Attempting to interview Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer at the same time is a little like herding cats. With years of riffing off each other, the pair fly off at tangents all over the place, finish each other’s sentences and periodically collapse into giggles.
The duo have been performing together since 1990 – combining surrealism with slapstick in sketches and songs and a steadfast refusal to take themselves seriously. And unlike most double acts, there is no straight man – both are equally silly.
They’ve been TV fixtures since their first show, Channel 4’s Vic Reeves Big Night Out in 1990.
By the time of The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer they’d transferred to BBC2 and Bob had been given equal billing, which is how it’s remained.
Since then, they’ve had huge success with the quiz show Shooting Stars, comedy drama Catterick, a remake of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and the sitcom House of Fools, among others.
They are now on tour with a show dubbed 25 Years Of Reeves & Mortimer: The Poignant Moments.
WOW247 got the pair to the end of a phone for a rather unusual conversation that began with Vic announcing he had a ‘mouthful of honey roast ham and Cheddar.’
And Bob asking the age of his would-be inquisitor, and continuing: ‘Do you remember a time when a ham and tomato sandwich meant like white bread, ham and slice of tomato, and that was it? They’re difficult to get now.’
Surely esteemed gentlemen like yourself can get one, though?
‘To be honest we’re pretty bitter about it so we shouldn’t go on,’ Bob adds in possible mock despair.
The whole intention of the tour is to show the ones that people remember fondly, rather than our favouritesBob Mortimer
The tour was supposed to come to Portsmouth Guildhall on November 27 last year, but it had to be postponed after Mortimer had to undergo a triple heart bypass operation. Fortunately he’s now recovered and the show is rescheduled for December 6.
‘We always remembered Portsmouth and the people of Portsmouth and how upset we knew they would be in particular,’ says Bob. ‘We like Portsmouth, I like the civic centre at Portsmouth, but is it terrible of me to say I prefer the high street of Plymouth, or is that going to cause trouble?
‘We like to go see something like the Mary Rose when we come to Portsmouth,’ adds Vic.
‘You get a good crowd down there,’ continues Bob, ‘but it can be hard to get them out. When they do get out they’re a lovely bunch, once they’ve got over being startled by the sunlight and the busy roads.’
How did you pick the tour’s name?
‘We had a meeting about it and said ‘‘what shall we call it?’’ And I think I blurted out “poignant”,’ says Vic.
‘It’s got that whiff of nostalgia about it,’ explains Bob, ‘it’s unashamedly the best of the things we’ve done over the past 20-30 years and poignant is an interesting word to say.
‘I bet you don’t use it very often, do you?’ Vic asks your scribe. Not often, I must admit.
‘When do you use poignant in your life?’ adds Bob. ‘Oh, what a very poignant thing to say,’ Vic jumps in.
Back to Bob: ‘You’d use it when you’re watching Songs of Praise, wouldn’t you? I bet you’re more of a Highway man though aren’t you?’
Once we have mulled over the sad death of Harry Secombe, we get back to discussing the tour, and how they put it together. With so many characters to choose from their numerous shows, how did they pick which ones they’d bring out for the tour?
Bob says: ‘As a starting point we went on Twitter – really – and asked what people want to see. We’re very fond of all of our characters, so we don’t mind. The whole intention of the tour is to show the ones that people remember fondly, rather than our favourites, that was our starting point.’
‘Then we wrote them all down,’ says Vic, ‘put them all in a hat and Sellotaped them together and that was how the script came out.
‘We’ve got a whole list of things people would like to see and we joined them together with Jim (Moir – Vic’s real name) and me doing our double act nonsense and singing and messing around I suppose.’
Doesn’t that pretty much sum up your career?
They laugh as Bob adds: ‘And my driving test, to be honest.’
So who are your favourite characters?
Vic plumps for ‘we’ve always done the Stotts.’ The squeaky-voiced Stott brothers have been staples of their shows since Big Night Out.
‘I think we enjoy doing them all, but some of them we couldn’t do because of the costumes – we just throw them on in a very haphazard way, there’s no costume lady there in the wings, or someone doing fancy prosthetics.’
One of The Stotts’ most celebrated appearances was an interview with pop star Sting, which saw the singer left totally baffled by proceedings.
‘Oh, that was funny,’ recalls Bob. ‘He started crying didn’t he?’
‘He left with Bob’s suit that night’, cuts in Vic.
‘Yes, he stole my suit – that suit he’s wearing during the interview is my suit.
‘He was last seen wearing the suit running through Shepherd’s Bush, laughing,’ chuckles Vic.
Away from the sketch shows, the pair also struck gold with their deeply strange quiz show Shooting Stars. With Vic and Bob hosting proceedings two teams of celebs, led by Ulrika Johnsson and Mark Lamarr, were pitted against each other in increasingly odd rounds. The scorekeeper was giant baby George Dawes, played by a pre-Little Britain Matt Lucas.
The show eventually ran for eight series.
‘I think with all our stuff,’ says Bob, ‘we never really think of them going on, we just take them a show at a time. We never have big plans for them. We’re as surprised as anyone else when we get a second series for anything.’
‘You never know where these things will go. Some of them work out, some of them don’t.’
Over the years, a lot of British comics have made early appearances on the pair’s various shows.
‘We have had more apprentices serve under us than most people,’ admits Vic.
‘If you look back to The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer there’s a cameo of someone dressed as the singer of Wet Wet Wet with a two-foot forehead, and if you look very closely, you’ll see that’s Steve Coogan. There’s been a lot of them passed through.
‘All the Fast Show, Whitehouse, Higson, Simon Day, they all served on our ship.’
So you can basically say that you’re responsible for their careers?
‘Yes, you can say that, please do,’ laughs Bob. ‘Let’s say that.’
Do you feel they owe you anything for your part in their stellar careers?
‘They each send us a £2 postal order every a year and a thank you card,’ says Vic. ‘And that’s all we want.’ ‘That’s all we ask for,’ Bob immediately finishes.
n 25 Years Of Reeves & Mortimer: The Poignant Moments is at Portsmouth Guildhall on Tuesday, December 6. Doors 7pm. Tickets £32.95 to £39. Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk or call the box office on 0844 847 2362.