I’ll pop across the road to get you a paper always says, mind the traffic. And I always think I’ve been all over the world on my own and managed to survive. But this is the thing you have to tell me.

CLIVE (00:24:14):

It’s love. I, I got a, I got a call from the very same supermarket a few weeks earlier, and my dad’s card had been refused, declined. And and they wanted somebody to pay for the shopping that he was standing at now at checkout. And it turns out that there was a very, very helpful employee cashier there who he, he always tried to go to with his weekly shop, and he would hand her his credit card, followed by a piece of paper, which he had his pin number scribbled. And this very responsible individual always checked him out, but always tried to encourage him not to do it this way to, to remember his pin code because she shouldn’t really know it. And he arrived the previous week and he said, it’s okay, I now know what my pin code is. So he hadn’t had to handle over the, the piece of paper, and she had told him the previous week, well, what I want you to do now, Mr. Tilley, is to change your pin code.


So just think of it. He says, is it your birthday? And he said, yeah, that’s my pin code. Said, well, think of something else. Think of your son’s birthday maybe, and make that the pin code. Okay? So next week he’d come up, and this is why I got a phone call, and he changed the pin code. He put a brand new number into the ping machine, but of course he hadn’t changed the pin code. All he’d done was change the number in his head. So when he put it in three times, it was the wrong pin code <laugh> that had to make the call to him. Now, that makes me laugh, but actually it was his inability to deal with the 21st century that I was laughing at that he didn’t realise. He just had to think of a new number in your head and that would automatically work on the credit card.


Maybe one day we will have credit cards like that, but we didn’t have in whatever it was, 2019 when I got this particular phone call. Now, am I laughing at him or am I laughing with him? Because I think that is the key really to taste if there is such a thing, good taste within humour, the moment you start to laugh at people, you’re in into dangerous ground. You know, I’ve had, I’ve been at the, the eye of maybe three or four Twitter storms in my, uh, long career. And they’ve usually been at times when I pushed it a little bit with a comment, and it may be perceived to that I was laughing at somebody rather than laughing with them. And I think that’s a good, another good check and balance with our humour, be it you performing standup on stage or me working some humour into a, a commentary sitting alongside Adam McCoy, it’s impossible not to, or just something that you might flippantly say in conversation.


And I’ve been in, you know, I’ve been in company where the, where the, the level of humour has made me uncomfortable. And it’s, it takes a lot of guts, um, and maybe stupidity to actually say, so maybe that you’re uncomfortable with what the, the, you know, the group of people, particularly the friends, they maybe guys I play golf with, you know, and I am uncomfortable with what they’re finding funny. Now what do you do in that situation? Well, maybe you just say, are we laughing with this person or are we laughing at them? I think it’s a good question to ask.

PAUL (00:27:32):

Yeah. Or just go, it’s not for me. You touched on the, the the fact, and I occasionally ask guests on this podcast, have you ever crossed the line and gone too far? Because part of comedy is about finding the line. And so occasionally you will, and I was thinking about the infamous nun joke, which I think caused some controversy and led to you apologising on air. Now I didn’t think the joke was that bad.

CLIVE (00:28:05):

You remember that <laugh>?

PAUL (00:28:06):

Oh, you can’t remember that one. It’s, it was during the Champions league between Man United and Biola cues, and you said, uh, we’re seeing more crosses than a pair of nuns in a cathedral.

CLIVE (00:28:18):

No, I don’t think I’ve ever said that. I think that’s probably been somebody reporting that I said

PAUL (00:28:24):

Is that apocryphal?

CLIVE (00:28:25):

That I’m as certain as I can be that I would never say anything like that. I don’t, it’s just not my style that, I mean, I’ve made mistakes, but I, no, I don’t think the nun line is, is mine. I got in trouble once for saying, this may sound Irish, but, um, because a team were two or three down at Old Trafford and they weren’t trying to, to do anything other than keep the score down and I think I may have said this may sound Irish, but you know, Biola Kussner actually, whoever it was, are playing now to lose this game by as few as they can. And somebody of Irish origins, they weren’t actually born in Ireland, took me all the way to the highest level of viewer complaint to the point where I had to appear in front of a committee and explain what I’d said.


