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Laughlines Comedy Show tributes


Laughlines Comedy Show tributes

"Our aim is to have people crying with laughter. I've had so many people come up to me and say "That's the best night of entertainment I've ever had." One of the best testimonials I've had is from a man in his 80s and he came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said "Lad, I've seen all the comedy greats. All the stand-up comedians live through my life. I've been to the music halls and I've seen all the stuff on film and TV and, to be honest with you, that's the best night of entertainment I've ever had and I've never laughed so much in my life."

We spoke to Michael Wilson-Green at Laughlines Events who have gained an enviable reputation for staging quality comedy-themed events, including Fawlty Towers, Carry On and Father Ted.



Laughlines Comedy Show tributes

Laughlines Comedy Show tributes

Murder Mystery - Murder At Castle Doon




Digger: Michael, when are your busiest times?

Michael: During the week, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday usually, but we do quite a bit of Corporate work which can be on any day.

Digger: Are you personally very hands-on?

Michael: Oh yeah. Performing and managing. It's tiring, but fun. There's the glamour of this and then there's also the school run!

Digger: What's your background, Michael?

Michael: My favourite subject at school was drama and I played Harlequin in a comedy play. I seemed to play all the main characters. I was told to go to drama school but I didn't go and my dad persuaded me to go into other jobs including sales and marketing. I ended-up going around the country selling all sorts of things from hand driers to power tools and fixings to leisure equipment, pool tables, slot machines. You name it, I've done it.

Digger: And a good grounding in what you're doing now.

Michael: Absolutely, great commercial experience and I met a lot of characters and people. But I didn't really enjoy what I was doing and wasn't fulfilled. I always wanted to be in entertainment and it was just like a dream. I should have been pushed by my parents but my dad was a bit controlling, albeit a bit of a character who would stand on a table at works do's and tell jokes to hundreds of people. I used to make comedy character videos in my early twenties with friends - I'd make them up. Like a gardening nutcase called Geoffrey Squirp.

Digger: Then Harry Enfield nicked him a few years later.

Michael: That's right! Then I did some filming of a wheelchair sketch which I sent in to the BBC which was then used in Little Britain! You send your stuff in then it appears five years later. It's not what you know, it's who you know - as you know! The right person at the right time and you're a winner. Ricky Gervais - he can't do stand-up, he's terrible, but he's a pretty good writer and he came up with a unique idea with The Office - fly on the wall, never been done before. People related to David Brent, seeing themselves maybe as a young man with an ego or attitude and making mistakes.  

Digger: Tell us about Laughlines.



Laughlines Comedy Show tributes

Fawlty Towers tribute



Michael: About twelve years ago I was watching a repeat of Fawlty Towers and I was looking at the characters and said to my, then girlfriend, now wife, "Wouldn't it be great if this came back, but it never will... to take it out and copy it." And she said "I don't know about that." I was thinking of a tribute and it was just a passing thought. And I was moaning one night and she said "Just do something about it." I was a carer for a mentally ill person and in sales part time and I didn't like it. So I took a chance and played a comedy waiter and based my character on Manuel from Fawlty Towers. I went to Brown's restaurant in Ilkley and ad-libbed for three hours for no pay and they couldn't get me off. It was like being Ken Dodd on stage. (Laughs) 

Digger: Did you not need the Basil character as a foil?

Michael: First I did it as a single waiter and made people laugh and then someone asked me where Basil Fawlty was and that's how it all started. "And where's the major and Sybil?" The next time I went with a Basil Fawlty and then of course I thought why not do the whole thing as a Fawlty Towers show. It happened very quickly, and again we did it for nothing at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate with a full cast.  I went to an agency in Leeds and auditioned some actors and we did a tribute to Fawlty Towers for the first time. Then we started getting calls from the corporates and from the press. 



Laughlines Comedy Show tributes

Fawlty Towers tribute



Digger: Has it been seen by any members of the original show cast?

Michael: No, not as far as I know. But I contacted the legal people who have the scripts locked away and they said "You can't copy them." And I said "I'm not going to. What I intended to do is do our own thing and put our own slant on it and do a tribute." And the only thing they weren't happy with is if we were going to do a national tour around the theatres. They weren't happy about that so we left it at pubs, clubs, hotels, restaurants and corporates. They were pretty flexible - John Cleese knows that there are these look-alikes around and tribute artists and they turn a blind eye to it really. These actors are making a living out of it but it's not major stuff. If we were doing the west end with hundreds of people each night, that is major and they'd be wanting a large percentage!

Digger: What other 'services' do you offer?

