Mr Flibble Talks To... Penguin Books
The last time Mr Flibble met Robert Llewellyn, the Flibmeister was blasting at him with his hex-vision. This time Robert does not fear for his safety as Mr Flibble discusses Robert's best-selling novels, on-line experiments and his experiences with crooked therapists.
12 January, 2001
Robert Llewellyn - No. 1
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

For those interested in covering their head in rubber for a living, how did you get into comedy performing?

Twenty years ago, 'Breaks into tears.' It was actually through two friends, they were performing in a comedy theatre group. They'd done a show, and I wrote them a little sketch for their show - because I'd always wanted to write, and I didn't know how you could do it - but I wrote too many people in. So they eventually said, 'Why don't you do it as well?'

Then in early 1980 we went on stage in a pub in Doulston in East London. We'd called ourselves The Three Joeys - and I can't imagine why we did. That's all lost in the mists of time. For some reason the pub was packed with people and they laughed. I was so nervous about it, because it wasn't something I'd wanted to do, or had ever thought about doing. I know some of the people [who were] in the audience, and they said that their abiding memory of it was seeing the other two guys bow very professionally at the end - and me standing there with my mouth open, looking at all these people laughing and clapping and having no idea why.

So that was a very big turning point, because I think if we'd done the same show and people had gone, 'Oh, yes, that was quite amusing,' and walked out, I probably would never have done it again. But the response was phenomenal that first time.

Within six months I was earning a living as a performer and writer, which was a very quick turnaround. Because we did that one show, and it was a one-off. We didn't have anything else booked, and then ten people who saw that show said, 'Come and do it in our theatre.' So within two weeks we were gigging every week, and within six months we were gigging virtually every night. It was a real explosion of activity.

We did something like 290 shows in 1983, we were on stage virtually every night, touring around the country. It wasn't all in London - we did Holland and Germany. At the end, just before we all broke up - perfectly timed - we had a tour of Canada and America booked up. Which we didn't do, because we all had a big row and fell out with each other! (Laughs) Blew the whole thing. Typical - we couldn't wait 'til afterwards.

Off the back of that I got commissioned to write a sit-com for Channel Four, which I co-wrote with one of the other guys in the group, who I didn't fall out with. Which was the least funny sit-com that Channel Four have ever made. It was phenomenally dull. Interesting, high-concept, but all 'sit' and no 'com.' A very steep and rather expensive learning experience - and for Channel Four quite expensive.

Up to that point I'd had this absolutely blessed career. I stumbled into it by accident; stood on a stage, people laughed, five years later I had my own series on Channel Four. I though that was what happened to everyone! That's what you did - you go on stage, you're a bit funny, you go to the Edinburgh Festival, you win prizes, you get a sit-com and then it went out! (Laughs)

Within a year of doing that sit-com, I was a cyclist courier in London. I had no money. Completely stuffed; depressed, miserable, hating everything. But through that period I started to scrawl a play called, 'Mamon: Robot Born of Woman.' Which was what Paul Jackson saw at the Edinburgh festival in 1988, which is how come I ended up on Red Dwarf.