And this guy who was very eloquent had said that he was surprised that at a corner kick hadn’t said there should be a Pakistani shop on it. And it was really, you know expanding and exaggerating the nature of what I fairly innocently said, because it was quite a common phrase, probably in the first part of my life. This may sound Irish, but I mean, we don’t say it now. And that’s cool. I’m all for a, you know, I’m all for progress in, in that sense. That’s how we live and learn as a, as a humanity. And if people are offended by that, then I totally understand it. And we don’t tell Irish jokes anymore, and nor should we but this guy really, really laid into me, and I had to do a big, big apology in order to sort of creep out of the corner that he’d backed me into.


I think it was excessive, but I was apologetic. I was apologetic for the initial comment, but I just needed to be made aware of it and how inappropriate it was, and I was never gonna do it again. And I think, yeah, say, I think if, if I find my app mentions are full of one recurring thought about something, I’d said, whatever my initial instincts are, you’ve gotta listen to your critics and you’ve gotta pay them the respect of actually taking the trouble to register some level of complaint. I mean, Twitter isn’t a canvased opinion poll, but it is now a platform where people can get you, um, and can get to you with their views. And so, you know, in that instance, I was, I was prepared. I was more than happy to say sorry. I just, just didn’t particularly feel as if I should lose my job over there.

PAUL (00:31:09):

No. And, but also, you know, a throwaway line from somebody or of a certain generation, I don’t think anything should be jumped up upon and by the way, I come from a background where, when it originally started at the Comedy Store, it was called Alternative Comedy because it was no sexist, no racist stuff. But actually that evolved over time, whereby you could say things,

CLIVE (00:31:41):

Everything evolves over time. Um, you know, it’s, it’s evidence that the world is turning. And I’m very aware of a 21st century where opinions seem to be coming more and more polarised, and there’s almost a demand, I don’t know if it’s a social media thing, maybe the, the lack of human contact during covid,  has exacerbated this where we’ve now become more accustomed to communicating as we are communicating today. And, you know, we’re gonna get together and have a glass of wine or two at some stage in the future. But this is the most convenient way of communicating. But it’s not that natural. It doesn’t, it doesn’t allow much room for nuance. And, and I think, you know, most of the world isn’t white or black. It’s a colour somewhere in between. And that’s where we live. You know, we do live in, in the, in middle ground most of the time. And then, and this determination of people with a cause to either get you to declare for it or be the infidel, I think is, is really, really dangerous. And it becomes particularly dangerous to public speakers and especially comedians.

PAUL (00:33:02):

Yeah. I, and I think that’s, that the generation of the keyboard warrior who’s, who is looking for things to be offended by because it increases their status on, on, on Earth. I can show how good I am, because I’m going to point this out to other people. I think you used the most important word, which I think in comedy is nuance. And by the way, I could say something and frequently do that if you wrote it down, is insulting be, but because of the tone of my voice and the look on my face, you will know it’s not offensive for eyes, you know?

CLIVE (00:33:48):

Yeah. I mean, we’re the keepers of our own sense of humour, aren’t we? And, and if we don’t find it funny, then nobody, nobody else is gonna get it. That’s for sure. I get a big kick out of making people laugh or smile. It’s fulfilling. It’s, um, it’s infectious. It, it can be seductive. My wife thinks I’m humorous, you know, it’s central to our relationship, to our love. We laugh at the same things and it’s just the most lovely thing to see a smile on her face because of something that I’ve said. It’s, it, you know, it is one of the best sensations in, in human experience, sharing a laugh with somebody or, or making them smile. But I think it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself. You know, something that you mentioned to me when we set up this podcast, yet it’s crucial to the very existence of humour that you can laugh at yourself.


Because if you can’t, then you kill the laugh for everybody else. And it’s a, it’s a really endearing quality. You know, Roy Keen can laugh at himself, does laugh at himself, and if Roy can do it, we all can. I mean, I like to have, you know, the last word in any conversation, even with my wife, maybe even with you. But if that last word is kind of self effacing, if it’s self-deprecating in some way, then I think it qualifies and tempers your view or your humour. And, um, that, that’s, that’s where you can introduce some nuance by not only as you say facial expressions, but I say I got into a fat shaming storm at a soccer parade. I apologise to the two people who were offended. Neither apology was acknowledged. So presumably they weren’t actually accepted.


