Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Brainsong 6 - (Ken Campball)

Playlist BrainSong 6

John Hegley - Amoeba
Mega Zit - The BrainSong part 06
Anarchy Steering Committee - I Think My Teletubbie is Gay
Ken Campball - More Nothingness

The BBC have an obituary programme called “Last Word” and when Ken Campbell died his daughter Daisy was interviewed and she is the only person I have ever heard on that programme who was unable to continue speaking because they couldn't stop laughing! I can't think of a better tribute.

Some Ken Campbell Interviews

Ken Campbell, actor-comedian :- This much I know

My parrot speaks from a bird's point of view. Rather than 'Pretty Polly' I encourage Doris to say things like, 'I'm up here and you're down there,' and, 'I was in a pet shop and then Ken bought me.'

I could have been Doctor Who. I was down to the last two actors in 1987. Insiders saying 'I was too dark in the role' means they probably feared I would have been so amazing they'd never be able to replace me.

Stephen Hawking is a merry man. His laughs come out strangely from the speaker at the back of his chair, 'Pppptt-wwwppa' like the echo of a big bang.

Physical violence was part of the teacher-pupil relationship in my days. There wasn't anybody, including my art mistress, who wouldn't now be jailed.

When I appeared as Yvan in the play Art, I wanted to weep for real. But the director wouldn't permit it - he wanted a head-in-hands job. One matinee, after my beautiful epileptic dog Mr Chins had died in the morning, my tears flowed and flowed, then again in the evening. Actor John Fortune said it was a privilege to be on stage while I cried.

We men of the box set can watch a whole season of Buffy or 24 without pause. But because they don't contain adverts, so each episode is squeezed to 44 minutes, quite soon we feel we've saved up enough time to take the dogs for a walk.

I think people apply the word 'genius' to me so they don't have to give me a job. 'Oh God, we can't have him involved - he's a genius.'

I asked a medium channelling Laurence Olivier at a seance, 'Sir, you said that the greatest actor of your time was Charlie Chaplin. Who do you think is the greatest living actor now?' He replied, 'Jackie Chan.' So I started my immense collection of Chan films. And he's absolutely right.

Conspiracy theory is mainstream now. When I staged the Illuminatus! trilogy with Chris Langham in 1976 at the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool, it was ahead of the game. Now, I enjoy David Icke lectures, but there's be no point competing.

Director Lindsay Anderson gave me some good advice. He said that instead of sending hoax letters informing every director and actor in the Royal Shakespeare Company that its name had changed to the Royal Dickens Company, I should have set up a real RDC, which he considered a genius idea.

I'm not a user of the British Library or the Bodleian. I don't need them, having access to the Beadlean Library - the great book collection of Jeremy Beadle.

Barbers say to me: 'Are you sure you don't want me to see to your eyebrows?' But they're really the only hair I've got of any note.

I selected a random address in Barkingside as a setting for a script. It was the first script Frank Muir bought when he was setting up the comedy department for LWT. He rang up and said, 'Bute Road, Barkingside? I once had sex there.'

I'd call myself an optimist. I'm of a cheery bent. I think if one's insistent - as many influential people are - that things won't go well, one's going to make sure it doesn't go well, in order not to be proven wrong.

Interview by John Hind The Observer, Sunday 25 November 2007
Actor Ken Campbell attempted meditation while his daughter watched her father's dog jump through hoops of fire

Ken Campbell: I'm a huge enthusiast of dog training. It started three years ago when my dog, Max, allegedly bit a policeman. I could have gone to jail for two years. My solicitor advised me that if I had Max put down, he could probably get me off, but I couldn't do that. He said, in that case, I should do everything I could to try and save him so that when he was executed, at least I could say I'd done my best.

One of the things I did was to take Max and his mother, Gertie, to the Essex Dog Training Centre. I had six months before the trial and the guys there helped me train Max to such a high standard that they offered him a place - should he be granted his life - to perform as part of the Essex dog display team at Earls Court, two weeks after his trial.

The trial went well. My solicitor argued that Max was a distinguished animal in the field of canine agility and, to his amazement, the judge granted Max his life and he duly appeared at Earls Court. I thought it was because of everything I'd done, but my solicitor said it was probably because Princess Anne and her dog were up for a similar offence, so the word might have been to go easy on dogs for a while.

I thought it might be interesting for Daisy to come to the dangerous dog training where you actually get attacked by other people's dogs, so you know what dangerous dogs can do. You wear protective clothing so it's perfectly safe, but she never made it because her car overheated. We ended up going to the agility class where Max jumped through hoops of fire. I think Daisy was quite impressed.

I enjoy thinking and planning and scheming so I knew I was going to find meditation difficult. I can't sit still for long. We had to focus on our breathing and, at first, I could only manage about five seconds but when I tried hard, I had this vision of gravel. Not any old gravel but really immaculate gravel. I told the man who was teaching us and he didn't seem to think they had ever had anyone who'd come up with gravel before.

It was nice to be somewhere with Daisy where she couldn't interrupt me. She never used to do that, but now she's always interrupting me right in the middle of whatever I'm trying to say. And it's getting worse. It won't be long before I never get to say anything.

I'd definitely go back to the meditation class because the people were so charming. Daisy wants me to go to an advanced class but I don't think I'm up to that. I'm still getting the gravel.

Daisy Campbell: Ever since I was small, Dad's involved me in ideas and projects. He's always been very encouraging but very challenging, too. When I was eight, I wrote a novel, School Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and when I was 16, Dad suggested I turn it into a play. He kept me chained to my desk for the summer holidays, which is no mean feat. I think he saw it as his duty to chuck me in at the deep end whenever possible and, fortunately, I've usually been able to swim.

I was pleased to take Dad meditating because I knew it was something I'd be better at than him. I couldn't imagine he would ever be able to do it. I've been meditating ever since I went on this hardcore meditation boot camp in Hereford. We weren't allowed to talk for 10 days and the first three days were absolute physical and mental torture, but then something clicked. I realised I'd been staring at a flower for over an hour and I wasn't at all bored.

I've never had such an intense experience as that again. It's a tricky dilemma because when you meditate, you're trying to rise above inner conflict but that's often where you get ideas from. I think that's why Dad would never go for it in a big way. He's worried he might meditate his funniness away.

We went to an introductory class at the North London Buddhist Centre, which was very gentle. They even let Dad sit in a chair. When we were asked to share our previous experiences of meditation, Dad put on this sensitive "Buddhist" voice, which cracked me up.

The dog training centre was incredible. I've gone for lots of walks with Dad and the dogs so I know how well-trained they are, but this time, they seemed like different dogs. There was a paddock with seesaws and swings and tubes, all for the dogs, and they set up some flaming hoops for Max. It took him about three attempts to pluck up the courage to jump through them, but he managed it in the end.

Dad's unique but there are similarities between us. Any annoying traits he spots in me are usually ones he has himself. At the Buddhist centre, he found a book listing all the things that a particular Zen master found annoying, such as people who interrupt you before you've finished speaking, and he said, "That's you! You do that!" Now who does he think I learnt that from?

Interviews by Hilary Whitney The Guardian, Saturday 8 July 2006


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