Michael: As well as Laughlines Fawlty Towers, we do comedy waiters, comedy singing waiters, we do comedy Paparazzi photographers (Digger laughs) with trilbies and raincoats and tons and tons of shoulder bags and straps around us loads of cameras around our necks with hug flashguns. So there's loads of flashing photography going on. And we chase our 'victim' around. And we do Hollywood nights for birthdays and corporates. It's fun, it's vibrant and we usually play American paparazzi funnily enough, so it's (Impersonates American photographers) "Get out the way, hey look at this dame, I'm doing this shot - this is MY shot." Jockeying for position and we deliver the comedy and it just rolls out. Because we're great at improvisation and it's just good fun. Then we've got Father Ted, of course, another classic.

Digger: I saw a good testimonial on your website from someone who had come from New Zealand.

Michael: Absolutely right, they said they loved it and it was the best thing ever. I remember it was someone who came over for a 50th birthday party and they saw us at the Ascot House hotel in Harrogate. That was a great testimonial. There's loads of mileage in Laughlines Father Ted. 



Laughlines Comedy Show tributes

Father Ted tribute



We're actually going to go to Ireland to do the Magners comedy festival next year with that but also we're going to be in Ireland earlier in the year. They want us to do a Father Ted and Fawlty Towers at Beech Hill Country House Hotel, just outside Derry. (Strong northern Irish accent) "Derry, now!" So they'll all have a laugh at that, I'm sure, being Protestants. (Laughs) We had quite a lot of Catholics came to see us the other week, swarms of them, and they were just loving it and had a great time. It's good that they saw the funny side of it. And it's the four very different priests, isn't it? One's an alcoholic, one's a priest who doesn't really want to be a priest but that's all he knows, the other ones a priest and he doesn't know he's a priest - he doesn't know who he is (Both laugh) and that's Dougal. And then you've got Mrs Doyle, the cleaner and the tea lady who's very funny and you've got Bishop Brennan who's very authoritarian and in control. But the reality is he's up to something else behind the scenes. 

Digger: It's such great observation.

Michael: It is great observation.

Digger: As Catholics we'd all recognise them.

Michael: Absolutely. So Father Ted's good and very interactive. We do loads of things in it. It starts with Father Jack's wake and, of course, he wakes up at the funeral service when we think he's dead. He's had two bottles of bleach and a bottle of Dettol. Then we fly around with all that and (Southern Irish accent) "Welcome, there's Father Finnegan the dancing priest, come on, give us a dance now." And he starts dancing about and we do a silly Irish jig with him. And then "Oh there's sister O' Donoghue, the stripping nun!" 

Digger: You're pretty good with those accents. Where does that come from?

Michael: I don't know. I think my mum's side of the family were the musicians and entertainers down that line and that's where I came from because I was born with blond hair and blue eyes. My mum had black hair with hazel eyes and my dad was dark hair and brown eyes as was my brother. I was almost white-haired and I used to think I was adopted because I was so different in every sense. My brother's an introvert and I'm a total extrovert. And we look so different. My mum said it must have come from my cousins' side of the family because they all had blond hair and blue eyes. All those guys were entertainers. A bit of my dad as well because he used to stand up and tell jokes as well. He had some bottle. 




 Laughlines Comedy Show tributes

Father Ted tribute



It's one of those things where, before we knew it, we were going into all sorts of things. Shell Oil wanted us to pose as independent business consultants and we fooled all these senior managers when we did 'How not to do a group presentation' which went so well they asked us back again and again and we did loads of those. And then we got into actors doing role-play and training things. Then we did 85 Royal Mail sites where I wrote and devised this comedy game show which promoted their 'Watch and Win scheme' which was to beat the competition who were coming in. And they loved it so much we did ten trial sites and then we did another 75. That was a massive contract.

Digger: Comedy being a great way to get a message across.

Michael: Absolutely. And that was my message to them. We use comedy and fun and music and laughter and they'll take more on board that way than with some sales guy from the Royal Mail boring them to death - they'll just not want to know. When we went to the Royal Mail we had to get up at 5 AM and at work at 6 at the depot and start the early shifts before the guys went out. And then we'd do the afternoon and the late afternoon sessions and then we'd travel at teatime another 100 miles to wherever next we were going to, have a very late dinner, get a few hours kip and do the very same thing the next day. It was a mammoth task and very, very tiring as you can imagine. I don't think anybody else would have taken it on to be quite honest. But we needed it, it was a big contract with lots of money and I wasn't scared of it so "Let's do it." and it went brilliantly. We saw grumpy people at the start but they were laughing at the end. And we completely transformed them. This transformation was terrific and suddenly all of these people who were negative went out positive. So I tried selling that to other companies - it didn't work though, nobody went for it. But the roadshow thing is still there. What happened was the guy who set it all up got made redundant, as did the lady who worked under him, so there was nobody there to press it any further. So nobody knew about it at management level to recommend it to their counterparts at other companies. These things come and they go, we had a chance and we made it work. It's still there and if somebody needs it we can use it and titivate and tailor it to their requirements. Kelloggs contacted me and asked for a Murder Mystery Night - I wasn't going to get involved in that  because I hate being like a sheep and I like doing my own thing. There are some dire ones out there - I saw one where they didn't wear any costumes and there were two people acting it out while another narrated and it was useless.



