Five things you might not know about . . . Count Arthur Strong
- Brian Donaldson
- 26 February 2015
Ex-music hall legend hits the road with Somebody Up There Licks Me
1 The man behind the pencil moustache, tweed jackets and prehistoric worldviews is one Steve Delaney. No relation, we think, to fellow comics such as the one-line gagmeister Gary or the American Catastrophe-starring Twitter sensation, Rob. This Delaney is a Leeds boy who reckons the genesis of the Count’s character came through his daily encounters with a particular kind of shopkeep when he was growing up. Also in Arthur somewhere is a childhood neighbour, a chief electrician at a theatre, described by by Delaney as ‘completely bonkers’.
2 Delaney created ‘the doyen of light entertainment’ when he was a drama student in the 1980s, but set him aside to concentrate on his own TV acting career. Arthur returned in the late 90s and soon established himself as an Edinburgh Fringe staple with shows such as Count Arthur Strong’s Forgotten Egypt and The Man Behind the Smile. Radio soon beckoned with Radio 4 snapping him up tout de suite.
3 The Count finally moved from the wireless to telly with a BBC Two series in 2013, which transferred to Beeb One earlier this year for its second helping. Co-writer Graham Linehan denied certain claims (by a BBC controller no less) that Arthur is 'Marmite' and he hoped it would be a show that would keep flying the flag for the studio sitcom.
4 Arthur’s recently published memoir, Through It All I’ve Always Laughed, is produced in the font of an old-style typewriter with handwritten memos in the margins featuring such notes-to-self as ‘write letter to MP about woman in Argos’ and ‘possible cure for insomnia’ as well as the odd shopping list. The Count hoped that it might be the first of six or seven volumes, but admits that the publishers ‘have gone a bit quiet on that front’.
5 Like Oor Wullie and Bart Simpson, the Count’s age appears locked in time. For the past 25 years, he has been, depending on who you ask, 73 or 72.