I didn’t actually use the word fat at any stage. And what I did say, one of the things that I said was that he’s on the same diet as me. Now, that doesn’t make it inoffensive what I said because I’m overweight too, but it kind of qualifies. It, it does in so much, there’s a certain amount of sympathy and empathy and understanding. I think if you are prepared to put yourself down a little bit in, in the process, and, you know, I think the best, the best comedians, I mean, Billy Connolly is a wonderful example of that, an absolutely heartwarming example of that. And the way he now deals with Parkinson’s is, is by, in part, by laughing at the things he can no longer do in life. And it just makes him so lovable. And really, I think once he’s, he’s brought you into his world in that way, then he is almost free to say whatever he likes because you instinctively, whether you’ve ever met him or not, like and love Billy Connolly. So away you go, Billy. Tell me.

PAUL (00:36:50):

One of my favourite clips recently, and you talked about Roy Keen, was you know, where, what was he saying about that? That he’s a baby <laugh>, and then they start laughing, and then he’s a baby and he does it a third time, and they roar in the studio with laughter, and he sees it in himself. You can tell and starts laughing at how seriously he takes himself.

CLIVE (00:37:18):

Yeah, I mean, I think f footballers are really interesting. There’s an image of footballers that are, they’re all thick, and not too many of them have got university degrees, but most of them have what I would call a street intelligence. It, it, you see it in the, in the way they play, and you hear it in their, in their banter. I mean, banter’s are kind of a dirty word now and I do think the dressing room culture is a harsh one, but it, it’s the language of football. And a actually ex-players like Roy find some of the same vibe when they join a broadcast team. And we all travel together and, and work together. I think we’re becoming more and more aware of the dangers of communal banter, more sensitive to possible victims of it. But I think if I’m, if I’m honest, and if we are realistic, it’s still a bit of a testing ground for the strength of a person’s personality within a team group, rightly or wrongly.


You know, I, I, listen, I love the crack, and I can usually look after myself in any exchanges. Um, the question is whether there is somebody who is struggling to look after themselves in those circumstances. And humour can be a very dangerous thing to weaponize if it becomes a bit of a bullying tool. And as I say, I think footballers find out about each other a little bit by winding each other up. We see it actually out on the field. Um, but it, and I think in the 21st century, in a more diverse dressing room where there were players who were maybe struggling with the language and so on and so forth, you’ve gotta be, you know, the manager and the captain have gotta be mindful of the, the impact. But that we, you know, when a a a group of people that together in some kind of team situation, you maybe just out having a bit of supper together and somebody sets off and says, oh, what are you like? And what do you like? That’s when it really starts the, the, the, the, the community, the com, the, the, you know, the community sharing, bonding between us comes out in our ability to see the comedy in each other. That’s often a test of real friendship, I think.

PAUL (00:39:33):

Well, that’s so true, because I worked for many years in rugby. I used to do a show called School of Hard Knocks, which you may know on Sky. And I did it with Will Greenwood and Scott Quinelle, and they’re quite big lads. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but

CLIVE (00:39:50):

<laugh> Yeah, they all are <laugh> <laugh>.

PAUL (00:39:53):

Well, but they’re like six six and, you know, and Scotty’s built like a, a brick outhouse as they used to say. And, uh, but what, when I first came into the show, they’d already been doing it a few months and I’d co come in and we ended up doing nine years together. They tried to slay me immediately, you know, because that’s, to see can you play, can you take it? Are you a team player? Are you part of the team In rugby? That’s what happens in a changing room in rugby and football everywhere, because it’s, are you up to this? Because we want to play. And it’s kind of like bringing people into the fold. And if you Yeah, if you can take a joke, you are accepted into the community.

CLIVE (00:40:44):

But it is dangerous. And I think we’ve become more and more aware of that. You know, I, I talked to the start of this about the, the intellect, if you like, of the people that, that made me laugh, uh, you know, the first people to, to make me laugh. Um, and you know, that I say that cleverness is, is a wonderful thing, as long as it isn’t used against somebody. I mean, you would hate to have been in an argument with, I don’t know, you know, Tony Hancock or, uh, Woody Allen, or, yeah, I mean, cuz these guys, and, and we, and we’d see, we, I mentioned Dara before, you know, they are so sharp, and if anybody starts to get a little bit too clever on the front row, these, these people can really look after themselves. And that’s kind of what struck me about those early comedians that I listened to.


