After a lifetime in the industry, Olivier Award winning actor, writer and comedian Roy Hudd is quite simply a national treasure. His work in film, television, comedy and theatre is so extensive that only a brief summary is possible. He will however be known to many of you as Archie Shuttleworth in Coronation Street and for his portrayal of the spoonerism afflicted character Ben Baglin in Dennis Potter’s two television mini series Karaoke and Cold Lazarus.
Here he offers some advice on how to enjoy a long career.
Television: The Quest; Coronation Street; Hamilton Mattress; Cold Lazarus; Karaoke; Heavy Weather; Common As Muck; Peter and the Wolf: A Prokofiev Fantasy; Lipstick on Your Collar; The Roy Hudd Show; The Illustrated Weekly Hudd; One Foot in the Grave; Harbour Lights; Dead Ends; The Bill; The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes; Looks Familiar.
Film: Purely Belter; Up Pompeii; Up The Chastity Belt; The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins; Distant Voices, Still Lives; A Kind of Hush; The Blood Beast Terror; The Garnett Saga.
Theatre: Hard Times; Oliver!; A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum; The Fantasticks; Underneath The Arches; A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Radio: BBC Radio Two’s The News Huddlines (The world’s longest-running comedy show.)
Writing: Roy Hudd’s Book Of Music Hall, Variety And Show Biz Anecdotes; Roy Hudd’s Cavalcade Of Variety Acts; Monthly column in Yours magazine; Pantomimes for all over the place including Watford Palace and the Hiss and Boo Company.
Sustaining Your Career
This year I’ll have been in show business forty seven years.
Really Roy? It seems much longer!
I’m sure to many I do seem to have been around forever but in the words of Bernie Taupin: I’m still standin’ after all these years. How? What has enabled me to keep the wolf from the door for so long? Here is the reason.
I’ve always loved what I’ve been trying to do. Entertain. Whether it’s been to a handful in a pub or to twenty million on television. It’s the actual doing that has always given me my joy. I’ve only ever had one ambition and that is to carry on doing it and to get better at it. I didn’t come into the game to become a household name, to earn a fortune or to try and match Posh and Becks in the press coverage stakes. I became a professional entertainer simply because I wanted to do what I did on a regular basis and I thought being a professional would give me my best chance.
What I’m trying to say is: unless you love the actual doing more than the trappings of success, more than the fame and popularity and money, don’t do it! So very few achieve huge fame or fortune that if that is what you’re looking for please try something else. There are much, much easier ways of earning a few bob. If on the other hand your biggest buzz is hearing an audience laugh and react the way you want them to, then read on.
Of course the subject closest to my heart is comedy and for all my TV, radio and film work I can tell you the comedian has the toughest job of the lot. There are no schools for funny men, no tutors, no gold medal, no letters after the name. The yardsticks are simple – can I make people laugh? Am I funny?
You have to find this out for yourself.
No one, whatever they tell you, is a total natural. Talk to the greatest practitioners and if they’re honest they’ll come up with the old cliche that it’s ‘Ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration.’ You must work out your routines carefully and learn them.
A lot of people believe the great comedians make it up as they go along. None do.
Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse. Do it until the routine is as familiar as the Lord’s prayer – but funnier. Then, and here’s where the job of comedian is unlike any other, do it in front of an audience. You must have an audience – any audience – they are the comedian’s judge, jury and executioner.
Don’t give up after the first hurdle. Many do but you mustn’t. Try if you can to suffer the hurt of nobody laughing – it’s your first test! Remember what got any sort of favourable reaction and what, as we say in the trade, died on it’s arse. Then slink away, alter the routine accordingly and come back for another go. It’s a baptism of fire but that’s what you have to get through.
Keep on adjusting, rewriting and changing your approach. You must have lots of goes. Don’t let the critics make your mind up for you. To be a comedian you need the skin of a rhinoceros, the resilience of a rubber ball and the cheek of the devil. And it’s all worth it, believe me. The sound of the first laugh you get is the sweetest sound in the world, it stays with you forever and that’s the reason you keep on going.
If you have a burning desire to entertain do please give it a go and if after forty years you still haven’t got it right, don’t despair – neither have I.
As a master of keeping going, Roy Hudd shares with us a little of what he’s up to at the moment.
After doing a few weeks as Archie Shuttleworth the undertaker in Coronation Street I thought that was my lot, but Granada have kept extending the contract and I will be with the Street till the end of July.
I did play two parts in a twenty episode dramatised version of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton but being part of the Street means that a lot of activities have had to be curtailed. The biggest blow to me was no series of The News Huddlines this year. What happens next year is in the lap of the Gods – and Jim Moir of course! (Jim is Radio 2 controller.)
I’m doing a regular monthly column for Yours magazine and continue to write songs, musicals and pantomimes.
It’s one of my great honours to be president of The British Music Hall Society www.music-hall-society.com
Our study group meet at the CAA (Club for Acts and Actors,) 20 Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London WC2 on the second Thursday of each month. For those who are really interested in our subject I cannot recommend the study group too highly.
I have started a company – Roy Hudd Enterprises – and have a few items which I hope to sell to raise money for charity. These include assorted photographs and memorabilia, a handful of copies of …and June Whitfield signed by the great lady herself as well as autographed copies of my books, tapes and videos.
For a full list of merchandise and prices please send an SAE to:
Roy Hudd Enterprises
PO Box 8923