Big Preview: Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse on Gone Fishing

Bob Mortimer and Paul WhitehouseBob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse
Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse
Two of the nation's favourite comedians tour some of the UK's finest riverbanks in their new show, Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing. As they are old friends, the result is candid chats, personal revelations - and plenty of laughs - as Georgia Humphreys discovers.

You might wonder how a programme about fishing could be particularly funny.

But give Paul Whitehouse (an experienced angler) and Bob Mortimer (a complete novice) a couple of rods, then follow their expeditions to various fishing spots across the country, and you're bound to get some laughs.

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New BBC Two series, Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, was also a poignant trip for the long-time friends, as they've both suffered complex heart diseases in recent years.

And as well as candidly discussing coming face-to-face with mortality, we will also see them chat about everything from fame to relationships and romance.

Here, the comedians reveal more about their time spent fishing together.

Sixty-year-old Whitehouse - famous for co-creating BBC sketch show The Fast Show - knows it sounds corny.

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But he maintains this project with Mortimer "came out of real life".

"We are old friends, and we both had heart problems and heart disease, and I was a bit more down the line of recovery when I found out about Bob, and I was sort of designated stent buddy of the comedy world, wasn't I?"

"It was really nice of you, because I don't go out or anything," replies Middlesbrough native Mortimer, 59, who had a triple heart bypass in 2015. "Paul knew it would be difficult to get me out and about again, so he used this ruse."

But, the hobby of fishing didn't come out of nowhere - it was something the pair had talked about in the past.

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"It's something I've done always, since I was a kid, and you used to do it as a kid," Whitehouse, who was born in Wales but grew up in London, points out to his friend.

"So we started going fishing, we enjoyed it," he continues, "and we thought it was quite a humorous idea, these two old idiots, really, behaving like children."

It's undeniable Mortimer, known for his work as a double act with Vic Reeves (such as their comedy panel game show Shooting Stars), and Whitehouse make for a laugh-out-loud comedy duo.

However, the show takes a slightly more serious tone at times.

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Episode two sees the chatty pair have some conversations about death and their own funerals, after they walk through a graveyard on the way down to the river in Hay-on-Wye, Wales.

"When you're told that you've got heart disease - not that we spend a lot of time agonising about it - it is there lurking at the back of your mind," says father-of-four Whitehouse, who had three stents inserted in his heart a few years back to help blood flow.

While each episode has a sort of theme, the comics explain they wanted to do a show that comes out of a "genuine shared experience".

"We didn't ever want there to be a voiceover to try to pretend that something happened, or that there was some reason for us going somewhere, so we'd got to kind of fill all that," elaborates Mortimer, who's previously worked with Whitehouse on shows such as The Smell Of Reeves And Mortimer.

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"The way to do it in other shows is you agree what you're going to be saying. But we had nothing - this is really what two old blokes being friends is like."

The show is certainly a great insight into both men's personal lives, and it's refreshing how open they are, particularly about their health struggles, in real life too.

When Mortimer was told he needed heart surgery because his arteries were 95% blocked, he admits it came totally out of the blue.

"I went to the GP because I'd just had the tiniest little distant pain just under my rib, and my mam had always said you go cold on your chest," he recalls. "And then four days later I was being sawn open."

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The comedian actually wed his partner of 22 years, Lisa Matthews (with whom he has two grown-up sons) on the morning of the operation.

He adds candidly: "They [doctors] do that speech, 'There's a very small chance that we...' and the wife was waiting... I couldn't speak, I just wanted to weep."

For Whitehouse, diagnosis of a heart problem was less of a shock: "I was being monitored as a result of surgery I'd had, and they saw this increase in hypertension, and then I got this serious sort of blockage," he says.

He now takes part in regular rehab exercise as a result.

"I have to explain to everyone in my family that I have to do that, or I won't be around, and, 'If you want your inheritance, stop me, because I'm probably worth more dead!'" he quips.

"But I'm going to live for a little while."

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With both stars having been through similar health scares, they are well aware of the impact it can have on your life - but, yes, they can still joke about it.

"It changes your diet a bit, as much as you can. I was very good for about three months, and then you get worse and worse and worse..." remarks Mortimer. "Cheese - you miss cheese a lot. All those fats. That's a change."

"He's fallen off the wagon though, Bob, and gone back to the cheese, or are you not going to admit it here in front of everyone?" Whitehouse teases, to which Mortimer admits: "I had a Dairylea slice last night!"

Like his telly partner-in-crime, Mortimer has also started exercising, something he "never would have done before".

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"I run 1.4km a day - I don't at the moment, I've just had a shoulder operation."

"It's nice for two older fellas to chat about health because it's all you do when you get older!" he later exclaims.

"This is true," agrees Whitehouse. "In one episode, I say to you, 'List your ailments from the toes up' - he starts from his head down! I said, 'No, toes up' - and what a catalogue of joy it is!"

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing starts on BBC Two on Wednesday June 20 at 10pm