There were a couple of radio shows, Adrian Just was the host of one of them, the mixed music with Comedy Clips, and that’s probably where I was first introduced to Hancock and certainly Woody Allen in his standup days, Bob Newhart, Joyce Grenfell, these, these incredibly, brilliant, innovative comedians who could make us laugh by reciting one side of a two-way conversation. You know, that was, I don’t know if they were the first to come up with that kind of comedy, but it, it absolutely struck me as being just brilliant and something that I wanted to aspire to. And I think I mentioned to you earlier that when I was at university, I wrote and acted in a comedy review, and we took it to Edinburgh two years. And one of the highlights of my stays in Edinburgh was to go to see the Cambridge Footlights of the Day, because they were the trailblazers. And these were the people that I’d become entrance by, you know, by Peter Cook and John Bird and Eleanor Bron, and Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett, and then obviously the Python guy Cleese, who it’s funny to me, to this day. And I was in awe of these people. And it was, I mean, quite apart from a laughing experience, it was a learning experience and just learning from their, well, to, to use the word again, their cleverness.

PAUL (00:43:15):

I think that’s so right. And it’s, while you were talking about that, I think it’s fascinating by the way that, I only found out today that you’d actually been in comedy in a sense with your university day before poetry after

CLIVE (00:43:33):


PAUL (00:43:34):

No, but one of the things that makes you, you stand out as a brilliant commentator is the, the lightness, the ability to, to get humour out of a situation because these are, you know, gladiatorial events that you are commentating on but you managed to see the light side of it. And actually true drama, which is what I think football is, is about the light and the shade and getting both sides into it.

CLIVE (00:44:05):

I think in, in communication of any kind, um, you’ve got to know your audience. Um, and you, I’m really probably my great mentor in the business that, um, the late Reg Gutridge, um, used to drum into me, identify your audience and commentate to them. And he would argue that, um, an England World Cup game to an audience of 25, 30 million people is almost a different sport to commentating on a, you know, Europa Conference League game, 5.30 on BT sport to whatever, 30,000 people because they’re football nuts. When England are playing at a World Cup, then your Uncle Joe and auntie Myra are watching their only football match of the year. They don’t know the offside law. And Reg would say, there’s almost an argument for explaining the offside law at some stage. And so when you’re trying to make people laugh, you really have got to go back to that responsibility that I talked about at the start.


Um, you know, I think humour is a great attention grabber. There’s so much content out there. Now, what tweets do we forward to our friends? We, we send humorous tweets on, you know, rich humour is engaging and engagement is the key to communication, but you’ve got to know your audience. I mean, I’ve heard Boris Johnson getting endless laugh at a Tory party conference with material that I haven’t found the least bit funny, actually, quite the bleeding opposite of funny. But if your humour works with your audience, you’ll win their attention and affection. And I do a little bit of lecturing now at a university up in, in the magistrate area. It’s, it’s essentially Gary Neville’s University, UA 92. And, um, uh, I put some content, or they put some content of me starting a lecture on preparing for a job interview online quite recently.


And it, it kind of went viral. And I started the lecture by walking in on the phone swearing, um, sounding like a, a real kind of Alan Sugar apprentice graduate, hard, hard ass hardheaded. Um, I ended the phone call, looked at the students, basically said, who are you? Ah, yeah, I know. Now, um, your second years, no, we’re third years. Oh, well I don’t read briefs. I’m far too important for that. In fact, I’m the only important person in this room cuz I’m the only person I’ve heard of. I’ve never heard of any of you. So you better listen to everything I’m gonna say. And went on. And I’m staring into these open eyes and open mouth thinking what the, is coming in here? And then of course after two minutes, I stop and I say, when you go into a job interview, um, the first 30 seconds of probably the most important 30 seconds you need to make an immediate impression.


I have just given you an illustration of how not to make a good impression in your first two minutes in the company of a room full of 150, 200 strangers, it might not have worked. You know, <laugh>, there, there’s a moment when I’m looking into their eyes thinking, are you getting this or are you not? And how far can I take this before I have to come back down and say, just kidding, this is me now. Yeah. But it’s grabbing. And if I just walked in and shuffled some papers and said, right, we’re gonna talk about job interviews that would’ve been somebody scoring within 30 seconds. You’ve gotta take that chance as, as a communicator in order to get attention. And as I say, there’s a wonderful tool like that.

