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Transcript – Wayne Garvie

President of International Production at Sony Pictures Television Wayne Garvie joins Paul Boross on The Humourology Podcast to discuss humour’s role in the television industry. From connecting with creative teams to dealing with frequent failures, Garvie shares how humour is the glue that keeps everyone together. Learn how you can use your sense of humour to keep your people close, only on The Humourology Podcast.

PAUL BOROSS:

We are going in five. Good luck, studio. My guest on- Oh, hello. You just did…

WAYNE GARVIE:

I interrupted you by saying your old ham. Just, sorry.

PAUL BOROSS:

Welcome to the Humourology podcast with me, Paul Boross. Please remember to like, subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts.

My guest on this edition of the Humourology Podcast started his career as a sports researcher for Grenada Television and now serves as the president of international production at Sony Pictures Television. His work has led to the acquisition and production of some of the biggest hits in the world, including The Crown and Sex Education, just to name a couple.

Before his time at Sony, he served as managing director of content and production at BBC Worldwide, where his team was responsible for shows like Dragons Den, Dr. Who, and Strictly Come Dancing, which holds the record for the most successful reality television format sold in over 60 international markets. When he isn’t spreading quality television programming across the globe, you can find him sitting in his own special seat at Old Trafford as a devoted Manchester United fan. Wayne Garvie, welcome to the Humourology Podcast.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Oh, thank you, Paul. Nice to be here.

PAUL BOROSS:

Well, it’s lovely to have you and you must be pleased that United look like they are going to make it into Europe.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Well, Paul, my youngest daughter and I go to a lot of away games and cup finals, of which we’ve got one coming up, and I don’t think there’s anything in life which has got the potential to be the greatest amount of pleasure, which is stopping City winning the treble weighed against the greatest possible human misery of being at Wembley when they turn us over and when the FA Cup on their way to a treble. I can’t imagine there’s any other thing in life that has, within 90 minutes, the potential for such pleasure and such pain.

PAUL BOROSS:

Yeah, it’s proper drama, isn’t it?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Oh, football, sport is the best drama. I mean, that’s the thing. And some of these stories that City will sing of United fans, we live in the past because we’ve got a glorious past and some of the drama. What’s interesting about, this has now become a football podcast, Paul, is the story of the 1999 season at Manchester United School is one of unbelievable drama and last minute wins, et cetera. I think the sad thing about City is, City are a brilliant machine. I know the people who run the club, they’re unbelievably fit, they’re brilliant at what they do. But there isn’t the romance and the drama this season that you had in 1999 with the late goals against Liverpool in the FA Club and the FA Cup semifinal the Juventus European… Shall I shut up now, Paul, so we can …?

PAUL BOROSS:

No, because as a United fan I could talk about this all day, to be honest with you. And funnily enough, earlier this week we just recorded Clive Tildesley, who-

WAYNE GARVIE:

Oh, my friend Clive.

PAUL BOROSS:

Yeah.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Clive and I worked together at Granada, as you said in that sort of thing of my career. We worked together there and we still, I think we’ve got, with our wives, got dinner coming up quite soon.

PAUL BOROSS:

Well, then you can both discuss your time on the Humourology podcast. I’m sure you’re going to discuss…

WAYNE GARVIE:

That’s all we’ll talk about it.

PAUL BOROSS:

So anyway, you were born in Plymouth, in Devon, where your father was a Royal Marine and your mother was a shop worker. Was humour actually valued in your family?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yeah, actually humour… My dad comes from one of nine kids and his family had been moved out of London in the war to Suffolk and I grew up in Suffolk after he got out of the Marines. And it was quite a matriarchal collection of, there were seven sisters, two brothers, and my grandmother, who was quite an extraordinary character. Some would say an alcoholic. And many stories about her, most of them I couldn’t really repeat here. But however, humour was always something that… and when you get together now, and it was that sort of piss-taking I learned at a very early age actually, because it was a big family on my father’s side and they all lived and lot of the daughters all married American servicemen to get out of Britain, to go to America. So I’ve got family all around America. But it was all, when we got together for family gatherings, there was that sort of quick-witted humour, which is always, yeah, that was part of our sort of family growing up.

PAUL BOROSS:

So, I mean, you went to Woodbridge school after that. Was humour part of that coping mechanism?

WAYNE GARVIE:

I was an 11 + boy. I went to a grammar school which then went private because grammar school, I’m so old that I actually went to a grammar school. And I found it quite tough actually. Because I came from a very different background to most, I was a scholarship boy or whatever. And I suppose you had to… Yes. Not by being the clown jester, but humour was something definitely… Yes, it was something I had to use to find my position in that sort of society, as it were.

