Interview: Griff Rhys Jones – 'Don't sit on the radiator or it will give you piles'

Interview: Griff Rhys Jones – 'Don't sit on the radiator or it will give you piles'

Steve Ullathorne

Griff Rhys Jones on Middlemarch, mainsails and mysteries of the organism

To some folk, Griff Rhys Jones will forever be connected to Mel Smith thanks to the pair's sketch comedy work in the 70s and 80s as part of Not the Nine O'Clock News as well as their own show, Alas Smith and Jones. As Jones prepares to take his one-man show reminiscing about life with and without Mel on the road, he stops off to ponder our First & Last quiz.>

First record you ever bought
Help! by the Beatles when it came out. My mum thought I was mad and that pop singles would never last. I still have it, although I don't have the means to play it.

Last extravagant purchase you made
I can honestly say it was a long time ago now; I just don't buy things. The last thing when I went 'ouch' was for a new mainsail for my boat. And this is just maintenance: you stick it up, you use it, and then a little bit later on you have to get a new one. It doesn't feel like buying anything worthwhile at all.

First film that really moved you
Lawrence of Arabia. I don't even remember where or even when but it would have been when I was a boy. It's a film that I believe Steven Spielberg watches at least once every year and I probably do as well. It's a masterpiece of narrative, just extraordinary. People have dumbed down David Lean, but he is a genius.

Last lie you told
I'm somebody who doesn't tell lies genuinely, very often. But on the other hand, I do lie every day, often when I say 'thank you' for things that I don't want. Emails in particular. Little lies like 'thank you' when I mean 'please don't send me the email'. You do tend to start a negative reply with 'thank you so much for sending this to me'.

First movie you went on a date to
Probably I took a girl that I really fancied to an arthouse movie in London which I had read about: WR: The Mysteries of the Organism. It was a fantastically pornographic film that I hadn't been aware of. It didn't seem to help my case.

The last time you cried
Not that long ago.

First thing you do when got time off of work
Visit my alpacas.

Last great meal you cooked
The last great meal I cooked was the day before yesterday. I didn't cook a lot but we are a member of a thing called the Pudding Club where we forget all diets for one night and eat anything that we want to eat and it involved a huge quantity of ice-cream, cream cakes and pies. Can hardly say I cooked it, but I assembled it.

First crush
When I was 15, possibly a bit older, I went to ballroom dancing classes and me and Jimson fell in love with identical twins. It was very Shakespearean; the door would be opened by the girl but you didn't know if it was the girl you were in love with or her sister.

Last book you read
The book I'm reading at the moment is the brilliant Dictator by Robert Harris.

First great piece of advice you were given
The school masters were always full of advice: 'Don't sit on the radiator or it will give you piles'.

Last time you were star-struck
It's quite complicated to be star-struck when you get my age because it genuinely tends to be people that you admire greatly in your teens. The person I was most star-struck, by going to an event and finding myself being introduced to, was Isaiah Berlin. I couldn't think of anything to say to him as he was the greatest living philosopher.

First thing you'd do if you ran the country
I would ban referenda.

Last meal on earth: what would it be

First song you'll sing at karaoke
Never sung karaoke. But I just don't know any songs apart from 'How Much I've Lied' by Gram Parsons.

Last time you exploited your position to get something
Don't think I ever have. But if it's like 'can I have the paper?' then it was probably this morning with my wife.

First time you realised you were famous
I think it was while making Not the Nine O'Clock News when kids at the bus stop starting pointing at us.

Last time someone criticised your work
All the time: yesterday I imagine.

First concert you ever attended
It would've been at a school. An early concert I can remember is the Byrds at the Albert Hall.

Last time you bought someone flowers
Only two days ago.

First object you'd save from your burning home
My wife, but she's not an object. An object that needs preserving would be my passport.

Last funny thing you saw online
I never look online.

First job
Working in Geoffrey Drayton's in Epping High Street as a shop assistant.

Last crime you committed

First book you read for a second time
Middlemarch when I was doing A-level.

Last thing you think of before you go to sleep
Am I still wearing my glasses?

First thing you think of when you wake up in the morning
Oh no.

Griff Rhys Jones: Jones and Smith is on tour until Sat 26 Nov.