PAUL (00:47:47):

I think that’s an, I just wondered, and earlier on I was thinking the analogy and you talked about attention grabbing and the ability to look after yourself, the comedic one of if anybody’s heckling to thing and the football one of, when you go on the pitch Roy Keen, and we are recording this on the day after the Arsenal lost three nil, and what happened in the first 10 minutes of that match was defining, was it not?

CLIVE (00:48:24):

Yeah, yeah. I mean, how footballs robberies tell, tell you that, you know, you start, started going badly. Um, I love my golf, you know, if I make a four at the first, I’ve got a chance. So I make a seven at the first I’m thinking I’m only 450 hours from a bar here, I could just turn around and walk in. You know, this isn’t gonna be my day. And hardened professionals, athletes are able to deal with setbacks far better than most of us. And I would think, yeah, standup comics have gotta have that, that ability too to, you know, ride the waves, ride the silences, you know, try to win over the audience. We’ve all been in an audience where the either a public speaker or, and it can happen at a wedding crikey, you know, where it’s just not working. This and tumbleweed, it’s all the way down from where you are once you get stuck on a ledge with no material that’s working here.

PAUL (00:49:32):

Well, it’s funny enough, we, we just had Alistair Campbell on the show for a second time, and he is, as you know, a huge football fan that we were talking about. He’d made up a word in his new book called Persivilliance and I said my favourite word was the Ian Dowie bouncebackability, <laugh>, but some people have that ability and isn’t that the thing that makes the difference? I mean, this is essentially a business podcast about humour, but doesn’t humour give you that bouncebackability whereby you can maybe laugh at yourself, not take yourself too seriously, and then perhaps turn the audience round?

CLIVE (00:50:14):

Yeah, I think I, I think probably the, the biggest lesson, if that’s what we’re trying to offer is to research and know your audience. I host corporate events of one kind or another, and I treat them like a football commentary. And you talked about my commentary charts at the start, which are the handwritten charts that I prepare with all the information that is there. Some people sort of say it’s, you know, to fill the quiet spots. No, it’s not. Uh, some people say it’s a safety net. Well, to a degree it’s a safety net. Yeah. But I think of it more as a comfort blanket. I think of it when I look down at my notes just before Mark Pugash or whoever hands to me, I’m thinking of myself. I’ve done my prep, I know more about the backdrop to this game than anybody listening or watching.


I’ve given myself a chance of getting this right. And I think if you go into, um, an industry awards, uh, um, event and you know something about that industry, you know, something about the people in the room and what they do and how they interact, then that you, you, you won’t, if particularly if you’re being paid, you owe it to them to do that basic research and get to know your audience. And if you can get to know your audience, then you’ve got a far better chance of pulling it off. And I would always start straight y you know, I think it’s sometimes a little too brave to weigh in and try to impose your sense of humour on an audience that you don’t know, an audience that haven’t actually paid to come and see you as a comedian or tuned in to watch you and listen to you as a football commentator.


You know, this is an audience from, I don’t know, the kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms sector. Then I try to do a little bit of work on, I obviously you get privy to who’s gonna win the awards, and I try to find out a little bit about them so they can talk about the impact that they’ve made in the industry. And you do see, you know, people who are considerably more A-, B- or C-list than I’ll ever be just taking the money and smiling and getting it all wrong. Well, yeah, good luck to you, but you, you, you’re not gonna get asked back to do that kind of event again. And that I take communication very seriously. If somebody had offered me at the age of, I don’t know, 16, 17 when I really, really wanted to work in this business, if somebody said to me, look like the bad news is you’re gonna become an accountant, you’re not going to, you’re not gonna get to work in, in media.


But as part of our crazy reality show, we’re gonna give you 30 seconds of network football commentary to 20 million people just as a kind of consolation prize. I try to treat every 30 seconds of commentary that I do like those 30 seconds. I think once you get a platform and an ability to communicate and speak to people, you should make every second count. And you certainly should put it as much thought into trying to do that as you can. I hate lazy broadcasting, lazy commentating. We are absolutely privileged to have this opportunity to do what we always wanted to do for a living. So honour that privilege and make sure that you are trying your very best to make every second count.

