Recommended second chance
Griff Rhys Jones
A Short History Of Everything Else
Griff Rhys Jones turns quizmaster, alongside regular team captains Marcus Brigstocke and Charlie Baker, plus guests that include Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark, novelist Will Self, and comedians Mickey Flanagan and Bob Mortimer. The teams compete to reveal which knows more about events from recent history, from the Cabbage Patch Kids craze to the scandal about children and video nasties. Griff, 58, tells TVChoice more…
Do you have a favourite era in history?
Well, A Short History Of Everything Else is all about the recent past — I don’t think we go back much in the whole series before the Seventies, because we’re using archive stuff. I’m afraid I suffer from being nearly 60, which gets me thinking, ‘The Nineties? 1990? That’s not history, that’s just yesterday!’ And when people talk about the Eighties as an era, and tell me I was Eighties person, I go, ‘The Eighties? Was it distinctive in any way?’ I have to go back to my diary and think, ‘What did I do in 1980?’
I mean, obviously, the Seventies, this recent documenatry series about the Seventies, I’m looking at it going, ‘Wow! All those things were going on with the unions? I don’t remember any of that!' I just remember it being rather dull and wet and grey. So the answer is, my favourite era, I’m afraid, is about 1965 to about 1970, because I was growing up then, and I spent my time in an awestruck state looking at people like Jimi Hendrix, and wandering around thinking there was some sort of nirvana in central London, where people wore funny sunglasses and had frizzed-out hair, which I was denied access to, because I lived in Brentwood!
As you get older one of the most terrifying things is how quickly it all goes, and how it seems to speed up. And I do find the last 10 years has gone alarmingly quickly. I’m not ready for whatever it is I’m supposed to be ready for! Somebody rang me up and said, ‘Somebody wants to do a series, and has suggested we do it with you. You'll be getting a bus pass at 60, and we'll film a series of bus journeys with you using your bus pass.’ And the answer is no!
Is there anything that you’re enjoying about getting older?
Quite a lot. My kids are grown up — my wife Jo and I got married and she had children at the tremendously early age of 30. Most of my friends seem to have decided to wait until they were about 50! I go around to see them, and they start to hand me a toddler, and I go, ‘No, it’s OK, I’ve done that! I know all about that, and I seem to remember you used to come round to my house, and play loud music, and stay up drinking tilll three in the morning, when we were trying to get the kids to bed, and I don’t care about your kids now! You didn’t care anything about my kids when they were little!’
Funnily enough we’re like the grandparents — we turn up at my friends’ houses and say, ‘Oh, lovely children!’ and then we go, ‘’Bye!’ and get in the car and go off. I do a little bit of babysitting from time to time, and I have godchildren and things like that, but my kids have now fled the nest, and there’s no better time in life!
‘Granddad Griff’ has a certain ring to it…
No, no, no! I don’t offer myself as Granddad Griff! I discourage my children, at the moment, from getting married and having kids. I’m Silver Surfer Griff, I am! I want to make a programme called 60 Things To Do Before You’re 60, which is to go round and do all the things I haven’t done, I’ve got this huge list, and get them nominated by people. Things like form your own company and sell it — I’ve done that. Climb Ben Nevis — yeah, I’ve done that, that’s OK. So I’ll make a programme about doing all the things that I haven’t done so far.
What makes you laugh on TV at the moment?
Harry Hill is a work of genius.
Do you like US comedy?
I do. I spend most of my time watching films and HBO, of one kind or another. That’s what I tend to do these days — sit down and think, ‘Oh good, they’ve made something called The Wire which goes on and on and on, and Mad Men.’ I do sit around getting annoyed that it takes a long time for Mad Men for some reason to come out on DVD, because that’s the only way I can watch it, because I can’t bear watching Sky Atlantic. It’s the principle that bothers me — that somehow you’ve paid a subscription, and they’re putting in an advertisement every now and again, so if that’s the future of television, we’re all doomed! What the future of television is is being able to watch one long series one episode after another and have to say, ‘Look, we cannot sit here in the middle of the afternoon and watch a fourth episode of The Sopranos, we’ve really got to get out! Come on! Out of the house! We mustn’t do this!’