PAUL BOROSS:

So would you say that that whole Jesuit thing of give me a child of seven and I will give you the man was true of you? The humour was already there, you were …

WAYNE GARVIE:

Well, that’s a very strange analogy. The Jesuits and a family. The Jesuits, you actually take someone out of their family thing and do something else different to them. Paul, by the way, I had no idea when I signed up to this, it was going to go into a long story about my life. I can’t imagine there’s anyone listening to this who’s interested in this, by the way.

PAUL BOROSS:

But this is quite extraordinary.

WAYNE GARVIE:

I don’t know about that. I think humour is something I… No, I love the British sense of humour, actually. And I love the fact we don’t, that thing about why is there fascism, why did fascism never really take a hold in Britain in the 1930s in some of our neighbours? And one of the reasons might be you can’t take someone seriously goose stepping, yeah. You just can’t. There’s something about the British, we like to prick pomposity, don’t we? And I still think that’s part of the British character. Humour is part of what we do. I love the British sense of humour.

PAUL BOROSS:

Well, it’s interesting because you spent a lot of time in LA, obviously.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yes.

PAUL BOROSS:

As have I, and I’ve lived there. What’s the contrast there? I mean, they don’t really understand the sardonic side of the humour, do they?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yeah, they don’t get irony, do they? I remember being with Clarkson, Jeremy Clarkson and I were in LA once. And we were talking to some, oh God, I can’t, this is going to be a terrible story now, because I can’t actually remember the story. But we were talking to some Americans, we were talking about irony and then again, you don’t really get irony. And he made some ironic statement, and they didn’t get it. And that was the evidence. They just don’t get it. They don’t get that at all. But they fall for our charm a bit, don’t they? And that’s the thing about America, of course. America is this huge continent and there’s lots of different Americas within United States of America. So you’ve got to be careful you don’t just see the LA bubble as the whole of America.

PAUL BOROSS:

In New York, I find that they have got that, there seems to be more of a link to Europe.

WAYNE GARVIE:

That’s true.

PAUL BOROSS:

And their humour is therefore sharper, I would say.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yes. And it’s very European. It’s that very Jewish humour as well, isn’t it? And there are European Jews who came over with that brilliant sense of humour that they have. So yes, you’re right.

PAUL BOROSS:

Did you ever see the Neil Simon play, Laughter on the 34th Floor?

WAYNE GARVIE:

No.

PAUL BOROSS:

Which was all about Our Show of Shows.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Oh yeah, yeah.

PAUL BOROSS:

The Sid Caesar. And the writer’s room in that was everybody from Woody Allen to Mel to, I mean, it was literally everybody who went on to change the whole face of comedy in that room. Highly recommend it if you haven’t.

You’ve got a PhD.

WAYNE GARVIE:

I have.

PAUL BOROSS:

Very few people in television have a PhD. And I understand from our conversations that you at one stage were even thinking of becoming a politician. What kind of politician would you have made, do you think?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Well, probably not a successful one. That’s the first thing. I think, I’ve always been interested in politics. I’ve been a member of the Labour Party since I was 16. So I joined when I was old enough to join. And I left a couple of times, the Iraq War, obviously. But I keep coming back to the Labour Party. And so I call myself a socialist. I’m a socialist. I believe in that society should be organised for the benefit of the many rather than the few. And that’s something I really believe in. I’ve got lots of friends who don’t share those views. But that’s something I feel very passionate about.

I think the trouble with politics is – show business for ugly people and all that – I mean, politics now is, if you look at the government, it’s full of people who failed to make their mark in other places. The tour get… If you look at these people like Raab, Patel, all of them, none of them have been successful in the jobs, the careers they set out to do. So they all fell into politics. And I find it inexplicable that somehow they end up running the country. They’re completely, they’ve got no background. They’ve got no ability. Apart from having a view.

Michael Gove is a columnist in the newspaper. That’s it. David Cameron was a privileged guy who was a very poor communications guy at Carlton TV who once pretended to be a cleaner to avoid a call from a journalist. These people are not high achievers. And I think that’s one of the sad things in our society, that public service has been kind of devalued, and it’s people of my generation to blame for it, really.

People like me had a choice, probably, back in how long ago it was. And perhaps we’d have been… I mean, not just me, but lots of people I know, perhaps we should have gone down that route, gone off had careers. What I loved about politicians in the past, I’m not saying they were necessarily better, was a lot of them had a hinterland, didn’t they? Particularly after the second World War, you had all these people who had served in war, Dennis Healy, even MacMillan. MacMillan’s whole ethos of being a One Nation Tory was because he had been in the trenches of working-class people and seen the sacrifices they make and the humour of them and everything else. Which is why he was opposed to a lot of what Thatcher did in the 1980s.