PAUL (00:53:48):

I couldn’t agree more. And I, I think there’s two words that come in that, that you obviously have in spades. It’s, it’s professionalism and respect. It’s, it’s, and that I think is something that our audience can take away. So I, on top of that, professionalism and respect and go, your humour really adds that extra dimension to your commentaries and that for me and obviously for my son, makes it really enjoyable to listen to you. You just talked about you didn’t do anything at the start of, you kept it straight at the start of, um, corporate. Do, do you think that someone can actually plan humour in a commentary or does it really have to just be natural?

CLIVE (00:54:35):

Well, I think when in the course of one’s research, my research is not, uh, certainly not just about facts and figures, uh, and stance. Um, again, it’s something that Reg Gutridge gave me. He said, you’re a journalist. It it what what you are, you’re a broadcast journalist. And so the important part of your job during a commentary is to editorialise as a journalist would to ask yourself, what’s the story here? And you can prepare for different eventualities. You can, you know, before a a a Champions League final, you, I mean, let’s go back to the one that you mentioned at the start. In 1999, Manchester United went to the final in Barcelona, as indeed Bayern Munich did to play for the treble, you know, to, they’d already, both teams had already won their national titles and their, their domestic FA Cups. So they were playing for unique trebles.


And so you can start to map out in your mind and maybe even make some sketches or some phrases on paper, you know, Manchester United win, Bayern Munich win. What does this mean? What is the editorial significance of the two results? And if something kinetic occurs to you, then yeah, sure, make, make a note of it. If it’s not cheating to try to anticipate how something’s gonna work out it’s scandalous to try to use the material where it doesn’t fit. You know, that I think that there are some of my brethren who should have a little crawler going across the bottom of the screen which says, I’ve fucking well done this research, so you’re fucking well gonna hear it <laugh>. You know, it’s, it’s facts. And by the way, I have a theory, every commentator should be allowed one fuck per season.


Fuck is an important word in football. There are certain things which happen on a football field where the only relevant thing you can say is, fuck, fuck. So we should be allowed one per season. We should use it very carefully, rather like cricket captain uses the reviews. You can only have that one, so don’t use it over something which is not use it when it really, really matters. I think it would improve commentary measurably, but there you go. You can give some thought to the different scenarios really and yeah, prepare thoughts and maybe phrases and maybe even comic moments, which will fit. But you, you can only use them when they fit because it stands out like they’re proverbial sore thumb when a commentator prises something in to a commentary, which they’ve thought about before, but doesn’t belong in that moment. Commentary is all about capturing moments.

PAUL (00:57:25):

You were very friendly with John Watson. Do you think Moty had it written beforehand in 1988 <laugh> that the Crazy Gang had beaten the Culture Club?

CLIVE (00:57:38):

Well, what if he did? It’s okay. It’s fine. The Creative Gang did beat the Culture Club. I mean, if he tried to say a minute before the end, you know, I’ve I whatever I thought the Culture Club would go over the Crazy. Yeah, exactly. He delivered it. Timing is it, timing is such a massive part of great comedy. I mean, all of those wonderful sitcoms that I grew up where the characters were so lovingly written. So you kind of knew what they would say, how they would react with certain situation. I mean, if, if John Le Mesurier was putting, putting away Arthur Low, it was the pause before the pop down which made that comedy gold in, in Dad’s Army and Dad’s Army looks terribly dated now. Well, it course it’s dated because it belonged in its moment.


It was brilliant in its moment. And we all get a little smile when they come up on some gold channel and we see Fawlty Towers all over and again, they’re never quite as good today. You know, I, I’ve tried to indoctrinate my gorgeous wife in the Fast Show. It doesn’t quite work anymore. Somehow it doesn’t feel quite as funny as it did at the time. And I’m slightly embarrassed by, you know, my fanaticism for it when I’m trying to show her a clip, which I think is funny. And that is so true of sport. I mean, everybody wants to try to compare Ronaldo with Pele or don’t, you know, Pele played in the sixties and seventies, fifties, sixties, seventies, Christiana Ronaldo played, you know, we are still playing now. Just accept that that is in that what belongs to this moment and that what we were talking about cancel culture and trying to rewrite novels and rewrite plays and take words out. No, no, no, no. Watch them in their context. I mean, if you don’t, if if they don’t, if if by putting them on 2023 TV is gonna offensively, don’t put it on, but have a link Till Death Us Do Part so people can see it as a part of the social history of this country and you can watch it in its context. And I think that’s really, really important and Moty at that moment. Nailed it.

