BLAME Tim Brooke-Taylor for the stereotype image of the mithering, miserable, tight but bragging Yorkshireman.
Well, not only Tim, as we celebrate the comic genius and geniality of this son of Derbyshire, Cambridge Footlights president, Goodie and stalwart I’m Sorry I Haven’t panellist, who passed away yesterday, taken by the Covid-19 blight at 79.
The Four Yorkshireman sketch is often attributed to Monty Python, but wrongly so. It was in fact co-written by Brooke-Taylor for At Last The 1948 Show, the ITV series he made with Marty Feldman and future Pythons John Cleese and Graham Chapman in 1967 and 1968.
Monty Python were subsequently to appropriate it and so too was The Secret Policeman’s Ball charity bash, when performed by Cleese, Terry Jones, South Yorkshireman Michael Palin and a young Rowan Atkinson.
“And you try telling the young people of today that and they won’t believe you,” you might say, borrowing the sketch’s pay-off line.
Tim recalled the sketch’s motivation when interviewed ahead of his An Audience With Tim Brooke Taylor show at Selby Town Hall in November 2014: the year when the grainy black-and-white footage of the original recording for At Last The 1948 Show was re-discovered.
“I come from Derbyshire, so all Yorkshiremen are a pain in the neck and we have a chip on the shoulder about them,” said the Buxton-born Brooke-Taylor, not entirely seriously.
“In the Seventies, I was asked by five different publishers to write about Yorkshire because I’d picked on the county, but then Yorkshiremen were not at their best in the Seventies, were they!”
“Geoffrey Boycott!” scoffed the cricket enthusiast. “But I’ve since met some very nice Yorkshiremen and I’ve had to change my attitude, which is rather annoying.”
Tim, the perennial wounded innocent in The Goodies alongside Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, went on to say why he loved being a team player, rather than performing solo. “I find that comedy is funnier in groups; there are great stand-ups but I love seeing people bouncing words off each other,” he reasoned.
Had Tim ever been tempted to write his autobiography, came the final question? “I’ve been offered deals, but I think the interesting ones are written by those with nasty things to say, like Roy Keane’s book,” he said. “My book would be too happy.”
Too happy? For all four of the grouchy Four Yorkshiremen, maybe, but not for the rest of us. Thank you, Tim Brooke-Taylor, for all the years of happiness and laughter your brought us.
“We’ll lead you to a better life,” you sang. “Goodies, goody, goody, yum, yum.”