I don’t know where I’m going on this again. But anyway-

PAUL BOROSS:

But it’s interesting.

WAYNE GARVIE:

How has this got to do with Humourology, Paul? This is just-

PAUL BOROSS:

Well, no, well Humourology is a broad church… It’s very interesting because people think that Humourology is just about jokes and funny, but actually Humourology is about good humour. It’s about humility, it’s about humanity, and all those things that come into play as a result of it. So actually, what you are saying is really interesting. I mean, who goes into politics now? Is it the people with humility, humanity, or any kind of good humour?

WAYNE GARVIE:

There’s that Martin Amos quote, isn’t there? Which, again, I can’t remember now, that I saw this week, which is something about the people who rule us basically have no sense of humour and they’ve got no humanity to them, really. I remember I was very excited, obviously, like most people were in 1997. I was director of television at Granada when Labour won the election. And I remember that weekend very, very well. It was very sunny weekend. I came down to London actually. And we took a friend’s son, it was just in a buggy around Downing Street. It was an exciting moment. You thought the world was going to change even though you sort of knew cynically it probably wouldn’t.

And then over that period in the next couple of years, I got to know lots of the New Labour intake of new MPs. And it was so disappointing, because they were, I suppose what we would’ve called at University careerists, really. And they didn’t have any personality. And then you’d meet, of course, the Tories, they were quite good fun. There’s nothing more terrible than that.

But humour in that situation – can be in politics. It is like Johnson and his whole bumbling oaf sort of shtick. It’s interesting how people play on those things, don’t they? To create a caricature of a human being that they play to rather than the real person. And occasionally the real person comes out, doesn’t it? You see that?

PAUL BOROSS:

Yeah. Well, it’s the Rishi Sunak, when he was asked the question he didn’t like and you suddenly, yeah, he suddenly turned. And you would see that with Boris Johnson as well. But they seem to do the kind of overriding I am humorous and nice thing, but it’s very skin deep, isn’t it?

WAYNE GARVIE:

I think so. They don’t really believe it, do they? They’re saying what they can to… Perhaps we all do that. I mean perhaps in my, what do I spend most of my time doing? Selling things, really, selling programmes, selling people, selling Sony, selling myself to people. And you do have to create a public persona, don’t you? Which is different to the private persona. So perhaps we’re all guilty of that.

PAUL BOROSS:

Well, to an extent. But you’ve been very successful in your career and I think that-

WAYNE GARVIE:

Thank you.

PAUL BOROSS:

… We’ve had conversations whereby I think that you actually embody the whole Humourology concept in the sense that you do really like people. You do, really.

WAYNE GARVIE:

I do like people.

PAUL BOROSS:

And you are not playing at that. You are seeing the good side of people most of the time. And I mean, I’ve heard you say, “My job is to create an environment where talented people can fulfil their potential.” What part does humour play in that role?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Well, our job in TV is really about failure, actually. Because most of the things that we develop don’t get sold, don’t even get made. And then most of the things that do get made meets widespread indifference from the audience. Widespread indifference , second is failure, followed by widespread indifference. Because I look about, when I was head of entertainment at the BBC, we had two shows that were created that were huge hits, which were Strictly Come Dancing, that then became Dancing with the Stars Around the World, and Dragon’s Den. But no one remembers the, I don’t know, 20 other shows that we made that no bugger can remember because they weren’t, although there was one that was really, really good.

Anyway, but it’s failure. And so my job as someone who leads/overseas a bunch of creative companies and lots of creative people is basically to support people when things go wrong, really. It’s easy to be there when things go right.

By the way, I like being there when things go right, don’t get me wrong. But my job is to really dust people down after they’ve collapsed in a heap after something’s gone wrong, pick them up, dust them down, and push them out again to have another go. And a lot of that is, of course, you’ve got to use humour. And it is about…

To your point, they are nice things you’re saying about me and I’m glad the cheque did arrive in time for this, but I like people and I like people in all their complexity and difficulties. As I’ve got older, I’ve realised that there are people I work with who sometimes say and do things that you think, well you shouldn’t do. And I’ll talk to them about it. And sometimes they’ll listen and sometimes they don’t. But human life is all about complexity, really.

And I think humour is a way that cuts through a lot of that, isn’t it? And you’ve got to be humorous. You’ve got to embrace humanity, I suppose. So to your definition of Humourology, it’s about understanding people and liking people and wanting people to do great things. I love it. I mean, that thing you hate it when your friends are successful. Actually, I’m quite the reverse. I love it. I like it better when people I don’t know are successful. I’m still someone who sends people little handwritten notes if I see something that’s a brilliant piece of television or something, because I think people should be told when they do great things.

