Comedian and actor best known for the anarchically silly The Goodies and as a long-standing panellist on BBC Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue
Part of a generation of Oxbridge graduates who transformed British comedy in the 1960s, Tim Brooke-Taylor was best known on screen for the anarchically silly The Goodies and on radio as a long-standing panellist on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.
Born in Buxton, Derbyshire, he was the son of a solicitor father, who had been decorated for gallantry in the First World War, and a teacher mother, who played lacrosse at international level for England. Brooke-Taylor graduated in law from Cambridge University, but success in its student Footlights revues changed the direction of his career.
He had joined Footlights in 1960, becoming its president in 1963 when fellow members included fellow Goodie-to-be Bill Oddie, and his then flatmates John Cleese and Graham Chapman, who later found fame in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
His presidency coincided with the revue A Clump of Plinths, which was a sensation at the Edinburgh Festival and transferred to the West End with a new name – Cambridge Circus – before moving to Broadway in 1964.
Debuts on radio (I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, 1964) and television (On the Braden Beat, 1965) quickly followed as he became involved with a cohort of writer-performers that shaped a new kind of comedy, satirising post-war staidness while offering a zanier perspective perfectly in keeping with new social freedoms that were then sweeping through Britain.
An uncredited appearance in Ken Loach’s seminal Cathy Come Home (1966) gave him a glancing connection to grittier developments in drama, which mirrored the revolution in comedy.
After collaborations with David Frost, Marty Feldman and John Junkin, he was seen in 1967’s pioneering At Last the 1948 Show, for which he co-wrote the Four Yorkshireman sketch later to be made famous by Monty Python.
In 1968, he teamed up with Graeme Garden to write and appear in the sketch show Broaden Your Mind, with Oddie joining them for its second series.
The trio’s first venture together was The Goodies – a problem-solving agency that becomes embroiled in ridiculous assignments, resulting in slapstick, the surreal and nonsense songs. It became a television comedy staple throughout the 1970s. With Oddie providing the music, they had five hit singles in 1974-75 including The Funky Gibbon, which reached number four in the pop charts.
The threesome also worked together on the cartoon series Bananaman, with Brooke-Taylor providing the narration (1983-86).
The Goodies became a television comedy staple throughout the 1970s
Away from The Goodies, his solo profile was bolstered by the sitcoms His and Hers (1970-72), The Rough with the Smooth (1971-75), Me and My Girl (1984-88) and You Must Be the Husband (1987-88).
He shared the stage with Garden in Royce Ryton’s The Unvarnished Truth at the Phoenix Theatre, London (1978) and played the Dame in Dick Whittington (Shaw Theatre, London, 1982). He also appeared in Derek Benfield’s Touch and Go (Jersey Opera House, 1988) and starred in a stage adaptation of TV sitcom You Must Be the Husband (Watford Palace, 1990).
A member of the original panel in 1972 of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue – the self-styled “antidote to panel games” – he remained a regular on the programme (Barry Cryer being the only other contributor to be associated with the programme from its beginning), appearing most recently in its 72nd series, broadcast earlier this year.
In later years, he made guest appearances in a variety of comedy and drama programmes including One Foot in the Grave (1997), Today’s the Day (1998), Crossroads (2001), Marple (2008), Heartbeat (2005-09) and his swansong in 2015, Doctors.
He co-authored several Goodies-related books and wrote two comic takes on golf and cricket.
Timothy Julian Brooke-Taylor was born on July 17, 1940 and appointed OBE in 2011. He died with coronavirus on April 12, aged 79.