BEN Elton has a cunning plan – but it’s not bringing back Blackadder.
The hit show’s co-creator is constantly being asked by the BBC to write a new series of the sitcom, knowing a return would spark a ratings boom.
But speaking exclusively to The Sun, he says it will NEVER happen — despite what Tony Robinson, who plays hapless Baldrick, might think.
He said: “Every time Tony does an interview he says, ‘Oh, I think there might be another,’ but don’t listen to Baldrick on this one, you need to hear it from me or Richard (Curtis) as we write it.
“There is never going to be another — I can tell you that now.”
Ben’s insistence over Blackadder’s fate is sparked by the reception of the one-off specials, aired around the time of the millennium, which he describes as “semi-half arsed revivals” which were “s***”.
Plus, he feels a comeback could tarnish his relationship with lead star Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis.
He explains: “Blackadder wasn’t easy, it wasn’t a particularly happy experience for everyone.
“It was very tense, lots of egos, lots of frustrations but through it all everyone remained friendly and deeply respectful. But it was edgy. I used to sometimes not go in.
“Richard went in all the time and it was very hard for him.”
I WAS PASSIONATE ABOUT WORK BUT NEVER ANGRY
He added: “It’s just best to remember Blackadder as it was.”
So what is Ben’s cunning plan?
Fifteen years after he last hit the road, he’s returning to stand-up.
Touring the UK amassing 66 shows, Ben will detail how little he knows about modern culture — a subject he used to specialise in.
He explains: “People thought I was a know-it-all but the theme of this show is I don’t know any more.
“I’ve never felt more confused.
“For example, I used to know what BBC morality was, ‘Dear BBC, I was horrified to see that there was sexual content in the costume drama and it’s not what we want in our family viewing’.
Now it’s the exact opposite, ‘Dear BBC, why was there not more lesbian sex and a**l sex in the sitcoms and the costume dramas? It’s amazing.” He adds: “The world is changing very fast.”
Ben’s been perfecting his routine over the summer, strolling around the garden of his Sussex home “shouting and swearing at trees” — which is the reason for his tan, not the fact he’s been living in Australia — more on than off — since 2010.
Indeed, the comedy writer — one of the biggest stars of the Eighties — moved Down Under with his Aussie wife Sophie Gare so their three children could experience half their childhood on different sides of the world, choosing to spend their high school years in Oz.
He’s picked up a clear Aussie twang and is in great shape in his 60th year — which he’s not too shy to admit.
Ben says: “I know I look amazing and I’m not going to deny it as, frankly, you won’t be able to trust me on anything else I say.”
He’s also anything but angry, a reputation born from early routines where he regularly lamented Margaret Thatcher with his left-wing views on shows such as Saturday Live. He says his “anger” got confused with “passion”.
Ben says: “I was hosting a live show with four bands and most of them were often drunk.
“You try doing a live show where The Pogues are doing three numbers.
“So I got this reputation as this shouty frantic person and really it wasn’t me. It was fear, it was tension and it was this awful excess of adrenalin which is the natural result of being a 25-year-old who sees a red light come on and there’s two million people watching and I couldn’t swear but had to be modern, interesting and edgy.
“So no, I was passionate and committed to my material but I was never angry.”
However, there are some things that still irk him, like the internet and social media. To sum up how long Ben has been away from stand-up, comics were doing gags about mobile phone batteries being bigger than the handset when he was last on the road.
He believes the internet “killed the high street” and questions how Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the World Wide Web, “can sleep at night”. Ben says: “Tomorrow’s World 30 years ago was always about how wonderful it’s all going to be, when we’ve all got jetpacks and there’ll be plastic grass and paper underwear and it’s all going to be wonderful.
“Imagine if Maggie Philbin had actually been able to look into the future and could say ‘in 30 years with a small handheld device like this I’ll be able to perpetuate anti-vaccine paranoia and I’ll be able to take a photograph of my t*** and send it to my boyfriend anywhere in the world so he can revenge porn me when I dump him.’”
And he refuses to join social media due to what he described as “essay crisis”. Every tweet or post would have to be word perfect, given his high standards. Ben says: “I’d want to service it too well. Every day I’d be thinking, ‘where do you start?’
“To say ‘Boris Johnson lacks a moral compass is like saying the flat earth society lacks an actual compass’, which is a good line and would make a good tweet, but you can’t come up with that all the time.
‘I HAD BEST YEARS OF MY WORKING LIFE WITH RIK’
“My sanity is worth more to me. It would drive me mad.”
At least being off social media stops him from being trolled — he’s had to put up with enough flak during his career.
Labour-supporting Ben was accused of selling out by fellow lefties in the Nineties after he joined forces with Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, a staunch Tory, to produce hit musicals Love Never Dies — the sequel to Phantom Of The Opera — and We Will Rock You, based on the music of Queen, which starts a new ten-month UK tour in a matter of weeks.
He puts the negativity down to “frustration and jealousy that I just won’t f*** off” because the shows, plus his 16 novels, have been so successful.
Ben’s return to stand-up stirs emotions of his relationship with the late Rik Mayall, who died after a heart attack in 2014, aged 56.
He says the pair were like brothers and describes their stand-up tours in their early twenties as “the best years of my working life”.
It was while on tour with Rik in Melbourne that Ben met Sophie — who played bass in their Aussie support band. Rik was the star of Ben’s cult Eighties BBC sitcom The Young Ones, playing anarchist Rick.
Ben’s big regret is never working again with Rik before he died — although they came close when Ben suggested Rik for the lead role in a new sitcom he’d written, The Wright Way. But the BBC felt Rik “wasn’t right” and the part went to David Haig in 2013.
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Ben said: “I felt Rik and I would do something else down the line — I saw our working relationship as unfinished business.
“Which is why I am distraught we didn’t do that series together as we never got to work together again.
“I had so many ideas.”
- Ben Elton Live 2019 tours the UK and Ireland September 27 – December 20. Details and tickets at benelton.net.
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