Graham Fellows on why he's killing his most famous creation

John Shuttleworth is being pensioned off because the character's becoming too close to home for creator Graham Fellows.

'I'm catching him up,' he told Chortle. 'He was like a father figure, now he's too young to be my dad.

'I'm naturally getting to the age where my lifestyle becomes more like his – and I'm happy for it to be that way.

'When I created him I was living away from home in London, and he was like a surrogate family to me. Now I have that family myself, my interest lies elsewhere. I have other things to do with my life.'

The forthcoming tour will be the last outing for the security-guard-turned–light-entertainer for some time. Although after 15 years, Graham will not be killing off his most popular character.

'He may resurface in a few years, perhaps as a grandfather,' he said.

The tour features Shuttleworth dispensing his homespun advice on surviving the apocalypse, combined with his thoughts on gravy. His tips are typically naïve: 'Take your satellite dish of the roof and use it as a liferaft,' he suggests.

And he has a new hobby – he's become a Malteser. Slipping unprompted into character, he explains: 'It's a volunteer of St John Ambulance, which was founded by St John 900 years ago on the island of Malta. I visit lonely people. I did three half-day courses before I started. That's a long time. What do you need to learn? Well, you can't wear a tie in case they grab it to throttle you. You're supposed to wear a clip-on. But they could still rip that off and throttle you with it. But if people try to throttle you, they deserve to be lonely.'

It sounds like meticulous research, but Graham admits he stole the idea from his father-in-law. 'He comes out with some pearlers,' he said. 'The other day he said 'I took some disadvantaged children to see a horse' – I think that's funny.'

His father-in-law is unaware that his traits are being stolen, having never been to a John Shuttleworth tour. And, as this is the last for some while, may remain in blissful ignorance.

But as John makes his swan song, Graham's latest creation, rock and roll anorak Brian Appleton, takes to the stage.

The sound engineer who claims to have had a minor role in most of rock's defining moments was introduced at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe two years ago, and makes a cameo appearance in the new tour.

But his real moment of fame will come this September – after another fringe run – when he delivers a six-part spoof lecture on Radio 4.

Two episodes of Brian Appleton's Histroy Of Rock And Roll have already been recorded, the rest will be taped after the tour and include real archive quotes interspersed with Brian's flights of fancy, giving them an ill-deserved authenticity. Graham, of course, is no stranger to the world of music himself, having scored a top 5 hit in 1978 with his single hit Jilted John, featuring the immortal chorus 'Gordon is a moron.'

'Badly Drawn Boy cited Jilted John as the best single ever made,' Graham says proudly.

'I think I do wish I'd had more of a musical career. I'm still trying with my 16-track digital equipment. I would like to make more original music.'

For the moment, though, he's happy to create comedy songs for John Shuttleworth, and now Brian, too, with a set that includes a Smiths spoof, the psychedelic The Day I Forgot To Breathe and Disappearing Without Trace, about a girl named Tracey who wouldn't go on holiday with Brian.

It's a contrived pun, but one which followers of both Graham's low-key comic creations would appreciate. After all, who but John Shuttleworth could give his final tour the title One Foot In The Gravy?

March 15, 2001

Published: 6 Sep 2006

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