Laughlines Comedy Show tributes

Carry On Murder



What we do is - I want to see people crying with laughter and to do that you need to be totally unique and have the material to do it. We do Murder At Castle Doon, which is Scottish-based because people like a good old Scottish murder mystery, and we have this little guy in a kilt with wrinkly legs and grey hair. Robbie is in his late 50s but appears much older in this. He plays Lord Ben Doon and his wife is Ida Doon and she's a nightmare. They had a divorce and she didn't get any money. And he kept his millions and has been having an affair with Sammie McCleavage for a long time. And Fraser McTavish, his butler, who has been with him for a long time and is supposed to be his closest friend and confidante. They are all wanting his money, including Fraser. He's done his will and he's changing it and announcing it with the locals and friends and family and his battleaxe wife turns up wheeling a suitcase behind her, and it's a bloke in drag. (Scottish accent) "Where's my money? I tell you, I've come for it now." And I'm Frazer "Oh God, it's that smelly, moth-eaten old bat, Ida Doon." And then we sing a song - 500 Miles by The Proclaimers. Bagpipes and a mad dance and we get everybody up singing and dancing to the Proclaimers. Mad big Scottish hats on - we've done it in Scotland and they love it up there. And we also do Carry On Murder - The Reverend Whippet-Upham, Shona Cleavage who's the nurse to professor Ivan Hardon who's just invented the new wonder drug 'Mycoxafloppin.' His rival, Sir Vic Elsmere, the famous gynecologist comes along with Fanny Ayres his PA. It's all full of innuendo "Ohh, I SAY!!!" We've had people crying with laughter. There's a Carry On Quiz, where you have to spell out a catchphrase and dirty limericks and there are prizes for the best entries for this, as there are for the best solutions to the Murder Mystery. Our finale is Amarillo and we march around the room and there's a Flamenco master class, and it's great visually and great to interact with people. And you're talked about. I've had so many people come up to me and say "That's the best night of entertainment I've had." One of the best testimonials I've ever had is from a man in his 80s and he came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said "Lad, I've seen all the comedy greats. All the stand-up comedians live through my life. I've been to the music halls and I've seen all the stuff on film and TV and, to be honest with you, that's the best night of entertainment I've ever had and I've never laughed so much in my life."

Digger: And then he dropped down dead?!

Michael: (Laughs) Fortunately no! I was a bit humbled and said "Oh! Go on!" and he said "No, I'm serious. Thank you so much."



Laughlines Comedy Show tributes

Basil and that Fawlty car



Digger: You've also got the ability to get people out of themselves. If you can do that and get them involved...

Michael: That's right, because in this life what do we do?... in the news it's all bad stuff and doom and gloom, even when we're supposed to be doing alright they're still moaning.

Digger: Only because they want to focus on the negatives all the time because they think it's what sells. I don't agree.

Michael: Exactly. "It's too dark, it's too light, it's too hot, it's too cold." We have some tough times but I think there are more good people than bad people, obviously, and we want to have joy and happiness and part of that is laughter, which really is the best medicine. We make so much difference to a lot of people's lives. And that, for me when I pass away, at least I've done something which made a difference. Even if not in the big time at the Palladium or in a regular soap or sit-com. It doesn't matter because I've done it live to people and it's worked and I know that I've made a difference.

Digger: Sounds good to me.

Michael: I love it with a passion - I love what I do.

Digger: How many actors do you use?

Michael: We have a pool of about 25 actors in the north and in the south who we use regularly all of the time. But you have to be a certain standard to make it with Laughlines because you have to have the ability to make people laugh and become a character and not come out of that character all night. That's a tough thing to do. 

Digger: Joe Public is not daft and they can see when there's a veneer and an insincerity. I was on a cruise and there was a comedian who was all jolly and everyone's friend when on stage but was being quite cynical and looking miserable at the bar later. People make a mental note of that and when he appeared later in the week, he didn't go down so well.

Michael: You never fool the public. Not everything we do suits everybody as we all have our own brands of humour. The Carry On stuff, for example. But we make it our own and totally different from what you see in the movies and we've done the same with Father Ted and Fawlty Towers. You won't see anything else like it.

Digger: Thanks Michael for letting us know about the inner-workings of the Comedy Tribute business. I never realised there was so much to it. It's great that these shows are being kept alive, that you're able to make so many people laugh and get some real satisfaction from a job well done.

Michael: Thank you David. It was a pleasure talking to you.



Laughlines Comedy Show tributes

Laughlines Fawlty Tower tribute 


Laughlines Comedy Show tributes


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