My life through a lens: Comedian and actor Bob Mortimer, 62, shares the stories behind his favourite snaps
Celebrities share the stories behind their favourite photographs. This week it’s comedian and actor Bob Mortimer, 62.
Celebrities share the stories behind their favourite photographs. This week it’s comedian and actor Bob Mortimer (pictured), 62
1969: I’m ten years old here, the youngest of four brothers. Mum was working as a school cookery teacher and Dad was a biscuit salesman. He died in a car crash when I was seven years old, which I realise now was the biggest event in my childhood because from then on I made it my mission to look after Mum, keep the house tidy and not cause any problems.
1976: Here I am larking about in a photo booth aged 17. By now my footballing dreams had been crushed – I was the best in my school and played for Middlesbrough FC under-16s but the club decided not to take me on full time. I look happy in this picture but I was a bit nervous about life and going to university [he did law at Sussex] – I didn’t want to leave my mum on her own.
1990: Vic Reeves and I [above, with Michael Parkinson] were well known for a character called The Man With The Stick and at this British Comedy Awards ceremony we’ve put the nominations on the end of the stick as a novel way of presenting a list of names. We found that celebrities would come on our shows because their teenage children really liked watching us. We would get some big guests, especially on Shooting Stars where Larry Hagman and Belinda Carlisle came on. We never do retakes – if something went wrong, it was either included or it wasn’t. We did have problems: I was knocked out a couple of times because of failing props.
1995: This photo of Vic and I doing a Slade skit with Mark Williams and Paul Whitehouse [both front] reminds me how lovely it is to work with friends. I didn’t know anyone when I first moved to London. I was working as a welfare lawyer and living in a homeless hostel in Peckham and out of the blue, a lad I was at school with invited me to this stage show called Vic Reeves Big Night Out. It was different to anything else going on in comedy and I was besotted. I got talking to Vic after the gig and started doing bits on the following week’s show. In 1989 we did our first pilot for TV. My boss gave me 12 weeks off to do it, but I never returned.
1995: On The Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer we built a chair out of lolly sticks. I said it wouldn’t work but Vic – or Jim, as I call him as that’s his real name – said it was the future of seating. We thought it’d be good if Sting [centre] tested the chair so he kindly came along, sat down and, of course, it collapsed. We then interviewed him as characters Donald and Davey Stott; Sting was weeping with laughter. As a lad from Middlesbrough, who saw years of dreariness as a solicitor in front of him, to be there with Sting sums up how lucky I was.
2000: The one thing I never considered when I took the role of Randall in BBC1’s remake of detective show Randall & Hopkirk was whether I could act – it turned out I couldn’t. Emilia Fox [above, as Jeannie] found it hilarious. Once I had to say, ‘Please don’t leave, Jeannie, I love you, I want to be with you.’ I was so bad she kept laughing, so Vic stood in for her while I said my line but he laughed too. They then got the catering lady to stand in, but she laughed at my terrible acting as well!
2002: I was fit as a fiddle after I fought Les Dennis for Sport Relief and was asked to produce a celebrity boxing series called The Fight. Halfway through training, Ricky Gervais said he didn’t want to have a practice fight in the ring before the real event on TV. His trainers said they weren’t happy with that so, as producer, I said, ‘Ricky, would you fight me?’ And he said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll fight you.’ So we set up a match with an audience. Ricky, of course, kicked my head in, as you can see in this picture of me covered with sweat.
2019: In 2015 I had a heart bypass. As a heart patient you come home and you’re very scared. There are no doctors around any more, you’re always monitoring your heartbeat and you have a big cut down your chest. Sitting on the sofa and staying still feels safe, but I did feel down. My friend Paul Whitehouse had had stents fitted so he kept trying to get in touch to reassure me. At first I didn’t respond but, eventually, a fishing trip was arranged – that was the trigger for our Gone Fishing show [above].
As told to Rosanna Greenstreet. Bob Mortimer’s autobiography, And Away… is published by Simon and Schuster, £20