Exclusive Interview With Sooty, Sweep and Richard Cadell
Sooty and Sweep are undoubtedly one of the great comedy double acts, and they have a brand new series out this month. I spoke to their current handler, Richard Cadell, about the longest running kids TV show in history.
What effect does Sooty have on people?
One of the reasons he survives so strongly today is that when people see him he takes them back to their childhood. Only today, for a gag, I interrupted a meeting of accountants with Sooty and they all stopped everything to have pictures taken with him. Sooty does actually have a profound effect on people. I realised this when I was doing the first stage show. When I brought him out the audience screamed with delight. He’s part of everyone’s childhood.
When I was fifteen I was Young Magician of the Year and I was invited to appear on the show by Matthew Corbett. It was technically a very complex programme and that appealed to me as a magician. I kept in touch with Matthew and one day I was told that he was retiring and would I audition for the job to take over? This was my dream job, and one that, as far as I could see, was never going to come up! So when I actually got the job my world changed – it was unbelievable.
You’ve said that the originator of Sooty, Harry Corbett, was a genius.
He was an engineer who started out doing shows with Sooty as an amateur, and then when he got on TV he built all the special effects and props for the show himself. They were so technically brilliant that I still use a lot of them today. He wrote the scripts, and presented the show in a very understated and unique way – he was light years ahead of everyone else. Even now if I show those old programmes from sixty years ago kids laugh out loud.
How do you feel about Sooty’s popularity these days?
I feel very honoured to be Sooty’s guardian and very happy that the reaction is as strong as ever. I bought the rights to the show and took it back to its roots – it’s about Sooty, Sweep, Soo and one guy with them. It’s about magic, slapstick, fun, humour. Sooty and Sweep are a double act, they’re almost like Laurel and Hardy. Kids don’t want moral or educational messages from it, it’s a unifying show. Parents and grandparents can watch it with their kids and say ‘I remember that!’ Audiences are laughing at something in 2013 that has its roots in 1952 – that’s unique.
Tell us a bit about the new series.
The show is faster now, but the essential character and charm of the show remains the same. Kids haven’t changed that much, they still love it. We’ve got some great guests: Brian Blessed plays the best Santa Claus you’re ever likely to see – there’s Joe Pasquale, The Krankies, a lot of slapstick. We filmed one scene which has a hundred extras having a huge custard pie fight! A lot of time, effort and love have gone into the new shows, which is one of the reasons Sooty is so popular today.
Many thanks to Richard for talking to us. We think Sooty was talking to us as well but we couldn’t quite hear him.
The Sooty Show is currently on ITV 1, Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7.25am.