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 a stomach cancer diagnosis, came up with hit ideas as they boozed together in pubs.
Chris, who fronted the kids’ Saturday morning series Tiswas from 1974 to 1981, said: “We were always coming up with fresh ideas. Things like Compost Corner — that was thought up in a bar. It was me and Frank talking and I said: ‘You know that thing Crackerjack, where every time you see Crackerjack everyone shouts “Crackerjack! Crackerjack”? I want to do a gardening item, probably with Lenny Henry dressed as David Bellamy, where we shout something every time we mention a particular word or phrase and everybody shouts it back.’
“And Frank goes: ‘Have you gone completely mad?’ And I said: ‘No. What about something with compost?’ And it was Frank who said: ‘Compost Corner! Compost Corner!’ We all started shouting ‘Compost Corner! Compost Corner!’.
Chris’ other encounters with Belfast-born Frank didn’t end so productively. About dragging the comic on stage while he was still drunk he said: “Frank liked a drink. In fact, he loved a drink. I drove him once to The Old Sticky Wicket in Redditch, a cabaret club where he was booked to appear on a Friday night.
“Frank jumped out of the car and disappeared. In a panic I raced into the club only to find Frank — never one of those artists who hides himself from the audience until it’s show time — standing at the bar, slurring, drinking free lagers bought for him by those that would be his audience in about 20 minutes’ time.
“He was swaying and slurring… but he started his act, with his usual staccato fast-talking performance, did about an hour and a half, never slurred once, never repeated the same joke, and got a standing ovation.
“When he came off, he was as drunk as he was when he’d gone on, and I took him back to his hotel and helped him to his room. The next morning on Tiswas, after a giant breakfast, he was brilliant. It seemed to be how some of those old boys lived.
“I suppose a lot of the bands have always done the same thing with drugs.”