Mervyn Stutter - in his own words...
Been doing this entertainment mullarkey thing since 1974. That’s 40 years now. Still standing! Still working! Will the Arts be crippled by Government Cuts? Probably - they usually are.
Anyway - I started in theatre in 1974 and acted, and wrote scripts and theatre songs and directed for around 14 or so years - 7:84 (England), Nottingham Playhouse, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Dukes Playhouse Lancaster, Library Theater Manchester, Chester Gateway, Coventry TIE, Theatre Foundry, Theatre Mobile to name a few.
Then lots of TV bits and pieces in 1980’s beginning with the first ever BBC Daytime show called OPEN AIR with the much missed Pattie Coldwell and a very thin Irishman called Eamonn Holmes. I was the regular topical song bloke.
Did many more TV current affairs programmes with weekly topical songs then moved onto Radio with more of the same - LOOSE ENDS, IT’S BEEN A BAD WEEK, HAYES ON SUNDAY, AFTER HOURS (Radio 5),
Also did my stint in TV soaps in the late 1980s - ALBION MARKET and EASTENDERS, plus I lectured in Comedy and Theatre at ROSE BRUFORD COLLEGE
Worked on Comedy Circuit in late 1980s and early 1990s doing comedy songs but as I wanted to do complete songs in my act as well as quickies I chose to play more theatrical spaces. This started when I did my first ever Edinburgh Fringe in 1986. (I have been there ever since) The wonderful thing about the Fringe as many circuit comedians soon discover, is that you are not an unknown on a bill, but rather that people have bought a ticket to see you and only you - even if they have no idea what you are like. They are prepared to sit and listen to you rather than bellow abuse within the first minute.
In 1988, I got married to the lovely Moira Downie, had a son Alfie in 1994 and because I did not want to miss out on him growing up, I cut down the touring and tried for more radio. This lead to me doing lots of weekly songs on radio shows eg 2 years on Radio 5 AFTER HOURS and 2 years with Brian Hayes each Sunday morning. On the back of that work Jim Moir, the then new Head of Radio 2, gave me my own comedy series dedicated to all Menopausal Flower Children everywhere called LOVE 40 - NEW BALLS PLEASE. I co-wrote and starred in all three series of that show which went out on Thursday nights and Saturday lunchtimes each week and was made by Celador and directed by Dirk Maggs
Soon after I got a new sitcom on Radio 4 called GETTING NOWHERE FAST. I wrote and starred in all three series of that show which went out at first at 11.30am each morning and was then repeated a few months later at 6.30pm. We got huge audiences at 11.30 in the morning during the second series, apparently as big as the Today programme and also the News Quiz at 6.30pm. (Hope the BBC stats were correct!) The show is still being repeated on BBC Radio4 Extra, due - I’m pleased to say - to audience demand. Hurrah!
The big difference for me in those shows was that they had their foot firmly in the radio comedy tradition of my youth but were very current and about the Baby Boomers getting older. From the audience responses and from emails I still get and from the people I meet even now while out touring, it is clear that the audience thoroughly enjoyed the shows for the same reasons. The shows were also punctuated with comedy rock songs and pastiches of Sixties hits. After all what else should the Flower Child hero of the piece be but a singer songwriter. Couldn’t move for them back then!
I wrote and starred in 3 plays for Radio 4 over the next few years, GOING TROPPO, WATERLOO SUNSET and DAVE THE DEAD LEFTY. Plus many features and documentaries, including the first ever 4 parter on the legendary Light Programme’s WORKERS PLAYTIME
Over the last 10 years and overlapping the GETTING NOWHERE FAST series, I have been out touring the villages of England on the National Rural Touring Circuit. I wasn’t sure to start with whether I would be right for this, but immediately realised that in a village hall on a Friday and Saturday night the majority of the audience will mostly be over 40. Hurrah!
This means that my material works perfectly for this audience plus all my casual life references are not lost on them either, as they were there too! From the political to the personal they understand and enjoy.
In fact, I find my shows are now an act of social subversion in that this audience of older citizens basically fund, the NHS, BBC & MPs and their expenses and genuinely feel poorly served by all of them. Doing my shows for this audience is not just great fun for all of us but also an act of solidarity. Why?......
WE ARE MANY & THEY ARE FEW!
Going Nowhere Fast - BBC R4
Merv and Moira on their Wedding Day
Merv takes a bow
Love 40 New Balls Please - BBC Radio
Merv and Moira now
'It's like the Royal Variety Show of the Fringe'
3rd-25th Aug 2019
(not 15th, 22nd)