Rudy’s Rare Records
Hey ya’all – Rudy’s was an idea that I’d always wanted to do – I love situation comedies such as ‘Steptoe and Son’ or ‘Frazier’; fathers and sons, they get me every time. When Frasier, Niles and Dad go on the camping trip in that big Winnebago; when Albert and Harold meet their dopplegangers – two escaped cons from the local jail – an old man and a young un (played by Leonard Rossiter) – In both episodes young and old learn things about each other and about their situation.
Fathers and sons get to me – There’s an episode of ‘Roseanne’ where Dan (the big husband played by John Goodman) and his absentee father, played by the mighty Ned Beatty, meet up for the first time in ages in some dodgy motel room for a heart to heart. It’s one of the most devastating scenes in sit com history. The audience don’t quite know how to cope with it all – is it meant to be funny? Is it meant to be serious?
And yet it’s so moving – father and son attempting communication and not quite getting there.
I’ve often spoken about my dad’s reluctance to ‘Do Feelings’ with any of us – to me he was kind of like the Daily Mirror with arms and legs and the top half of an Afro.
When we make sit coms about families, we tend to exaggerate – making our families larger for public entertainment – or seek realism telling it just like it was; or we can make up a family – this is what it would have been like if our family had gone this way or that…
Most sit coms are about some kind of family – the four guys in the ‘Young Ones’, the guys on that space ship in ‘Red Dwarf’, the staff members of Grace Brothers; there’s a real sense in the best sit coms (at least I think) that ‘If my family’s broken, then I’ll make a new one’. Even work-based shows break down to a Father figure, Mother figure, annoying younger brother, Jock brother, aggressive sister etc.
They fascinate me – and I’ve been honoured over the years to have taken part in the first all black sit com on British Telly – LWT’s ‘The Fosters’ written by Jon Watkins adapted from ‘Good Times’ (it’s US. counterpart) with the legendary Norman Beaton.
‘Delbert Wilkins’ show (created by Lenny Henry and Kim Fuller, written by Stan Hey and Andrew Nickolds – script edited by Kim Fuller and Lenny Henry) – which was another family based sit com kinda – Ellen Thomas playing my mom, Vas Blackwood playing Winston (a mate – but really my weird little brother).
‘Chef!’ (created by Lenny Henry and Peter Tilbury) Written by Peter Tilbury, Geoff Deane and Paul Makin – This is Chef as strict Dad figure and all the staff as his wayward / thick / too smart kids – he also had a very smart wife played by the lovely Caroline Lee Johnston.
And the latest – ‘Rudy’s Rare Records’ – created by Lenny Henry, original scripts by Danny Robins and Dan Tetsell. Danny Robins and Paula Hines write the new series. This is about Adam Sharpe a divorced middle aged, middle class, cultured man – having to move back to Birmingham to live with his scurrilous old goat of a Dad – Rudy Sharpe – the owner of Rudy’s Rare records – the last bastion of Black music (and others but you’d have to ask for it – it might be under the carpet or in the window all warped and shit) in Handworth. Working with Larrington Walker, and Claire Benedict and Jeffrey Kissoon and Natasha Godfrey and Joe Jacobs Darnell has been a wonderful experience. The writing is always on point and it’s quite outrageous (so I’m told) – I love the recording day – we meet up in the afternoon for our final read throughs. Tweaks are done in an adjacent room with myself and Dan, Paula and Katie (used to be the legendary Lucy Armitage – now producing ‘Benidorm’ I think) – and then suddenly a very groovy audience – a mixture of Radio Four listeners, and lots of Caribbean / African / Asian people who have probably never been to a radio recording before. The laughter you hear is real – there are no ‘canned’ additions.
Sit com is an oft maligned, but strangely addictive art form. Please enjoy this re run of RRR. Gwarn!