Rob Brydon at Watersprite

Rob Brydon
Image credit: Walking With The Wounded

Rob Brydon was understandably one of the highlights of the Watersprite calendar this year. With his work on shows like Gavin and Stacey, The Trip and Would I Lie To You?, the hilarious Welshman is one of the most popular comic presences on TV today. His talk/interview in the St. John’s Divinity School on Saturday lived up to the expectation.

It is often easy for an interview to be rather banal and platitudinous, and in the case of comedians to become an uninteresting vehicle for humour that is not as good as their usual material. Thankfully this was not the case with Brydon: much like Tim Minchin’s visit to the Union Society last year, what was so good about this talk was that he really seemed to answer the questions posed to him, and as a result you felt that you came away with some real sense of what the man was about.

He was open about his life and career: he talked about his lack of regret for dropping out of drama school and the subsequent wilderness years in which he worked as a shopping channel presenter, a DJ and on one occasion a public service performer at a thrush convention. His passion had always been for what he does now, but it took him a while to get there. Yet he asserted that he had no conception of it being a struggle until he read his own autobiography. There were also some amusing anecdotes about how he wrote to the producers of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves whilst still working at the shopping channel, and his first encounter with a pre-abstinent Russell Brand on a cruise ship, which Brand was fired from for having too many orgies.

Some interesting nuggets of information also emerged surrounding his work. Brydon was very close to turning down the role of Bryn in Gavin and Stacey because he had already played the role of the naïve Welshman. He also ruled out the possibility for any more episodes. The Trip was born out of what is known as ‘wet weather cover’ during shooting of A Cock and Bull Story; they couldn’t do any outside shooting because of rain, so Brydon and Steve Coogan sat in the make-up truck riffing on random topics. Brydon also revealed that he had never actually read Tristram Shandy, the novel on which A Cock and Bull Story was based. He was then praised for his portrayal of the lovable Uncle Toby, a compliment he received touchingly, creating a rather tender moment for everyone in the auditorium!

Indeed what came across most was his likeable humility. He revealed how he likes fame because everyone is really nice to him, how he and his WILTY co-stars David Mitchell and Lee Mack are in fact good friends, and how he did not want to talk about which of his works he was least proud of in case anyone in the audience was really fond of those in particular. Warmth is something that Brydon has fostered later on in his career; when he first arrived he was rather angry and deadpan, as demonstrated in shows like Annually Retentive and his teaming up with David Walliams on Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2007. He talked about how he has always been attracted to warm comedians, even over more conventionally considered ‘geniuses’ (Dudley Moore rather than Peter Cook and Ronnie Corbett rather than Ronnie Barker).

What was most touching was perhaps his admission that he is ‘pathetically satisfied with moderate success’. He explained how some comedians, citing Steve Coogan as an example, are always trying to prove themselves, even when they have achieved this already. Brydon is more laid back about the whole affair. He has achieved great success, and awards with shows like Human Remains, but now he fits work around family life and enjoys all the warmth that fame brings him.

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