PAUL (01:00:00):

He certainly did. And, very quickly, we’ve reached a part of the show, Clive, which we like to call quickfire questions. So we’ll make them that…


Who is the funniest business person that you’ve met? Or maybe football is your business? Maybe that

CLIVE (01:00:22):

Football is my business. The raconteurs McCoy, Martin O’Neil, Andy Townsend. They would be my perfect supper party yet.

PAUL (01:00:31):

Oh, perfect. What book makes you laugh, Clive?

CLIVE (01:00:35):

I’m not a great reader of books. I’m more a reader of columns and articles. I love great writing, Raphael be is my favourite political writer of the moment in the past. Clive James.

PAUL (01:00:47):

Oh, what a genius that man was. What film makes you laugh?

CLIVE (01:00:53):

Aeroplane repeatedly,

PAUL (01:00:55):

<laugh>, same jokes,

CLIVE (01:00:57):

Same laugh.

PAUL (01:00:59):

Surely you can’t be serious. <laugh>,

CLIVE (01:01:02):

Don’t call me Shirley <laugh>.

PAUL (01:01:05):

Taking a shift to the other side. I think we’ve already investigated this. What’s not funny?

CLIVE (01:01:13):

Miranda, Mrs. Brown Boys. I don’t get Fleabag, but it’s not aimed at me, which comes back to your audience. I don’t think Fleabags funny. But they didn’t make it for a 68 year old man.

PAUL (01:01:27):

Exactly. What word makes you laugh

CLIVE (01:01:35):

Mopnty Python and the Holy Grail,

PAUL (01:01:38):

We are no longer the knight who say “Ni” we are now the knights who say “Pteng”. Uh, what sound makes you laugh?

CLIVE (01:01:54):

Oh, sounds that shouldn’t make me laugh. <laugh>. I, I, as I grow older, I have less control over my body. <laugh>, you’ve gotta laugh

PAUL (01:02:05):

<laugh>. You have to.

CLIVE (01:02:07):


PAUL (01:02:08):

You went to Nottingham University, got a good degree. Would you rather be considered clever or funny?

CLIVE (01:02:17):

I’d take either

PAUL (01:02:19):

Take whatever you are given, I think, I think you’ve got both safely in the bag, Clive. And finally, Clive Desert Island. Gags. You can only take one joke with you to a desert island. What is it?

CLIVE (01:02:33):

I don’t really like jokes. I like stories. So put your safety belt on and listen to this story. I died yesterday and to my surprise, I went to heaven. And when I arrived at the pearly gates and Peter was there saying, thank goodness you are here. We’ve got a big match on, and we need a commentator. To be honest, it’s the only reason you’ve got in. John Watson came quite recently, but he’s far too expensive for us. I said, okay, if it means not a fiery infer, I’ll, I’ll come with you and commentate. So he leads me up this verdant pasture to the crest of a brow looking down on this celestial football field where the players are warming up. And I look down there and I see Paul Gascoigne and I’m alarmed. And I say to Saint Peter Gaza, he was much younger than me, what happened? And he goes, <laugh>, that’s not Gaza number eight. I said, yeah. He said, no, that’s God. I said, okay. And I watched him and I saw him strutting around in that rather upright running starly hand and holding people off as he did all those step overs and were so characteristic of Gaza. And I called Saint Peter back and I said, I’m sorry, that’s Gaza. That’s Paul Gascoigne. And Saint Peter put his arm on my shoulder and he said, don’t worry, it’s God. He just thinks he’s Paul Gascoigne

PAUL (01:03:58):

<laugh>. Oh, what a brilliant story and a brilliant gag at the same time. Clive Tilsly, you’ve been absolutely superb. I can’t believe that you, you’ve said that you don’t laugh at people falling over when you commentate on the Premier League, but it’s absolutely been wonderful to have you as part of the Humourology podcast. Thank you so much.

CLIVE (01:04:23):

My pleasure. Keep smiling.

PAUL (01:04:26):

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 reveiw wherever you get your podcasts. This has been a Big Sky Production.

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