PAUL BOROSS:

I couldn’t agree more. I do exactly the same thing. And if you actually glory in other people’s success, that is having good humour. And I actually think that it also aids resilience, doesn’t it? Because if you don’t take things too seriously…

WAYNE GARVIE:

I’ve had, like all of us in our careers, I’ve had some terrible moments. I mean, things have gone pretty awful. I mean, I ruined The Krypton Factor, which was the very successful television show for 20-something years. And I took it off-air. And when something like that happens, which can be, there’s two ways to respond. You either go in a corner and cry for quite a long period of time. Believe me, you do. But also you just got to face up to it. Because actually it’s when things go wrong, you realise, actually, that’s when you take your lessons in life.

No one really sits around thinking in too much detail about why things really go well. It’s really when that deep dark look into your soul, et cetera. And I realised early on that when things go wrong, you’ve got to face up to it. You’ve just got to recognise it. There’s no point lying about it. And the only way you can really do that is by humour, actually. Because actually that becomes… I’m very, very open with people I work with, particularly young people about things I’ve got wrong, because you want to encourage them. Because if they don’t, things will go wrong in their careers and their lives. And they’ve got to learn how to respond to that in the right way, I think. And a lot of the time, yeah, it’s about having a positive, humorous outlook on life.

PAUL BOROSS:

Well yeah, it gives you a different perspective, doesn’t it? I mean, I think the term failing funny, i.e., you look at it in a different way and then you go, “Well, do you know what? It’s going to make a great story.” Your story about screwing up The Krypton Factor is a story that you own.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yes, yes.

PAUL BOROSS:

And you make it funny. So you reframe the whole thing in your own mind, don’t you?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yes. I think that’s a good way of looking at it, actually. It’s so true. I think you have to own your failures as well as your successes.

PAUL BOROSS:

So can you be a great communicator without understanding humour?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Oh, that’s a good point. Well, I don’t know. Was Abe Lincoln a gag master? I don’t know if he was really, he is probably a good communicator. I don’t know. You could be, I suppose. But I couldn’t. Most of my, one of the few things I’m good at is getting up in front of people and doing a speech off the cuff. I’m quite good at it. I’m available to for hire for that. And I’m quite, I know I’m good at it and I like an audience for whatever reason. I like getting up and I like doing a thing. And sometimes, by the way, I can get a bit near a knuckle and some of my leaving speeches for people. But by and large, I think I get away with it. And so I think humour is a part of communicating with people because people remember the gags, don’t they?

PAUL BOROSS:

But that’s pretty much it. And you are a master of communication in that-

WAYNE GARVIE:

Oh, you are a charmer.

PAUL BOROSS:

No, well, all right. I mean, I’m blowing some smoke. I know, but-

WAYNE GARVIE:

You need some more kindling.

PAUL BOROSS:

But actually the reason that you do it is because you say you enjoy it and you actually, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have a lot of people who obviously hate it because there’s 70% of people’s worst nightmare is to stand up and do it. What advice would you give to people who have to get up and speak at work events or weddings or whatever?

WAYNE GARVIE:

You just got to throw yourself into it. And you’ve got to control… People got nervous about getting on the stage, don’t they? And I think first of all, you’ve got to own the stage physically. You got to walk around and you got to give eye contact with people. Once you get, obviously not stare at them continually, Paul, like you do in that sort of slightly stalkerish way.

But no, you’ve got to work the room. It’s all about those things that just when you come on, you own the space. Once you own the space physically, you are confident about talking, I think. And you got to be very physical about it. You’ve got to use your arms, you hands. And I always think when you address a group, you’re trying to get as much eye contact as possible. And then if you are doing a work thing or something where people in the crowd, I always have a few people I’d pick on in inverted commerce. It’s like any standup comedian, you see them go on, they’ll get their mark in the audience and they’ll keep going back to that person or what have you. But it builds up a rapport with people. And that’s what you are always looking for when you are communicating with people, isn’t it? A rapport. How do you make them all feel they’re part of the conversation and engaged? There’s nothing more, when you do presentations and you look around the room, you see someone falling asleep. I mean that’s pretty, we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

PAUL BOROSS:

No. It’s also, what you are talking about there in terms of psychology, is you are talking about state management. You are managing your state. And there’s a saying with, if you want anyone to go into any state, you have to go into that state first. And you’re kind of doing the look, I’m relaxed and then everybody goes, somebody’s in charge.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yeah, yeah, you’re absolutely right.

PAUL BOROSS:

You’ve known many, many successful people, obviously, throughout the years from sports. I’m think it’s Sir Alex and stars all over the world. What is that special sauce that they have? No, no, but is humour part of that special sauce that gives them that elevation?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yeah, I think so. I mean, I spent quite a bit of time with Fergie when I was younger. I mean, he was very kind to me. He was very kind to me… he had a terrible temper and you just occasionally see that at times, I remember. But he was very kind to young people.

