Chris Tarrant worships Frank Carson, as the creator of his most anarchic TV ideas. The host said the comic, who died aged 85 in 2012 after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, came up with hit ideas as they drank in pubs together.
Chris, who ran the Saturday morning children’s series Tiswas from 1974 to 1981, said: “We always had new ideas. Things like Compost Corner – which was imagined in a bar. It was me and Frank talking and I said, “You know that Crackerjack thing, where every time you see Crackerjack everyone’s yelling ‘Crackerjack!’ Crackerjack”? I want to do a gardening article, probably with Lenny Henry dressed as David Bellamy, where we shout something every time we mention a particular word or phrase and everyone shouts it back.
“And Frank says, ‘Have you gone completely mad?’ And I said, ‘No. And something with compost? And it was Frank who said, ‘Compost Corner! Corner Compost!’ We all started shouting ‘Compost Corner!
Chris’ other encounters with Belfast-born Frank did not end so productively. Of dragging the comedian on stage while still drunk, he said, “Frank liked to have a drink. In fact, he loved a drink. I once drove him to The Old Sticky Wicket in Redditch, a cabaret where he was to perform on a Friday night.
“Frank jumped out of the car and disappeared. Panicked, I ran into the club to find Frank – never one of those entertainers who hides from the public until show time – standing at the bar, chatting, drinking free lagers bought for him by those who would be his audience in about 20 minutes time.
“He was swaying and slurring…but he started his number, with his usual staccato quick talk performance, did about an hour and a half, never once jammed, never repeated the same joke and received a standing ovation.
“When he came out he was just as drunk as he was when he left, and I took him back to his hotel and helped him up to his room. The next morning on Tiswas, after a giant breakfast, he was brilliant. It seemed that was how some of these old boys lived.
“I guess a lot of bands have always done the same thing with drugs.”