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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 01:38 GMT 02:38 UK
Brothers mark 20 years of chuckles
By Caroline Briggs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

The Chuckle Brothers - AKA Barry and Paul Chuckle - celebrate 20 years of their BBC children's show ChuckleVision this week.

At the Bide-A-Wee retirement home, two old men step gingerly from the doorway.

Suddenly, one of them slips on a banana skin, sending him flying in the air and onto his back with a groan.

The Chuckle Brothers in 1996
The brothers' first BBC series was called Chucklehounds

But no-one rushes to help the old man to his feet. Instead, a peal of laughter sounds from the people standing nearby.

The 'old' men are none other than the Chuckle Brothers - purveyors of banana skins, custard pies and mushy peas - and they are on the set of the latest series of their ChuckleVision children's TV show, near Watford.

Ask most children under the age of eight, and they will tell you: the Chuckle Brothers are hilarious. To them they are Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais and Russell Brand rolled into one.

It is also ChuckleVision's 20th birthday. The first ever episode aired on 26 September 1987.

"Twenty years, is that how long?" asks Paul, feigning amazement.

"It doesn't seem like 20 years. It feels like two or three," says Barry who, at 63, is three years older than his brother.

"After 20 years we are still coming up with new ideas, which is amazing."

To me, to you

The gags and the funnies, the falling on your backside or walking into a door or into a lamppost is age-old comedy
Paul Chuckle
When children come face-to-face with the Chuckle Brothers they squeal with delight, or regard them with shy reverence. Students have been known to bow down at their feet.

But it is their To Me, To You catchphrase that is recognisable to most. And if they don't use it during one of their regular stage shows, they know there's going to be trouble.

"Kids will say to us 'you didn't say it,'" says Paul. "They really want to hear it."

But while the catchphrase - rapidly delivered in their Yorkshire tones - was never intentional, it is now a firm favourite of removal men up and down the land.

"We've used it ever since we were kids at home, if we were moving a chair or something," says Barry.

Barry and Paul Chuckle
Barry (left) and Paul dress up as their 'Granddads' for an episode
"Then we did it in the first series of ChuckleVision, and people suddenly coming up to us and saying it."

Of the 300 ChuckleVision episodes made, Paul and Barry reckon the catchphrase is in 35%. They can't remember how many times they have fallen over.

ChuckleVision has taken the brothers to the moon and in search of the Loch Ness Monster. They have been golfers, plumbers, and even turned their hand to chimney sweeping.

Today they are a little greyer around the whiskers, but their enthusiasm is undimmed.

Double-act

There is vague talk of retirement, but these graduates of RADA - Rotherham Academy of Dramatic Arts, if you please - admit they know little else.

The brothers come from a family of entertainers. Their father, Gene Patton, was a comedian, their mother a dancer, while two of their older brothers, Jimmy and Brian, have their own long-running double act.

Chuckle Brothers
The new series of ChuckleVision will be screened next year

Showbiz, they say, runs through them like lettering on a stick of seaside rock.

The brothers' act won the ITV talent show New Faces in 1974, but contractual problems meant they could not take up TV offers. By the time they could, producers had given up trying.

So they made a living peddling their end-of-pier style show around provincial theatres and pantomimes, eventually landing their big TV break in the unlikely setting of Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, in the mid-1980s.

"We were asked to do a tour with Ward Allen, the ventriloquist with a big dog," explains Paul.

"So we went to Ashton-under-Lyne, and one afternoon there were 28 people. We thought we'd just go out and enjoy ourselves, which we did.

"What we didn't know was Martin Hughes and Peter Risdale Scott from the BBC were in the circle upstairs. We got a call the next day asking to meet us for lunch, and it has just gone from there."

Down with the kids

The brothers bounded onto children's TV in 1985 dressed as giant furry dogs in ChuckleHounds. The show was a hit, and two years later ChuckleVision was born.

After 20 years of inexpertly carrying furniture, falling down manholes, and slipping on banana skins, the Chuckle Brothers are still going strong, and they are still down with the kids. The reason, they say, is simple.

"Anyone can have a laugh at our type of comedy," says Barry.

Paul adds: "It's age-old comedy that goes back to Roman times. The gags and the funnies, the falling on your backside or walking into a door or into a lamppost is age-old comedy. If you hurt yourself, people think it's funny.

"As people get older they get talked into what they think should be funny by their peers. You are talked into finding things funny, instead of just watching. If something is funny, it's funny, if it's not, it's not.

"You can't do that with kids. You can't tell kids what is funny. They tell you."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Footage from the first ever episode of Chucklevision



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