Mr Flibble Talks To... Thank You Very Much
Mr Flibble opens the door to one of Red Dwarf's most memorable guest stars - Elvis himself, Clayton Mark.
21 June, 2002
Clayton Mark
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble whispered his first question to Andrew. Andrew passed it on to Clayton: I believe a CHANGE happened during a meeting with Louis Armstrong when you were eight?

I didn't know the significance of who he was. By the time I'd met him, I'd already met Sinatra, I'd met Dean Martin - I'd met everybody! I'd just started playing saxophone, and I said [to Louis], "I've just started playing sax like you." He said, "No, I don't play sax. I'm a trumpet player." I said, "Ah, that's what I want to play." And I never picked the sax up again.

Mr Flibble pointed out that he was a whizz on the kazoo. Andrew ignored him. How did you start doing impersonations?

That started when I was a little kid. I used to watch cartoons, and I could pretty much hear something and do it back at you. I used to imitate my teachers for the kids in school. I kept playing the trumpet, and I started imitating trumpet players.

As my voice started to change, I realised I could do singers that I enjoyed and that my father liked - the Rock 'n' Roll era was going on, but it was more like Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis. The first Rock 'n' Roll voice I ever did - if you want to call it Rock 'n' Roll - was Michael McDonald from The Doobie Brothers. I used to get paid a lot of money in later years for doing his voice on other people's albums. Everybody wanted him in the background but they couldn't afford him! (Laughs)

It was a long time before I ever did Elvis. I did him a bit in Vegas, but it wasn't really until I moved to LA. A friend of mine was doing the Legends show in Las Vegas, and I saw him do Elvis. He said, "You know, you should think about doing this." I didn't want to be an impersonator and I still don't consider myself one. But I gave it a shot.

I learned how to do his voice first - which is a great responsibility. I was working for Marvel animation at the time, on Spider-Man, and one Halloween I dressed up as Elvis; I converted an old band costume and thought, "You know, I should start doing this." So every once in a while I did it, got good reviews, then I went back to Vegas to my friend and took his place. But I didn't start doing Elvis seriously until I got Elvis - The Musical in the West End.

Mr Flibble left the Antarctic when he discovered the lack of decent community theatre. What prompted your MOVE to the UK?

In '89 I got married to a Yorkshire girl in Los Angeles, and I said, "Let's move to England and raise some kids." That was it. My first job [in the UK] was at Tesco as an assistant manager while I sent pictures out! The first gig I ever got in England was about a month after I got here - they had to fly me to Hong Kong for a 30-minute show! (Laughs)

I got a job at Aerospace fixing undercarriages for Harriers and Tornados. It's funny, when the Gulf War ended I went over to Germany to sing for the troops - I fixed the planes on the ground then sang for the troops that flew them! I got made redundant the day I found out I'd beaten 50,000 people for Elvis - The Musical.

Did you know about RED DWARF when they approached you?

I didn't know what Red Dwarf was, because it hadn't broken out in America yet. They had to explain it to me. I went down there, found out what it was - and I instantly clicked with the cast, because they were as nuts as I was. (Laughs) Chris Barrie and me just sat there doing impression after impression after impression. They had to shut us up on the set!

Did you enjoy the filming?

I rode with Chris out [to the location]. It was bloody freezing - I was trying to keep still and my knees were knocking. That costume was made for a TV show, Sledgehammer - someone was trying to kill Elvis impersonators - and they made it for that show. We bought it off the set. It got pretty knackered [on location]. A lot of the chiffon was destroyed. But Ed Bye's a fabulous guy. They let me make up some of my dialogue. Really good to work with. When it came to the interior shots, I hadn't been used to doing 'live' television - but it was great. I was so happy I didn't mess up any of my lines!

I live doing television. I'd take it over movies any day. To sit on set for two days to do two scenes is ridiculous - I like the pace and the pressure of television. Especially live television. You feed off the audience and there's no feeling like it.

How did you choose to play the part?

I wouldn't play Elvis like that normally. If you see me on stage in concert, it's 'how Elvis was on stage'. But because Red Dwarf's a comedy show, you've got to play it tongue in cheek. I don't think it would have worked 'straight'. It's not often I do that kind of Elvis - but it was definitely necessary. Most of the [other impersonators] were actors - very good actors. The only impersonator was Pauline Bailey as Marilyn Monroe.

You were also asked to record an Elvis version of the THEME TUNE...

They asked me on the set. "You should sing the theme!" A few weeks later I had the flu - I was so ill my father in law had to drive me - I couldn't even see the road. I had a 104 fever. They led me through the BBC, and I remember meeting Des Lynam at the door, and then I had to learn the lyrics. I said, "I think these lyrics are wrong. They don't make any sense!" They said, "No, believe me, they're right." I think we did it in one take.

Mr Flibble remembers a lot of his menacing stares being trimmed in the edit. What did you notice about the programme when you watched it go out?

I never saw any of the fight with Hitler or anything. There was a part where it looks like I'm close to getting blown up, but that's the last you see of me. They said, "No, we're not going to kill you." It wasn't like Mother Theresa when she blew up. (Laughs)

How did you get involved with Danny's video for TONGUE TIED...

I was doing Elvis - The Musical in Bournemouth when I got this call. He said, "It's Danny." I said, "Danny who?" Of course, I was messing with him. He said, "You must do this video." He had an idea, and there was a bit of a script, and that was great. I was just hoping to go on Top of the Pops - that would have been great, to have us up there as his backing singers. It was a good tune, and there were like 1,500 beautiful women on set. For a shoestring budget it looked pretty good.

Mr Flibble - fresh from the attention he received at Dimension Jump this year - wanted to know about Clayton's guest appearance at the 1998 CONVENTION...

It was so funny - people were coming up to me for my autograph saying, "I remember you from Meltdown, I remember you from Meltdown." It was years ago! That was a good night. I had Chris and everybody up singing with me! It being Halloween I thought everybody would be dressed up. It's a big thing back home - and one of the few days when I feel normal. (Laughs)

Finally, your talents continue to include more than just Elvis. Who else do you do in your own show?

I do a show now where I do Neil Diamond, Wilson Pickett, Johnny Mathis, Ricky Mathis, Robbie Williams, Tony Bennett. I play my horn as well - everything for everybody. My own voice is completely different to Elvis, so it's nice to use it.

Right now I'm travelling doing both shows - that one and Elvis. I'm getting ready to do the summer season in Blackpool in the Legends show - Roy Orbison, Rod Stewart, Dusty Springfield and me as Elvis.

Mr Flibble enjoyed talking to Clayton Mark, and now that it's over...Mr Flibble is very cross.