Kenny Dalglish was the other one. When I was a sports, when I started, I had two teams to look after, which was Man U with Fergie and Liverpool with Dalglish . I remember once ringing up Dalglish to ask for an interview for, we did this weekly football show. And I remember and we wanted, I can’t remember, we had Bruce Grobbelaar something. And he was like, “No, why do you want to talk to Bruce?” I’d go, “Well, he’s playing his 600th game,” or some nonsense like that or whatever.

They go, “No, no, no, no, you don’t want to talk to him, you want to talk to Stevie Nichol.” And Stevie Nichol was a great footballer. Was, of course, a terrible speaker. And Dalglish knew this, and Dalglish knew I didn’t want him, and he was just taking the piss, really. And first of all, you go because you’re intimidated because you’re a young man and this is one of the greatest footballers and football managers have ever. What a great man, Kenny Dalglish is. And you realised, yeah, you got to get on their wavelength, you got to find their humour. And their humour is great. And then you realise as well, humour is a way that does, once you get on that, it means you no longer see Kenny Dalglish as this iconic figure that you are not fit to kiss at the hem of his dress, but actually as someone you can relate to.

And that’s what great people, I think, find a way to… I haven’t met people like Obama or Clinton or people like that, but people always say their communication skills – making everyone feel it was just about you and them. And they would obviously use humour and humanity within that.

PAUL BOROSS:

Yeah. Well, I am lucky enough to have met Bill Clinton and it was extraordinary, because I fell a little bit in love. He does that thing, there’s some kind of magic, charisma, extra chromosome, whatever you want to call it, where… And part of that is about finding a wavelength. You use that term, getting on somebody’s wavelength, but isn’t humour the most direct way to get on somebody’s wavelength? If you can laugh together, you are sharing something, aren’t you?

WAYNE GARVIE:

I think that’s right. And once you, of course, if you know you’re going to have a difficult conversation with someone, which in my line of work, you have to have a lot of that. The way you cut through it and sort of backstop is always the humour. Once you build that relationship, we can laugh about something. You can even approach some really difficult conversations through the humour, can’t you? Because you’ve got that, you can make light of it. And before they realise it, they’ve realised, “Oh yeah, you’re serious about this.”

And yeah, a lot of people, I suppose criticise me. Do they? Is itcriticism… Sometimes it’s sort of sounds like it. And they go, “Oh yeah, when you make light of something, we know it’s when it’s serious.” Because sometimes you tackle a very serious issue or problem you’ve got by going about it in a humorous way and what have you. And then they realise, “Oh no, there’s a serious point to it.” So that’s the way in. I suppose I do that. I can’t think of any examples or certainly none that I can tell you about. But yeah, I do that quite a bit, thinking about it. Oh my God, this is like being on the humour couch, isn’t it?

PAUL BOROSS:

What it’s here for is to give you a moment to actually think about how important what you do. And I invite people on who I know have a brilliant sense of humour, but it’s part of that therapist thing of why does it work, you as a company you own Who Wants to be a Millionaire? And I was wondering, because you had the idea to put Jeremy Clarkson in the hot seat.

WAYNE GARVIE:

I did.

PAUL BOROSS:

And I think that the difference that made a difference was his humour in that chair. And it suddenly elevated the show to another place. Were you conscious of that at the time?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Well, for some time I’ve been thinking about how we could bring Millionaire back, because it’s a very valuable piece of IP that, as you say, we own. And Chris Tarrant had obviously done an amazing job. I mean, he was the one who started what became the biggest game show in history and it was all down to Tarrant and he got it brilliantly right.

And funny enough, I always fancied Bill Clinton to do it, because you need somebody… See the thing about Millionaire is, you’ve got to be smart on that show because technically, it’s quite a difficult show to do. But also you’ve got to, and this is what… So I’ve known Clarkson for quite a while. And I don’t know why I didn’t have the idea five years earlier. I mean, it’s funny where ideas come from, but then one day I just thought, “I’d watch Clarkson do that. Clarkson could do that, of course he could do that.” And I rang him up and said, “Look, I’ve got this idea, but I don’t want to tell you over the phone because I think you’re going to laugh at me, but I want to come and tell you about it.”

And I had this speech prepared why you should do it, all these reasons why the show was brilliant. And I sat down and I got my speech ready and I went, so he said, “Well what is it and what is this about?” I said, “I want you to present Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” And he went, “I’m in.” And I went, “Oh no, hold on.What do you mean you’re in? No, no, no, no, no, no, no. What do you mean you’re in?” And he said, “Well, don’t you know I love quizzes?” And I said, “No, I don’t know you love quizzes. I think I knew you love to play Scrabble, but whatever.” He said, “Yeah, and the greatest quiz of all time is Who Wants to be a Millionaire? And I can’t imagine anything I’d more want to do.”

