The “Oh…Miss Jones!” Questionnaire with…
I sent these brief questions to Eric back in 1995, just at the start of my research. I had no idea of the direction I was going in but I knew I wanted to commemorate his work in some ‘Official’ form.
How did you first become a writer? I wrote bad novels for years producing about a million words – all rejected. Then I tried writing plays and achieved instant success – at thirty-seven! Moral: Discover what you do best and do it.
Who are your favourite writers? Alan Bennet. Victoria Wood. Charles Dickens. (Pickwick Papers a major influence) Shakespeare. The list could be endless. No sitcom writers – I don’t consider they’ve ever been an influence.
Who were your heroes / role models? I have none. I’m not a hero worshipper. We all have feet of clay.
Which living person do you most admire? Ditto.
Which comedian do you most admire? All dead. Influences. Al Read. Eric Morecambe. Les Dawson. Peter Cook. Comic actors. Rowan Atkinson.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Having completed a play and quite liking it.
Was the script for Rising Damp based upon any personal experiences or people you knew? Do you know a Rigsby? I did live in lodgings – that must have been an influence. I did know a Rigsby but the was neither mean or lascivious. Fictional characters tend to be composite types.
Was Rising Damp filmed in front of a live audience? Yes
Did you have to amend the scripts for the certain type of actor/actress cast? No.
With which character did you enjoy writing for the most? Rigsby.
Did the cast have any input on the scripts? Hardly ever.
All the Rigsby speech and physical mannerisms e.g., eh…, the tuts., cor.., oh, oh, head twitches, scratching etc. Were they all scripted or was it Leonard Rossiter’s input? Leonard Rossiter’s input.
Do you have a preferred episode of Rising Damp? The one I am enclosing (All Our Yesterdays). Simply because it was the first script which deviated from the play. I thought if I could complete this one, I could write the series.
What special moment with the cast will remain with you always? Standing with them on the set after a great show and breathlessly sharing the applause of the audience.
Do you still watch the repeats on television or do have them on tape? I have the shows on tape but rarely watch. I have to keep my mind clear for new work. Life goes on.
What are your plans for the future? I’m taking a play of mine to Australia in March based on Only when I laugh. I have just completed a new play called Summer End – which may become a sitcom.
Where did the cat ‘Vienna’ originally come from? I’ve no idea. He arrived with the ‘cat lady’ The cat was no actor I’m afraid.