And then I went, “Well, I’m not sure you can do it. You’ve got to prove to me you can do it.” “You’ve just offered it.” I said, “I’m not going to ITV with it until you prove to me you can do it.” So we got some people in, we flew them over from Ireland and we did this sort of test in the office somewhere. And what was brilliant was that Matthews, the producer of the show, had come up with the idea that we had this ask the host extra round, which I think is a bit of genius. And because it allows Jeremy to… it puts him once more on the side of the contestant.

And the thing about Jeremy is that he and I differ on quite a lot of things, quite a lot of things we have quite big rows about, and we quite enjoy the cut and thrust of that. But basically people love the farm show, the Clarkson Farm Show, and people will say to me, “I love him in that show. He’s great in that show.” And I go, that’s the Jeremy Clarkson I love. Because that’s the Clarkson I know who is self-deprecating, a bit of an idiot, a complete tosser. But there’s something great about him.

And the thing about a Millionaire is he’s brilliant at it because he wants people to win and he wants them to do their best. And what disappoints him about some of the contestants is when they let themselves down or they’re not quite brave enough or they’re not, because he wants them to do so well.

I mean, he shed a tear when we had our first millionaire winner. I was there. I went down there, I said, “You’re crying.” And he went, “No, I’m not.” And I think he was, because actually it’s about the humanity. But yes, he has brought, he’s a different take on it and he brings humour to it. And yeah, he’s great. He’s great on it. He’s great.

Yeah, it’s very rare in television you have these ideas that you are actually able to follow through on them and they actually work. And that’s one of the rare times when it’s actually happened.

PAUL BOROSS:

Well, it’s brilliant. So what makes you laugh?

WAYNE GARVIE:

My wife claims I don’t laugh that much. And her greatest success in life is making me giggle, because she loves it when I laugh, which I think is a little bit unfair.

So what makes me laugh? I don’t know. Lots of things make me laugh, I think. The idiocy of modern life, the Tory party, these idiots running the country. I mean. I was watching that. Can you ask me, what if Suella Braverman, did you see that interview? I mean, this is going to date this thing, but she’s basically done something on speeding whatever, who knows what she’s done. But when she’s asked the question, rather than just going, rather than saying, “First of all, I got caught speeding, I got the points, I paid the fine. End of story.” That sort of end, everyone goes, fair enough, I don’t really care what, you might have tried it, whatever.

Instead, she comes over at this parroting, “My focus is on the five priority as the government.” And you’re going, “No, no.” You suddenly, now, we think there’s smoke, there’s not just a smoke, there’s a forest fire behind you. Anyway, so that makes me laugh. And oh, I know people make me laugh. People doing, just people because we do silly things. My daughters make me laugh. A couple of idiots. I mean, lots of people, even you occasionally made me laugh.

PAUL BOROSS:

Well, yeah, well let’s not go too far. Okay. No. But it is about that ability to actually see the silly, isn’t it?

WAYNE GARVIE:

I think the absurdity in life… Look, one thing I will say is I did – talking about my lovely wife- I did say to her very early on in our relationship, don’t take me too, I can’t take myself too seriously. I work in an absurd industry of nonsense and I’m a laughable figure within that. Because I think taking yourself too seriously is the worst thing in life. If you can’t laugh at yourself, then I think you’re a very poor soul. And so probably the person I laugh at most is probably my own idiocy.

PAUL BOROSS:

No, but that’s brilliant. I mean, I think it’s actually very, very important for people to be able, because otherwise you become a Tory MP and you can’t see the funny side of we are all fundamentally ridiculous.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yes we are. Yes we are. We are absolutely ridiculous.

PAUL BOROSS:

And that’s a great answer. It’s one of my favourite answers.

WAYNE GARVIE:

That’s why you should never look at yourself dancing or having sex, should you, I don’t think. Because yes, that would be taking it to a, yes.

PAUL BOROSS:

Note to self, get rid of the mirror above the bed.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yes, yes. I would.

PAUL BOROSS:

As a fan of Manchester United – I love to go back to Manchester United – have you ever found any inspiration or parallels between the worlds of television production and the world of football?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. All the time. I started my career under a legendary head of Granada Sport called Paul Doherty, whose father was a great Irish footballer, who also managed Manchester City for a while when they weren’t very good. And Paul ran us like a sports unit. And what you realised was teamwork, everything, loyalty to each other. And also what you often do is you got to have a common enemy. Ferguson’s brilliant at that. But I saw that, you see that in other people. You got to have someone outside who you are against or something that you can judge yourself about. And I think in a lot of the places I’ve run and stuff like that will always had that.

And then the other great thing, I think about this a lot with Ferguson, was he created three, possibly four great teams, and he never rested on his laurels. And there’s that thing about when you look at the growth of any company in any industry, there’s a curve of growth. And then it inevitably tapers off. And the thing to do is just before you reach the peak, you have to change things to do that. And I was mindful of that in some of the places I’ve worked. How you particularly, I was working at BBC Entertainment, you can’t rest on your laurels. You’ve got to unfortunately get rid of Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, and Andrei Kanchelskis because you’ve got the Nevilles, Beckham, and Scholes coming through. And then you have to get rid of Beckham because you’ve got Christiano Ronaldo coming through or whatever. It’s constant reimagining yourself. And that’s quite…

And the other thing about football is that football changes all the time. And we’re always trying to compare this team’s better than that team, which obviously you can’t do, it’s a different game. But football changes quite dramatically. And also new stars come up the whole time. And if you’re interested in football, you’ve got to be a talent monitor and so on like that. And you have to do that in my game as well. You’ve got to be aware who’s coming up and you’ve got to change your style of play to the environment.

I mean, I started out… At Sony when I arrived, we were largely non-scripted, shows like game shows and what have you. Now we’re mostly a scripted company because we could see a change coming with the growth of streaming services. And we acquired Left Bank and we bought Eleven films and Bad Wolf. And now we’re doing really well on that. But you constantly, I keep thinking to myself, well what’s next? What’s going to change? And so on. And I think also the great thing about it is how you keep yourself fresh.

And I mean, how did Ferguson stay at the top for so long? Because he kept renewing himself, but he kept finding that unbelievable passion and desire to be at the top. And that’s really difficult in any walk of life. And most football managers have a strict shelf life. It’s getting younger. You’ve got a lot of football managers now are in their thirties. They’ll probably be burnt out by the time they’re 50. It used to be you become a football manager probably around about 40, you get to 50. I mean, some of these great managers like Shankly and Busby weren’t that old when they retired, what we look at now. I’m probably too fond of the football analogy.

PAUL BOROSS:

No, I don’t think you can be too fond, because I think it’s very relevant. I also think, what I wanted to just delve very quickly into was putting personalities together, which this is the Humourology project. How are you doing that? What are you looking at? Because what Fergie was a genius at was making sure that those personalities jelled, whether that was humour or whether that was humanity. What’s your idea on that? How do you give people jobs, for instance? What’s it based on?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Well, you’ve got to be very careful, haven’t you, that you don’t go for the sort of people like us. You employ people like you. One of the great things about having a mixture of companies is that you understand you need the diversity of voice and opinion and so on. And that one of the challenges in our industry is how do we get greater diversity? And for me, it’s not just about race and ethics to see, it’s about class as well. And I think about that a lot. And I don’t think I’ve been as achieved as much in that as I should have done. But I think it is about finding that…

It’s brilliant, isn’t it? You work out, I remember when I was at BBC Worldwide we set up a lot of independent companies, because we weren’t allowed to buy any companies. So I decided, well I’m going to set up my own. And then you look at, you want a creative lead probably, and you want someone who does the business. And that was a little model with you. And we set a couple of companies. That was really good. We always found a yin to someone else’s yang. And then you work out well then you need someone else as the company grows bigger, what else do you need? And what strengths are that person? And the weaknesses of that?

And also, one of the other things is about letting people go, which is the most difficult thing in many ways, because you grow up together, you have a team, and you achieved good things, great things together. And then you’ve got to recognise, sometimes you’ve got to move people, on because people become… At some stage, someone’s going to move me on from this job, I hope.

I mean, one day someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and go, “It’s all over, mate.” And that’s right, and that’s proper, and that’s where it should go. But as leader of these businesses, you’ve got to take that view. And sometimes that means you have to make very difficult decisions when you know there are human beings involved, because it’s about the business. Or Ferguson’s case, the football club. There were people he had had since the age of 16 who he cared about deeply, but he was able to take that, someone would call it ruthless. I wouldn’t, I just think it’s-

PAUL BOROSS:

Clarity. It’s clarity, isn’t it?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yeah. And then you’ve got to handle, I mean, Ferguson sometimes got it wrong, few people. But then you’ve got to handle it, right? You’ve got to help people exit in a way that respects them and demonstrates what they have brought to you as a… I think that’s important.

PAUL BOROSS:

Respect. Respect, which is all, and doing it the right way. Well Wayne, we’ve reached the point of the show, which we like to call quickfire questions.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Okay. All right.

PAUL BOROSS:

Okay.

JINGLE:

Quickfire questions.

PAUL BOROSS:

Who’s the funniest business person that you’ve met in your career?

WAYNE GARVIE:

I think Tim Hincks is a very funny man, my friend Tim. In terms of, and David Quantick, who’s a writer who’s worked on notes stuff. I always think Quantick might be. Johnny Vaughn introduced me to him back in the day and said, “Quantick is the funniest man in England.” And I’ve always thought Johnny was absolutely right about that. And Quantick is still probably the funniest man in England.

PAUL BOROSS:

I’m going to have both of them on the show, just on your recommendation.

WAYNE GARVIE:

You won’t be disappointed.

PAUL BOROSS:

What book makes you laugh?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Well, look, I used to always be a big fan, you might find this odd, really. But I’ve always loved those Evelyn Waugh – Vile Bodies, Decline and Fall. A book that I read recently that really made me laugh is The Trees by Everett Percival, was it Percival Everett? Oh, whatever. Which is a brilliantly black humour book, which I can’t recommend enough. That made me laugh. I always liked satire, I suppose. As a kid, I loved Swift – Gulliver’s Travels and Candide – Voltaire and all those kind of things. Those classic humorous stuff.

PAUL BOROSS:

What film makes you laugh?

WAYNE GARVIE:

There’s one scene that I come back to, there’s a film called Best In Show, which is about a dog show. And in it Eugene Levy plays a charater who has two left feet – they are literally two left feet – and I don’t know what that makes me laugh. Whenever I see it, that little scene, it always makes me laugh.

PAUL BOROSS:

Well, of course, it’s Christopher Guest isn’t it? Who also did Spinal Tap. Genius. Actually everybody talks about Spinal Tap but I think Best in Show is right up there with it.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yeah, I agree.

PAUL BOROSS:

Let’s take a shift to the other side. What’s not funny?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Racism, mysogony, any other exploitation of other human beings. I think mysogony is one of the worst things. I hate it. You see some of these attitudes coming back and I thought we’d moved on from that. I have a poster in my office which says “Work Hard and be Kind”. One of the great things about living in London is that it is genuinely one of the most tolerant places in the world.

PAUL BOROSS:

Couldn’t agree more. What word makes you laugh?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Boross!

PAUL BOROSS:

(Laughs) Do you know what it means, by the way? Bor in Hungarian is wine, I am the keeper of the wine.

WAYNE GARVIE:

In so many ways.

PAUL BOROSS:

What sound makes you laugh?

WAYNE GARVIE:

I don’t know. I’ve got a Tesla and it makes a farting sound when you turn. When you first get it you think “This is ridiculous. Why is someone gone to this effort? This is a ridiculous thing.” And then you call, put the kids in or whatever, or friends, and you drive around and it starts farting. And each farting noise is different. It’s the most childish thing in the world. And yet it’s brilliant that someone’s just done. It’s ridiculous. I’m laughing about it.

PAUL BOROSS:

There you go. Penultimate question.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Yes.

PAUL BOROSS:

You’ve got a PhD, you’re very bright. Would you rather be considered clever or funny?

WAYNE GARVIE:

Oh Christ, I’m just happy to be considered.

PAUL BOROSS:

Fair enough, fair enough. And the final question is desert island gags. You can only take one joke with you to a desert island. What is it?

WAYNE GARVIE:

I’m afraid it’s an Adolf Hitler gag, I think. So, they find Adolf Hitler. This can’t happen now, but in the 1970s, Adolf Hitler’s discovered living in Bolivia or Venezuela or somewhere. And he is brought back, he’s flown back to Munich and there’s a big press conference and the world is waiting. Hitler’s been found. Terrible man, obviously. And they seem to say interview him, which is obviously what they would do because of course people would fawn over him and so they say, “So Mr. Hitler, if you had your time all over again, how would you change things?” “This time, no more Mr nice guy!” Is that an acceptable joke these days? I don’t know, is it? I mean…

PAUL BOROSS:

No, of course. That’s a great one.

WAYNE GARVIE:

I always think of The Clash – White Man in Hammersmith Palais. If Adolf Hitler flew today to send the limousines out to meet him. And that’s so true. Exactly.

PAUL BOROSS:

Yeah. No, that’s brilliant.

Well, Wayne Garvie, thank you so much. I consider you the Sir Alex of television production.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Oh, great. Idiot.

PAUL BOROSS:

And thank you so much for being a guest on the Humourology Podcast.

WAYNE GARVIE:

Paul, it’s been a pleasure. Lovely to see you and talk to you as ever.

PAUL BOROSS:

Lovely to see you.

The Humourology podcast was hosted by Paul Boross, produced by David Rose, music by Steve Haworth, 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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