Goodies star Tim Brooke-Taylor left his wife just £2,000 from his estate despite a 50-year career in showbusiness, it was revealed today.
The comedian, who died with Covid-19 last year, left a gross estate of £19,023 but after his outstanding affairs had been finalized, this produced a figure of just over £2,000, which goes to wife Christine Brooke-Taylor.
Mr Brooke-Taylor first found fame after writing the The Four Yorkshiremen Sketch also starring John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman – about a group of miserable and tight northerners who had become rich but were ‘happier when poor’.
But despite only having a few thousand pounds to his wife, Christine, who lived with her husband in one of Berkshire’s most exclusive villages, insists she has not been left poverty-stricken but declined to comment further.
A spokesman for the comedian’s widow said: ‘This is a private matter. She has not been left destitute and has no further comment to make.’
Tim Brooke-Taylor, 79, left a gross estate of £19,023 but after his outstanding affairs had been finalised, this produced a figure of just over £2,000, which goes to his widow, Christine (pictured together)
Brooke-Taylor was best known for the television show The Goodies (above) in a career in showbusiness that spanned more than 50 years
Privately educated Brooke-Taylor started his performing career at Cambridge University, becoming president of the Footlights drama club, and moved onto BBC radio with I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again and worked in television alongside university friends John Cleese and Graham Chapman.
His anarchic wit led to him becoming a panelist on the radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for almost half a century.
‘Among my silliest memories of Tim Brooke-Taylor is the sight of him astride a giant soup can, at the top of a lifeboat slipway above a rough sea.’ Pictured: Tim Brooke-Taylor, in London, 1975
Brooke-Taylor, who lived at Cookham Dean in Berkshire, married wife Christine in 1968, and they had two sons, Ben and Edward. He was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to light entertainment.
He appeared in eight films, including Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and the Secret Policeman’s Other Ball, as well as the acclaimed television play Cathy Come Home.
Brooke-Taylor was also an author, writing three books on his own, and co-writing three books with other members of The Goodies. The Goodies also had two top 10 chart hits with songs The Inbetweenies and the Funk Gibbon in the 1970s.
He died from complications after developing coronavirus.
After working with university friends Cleese and Chapman and working for the BBC, he became a huge star from The Goodies, which was beloved by royalty
Prince Charles himself once wrote to the three stars of The Goodies, the BBC’s wildly popular, anarchic Seventies comedy series, to say: ‘I remember guffawing like a drain at your antics, to the point where my sister, HRH The Princess Anne, was quite short with me.’
So it was a perpetual surprise to fans meeting Brooke-Taylor – who died aged 79, after contracting coronavirus – that he wasn’t an arch-nationalist at all. With a keen appreciation of the silly and the absurd, he regarded flag-waving as nonsense.
Tim Brooke-Taylor pictured with wife Christine who supported him in his showbiz work
In fact, he rarely took anything in his career too seriously… least of all his own talent.
His fellow Goodies played versions of themselves: Bill Oddie, the explosively short-tempered rebel with a head full of pop hits, and Graeme Garden, the caustic wit and former doctor with an IQ bigger than the national debt.
But the character Brooke-Taylor played was just that… a made-up role. ‘With a name like mine,’ he remarked, ‘no one would believe I was a revolutionary.’ Instead, he emphasised his upperclass accent and played the Establishment gent. ‘I don’t think I’m really such a good comedian as people might think,’ he said modestly, ‘but I’m probably a better actor.’
For a man so dismissive of his own comic gifts, Brooke-Taylor enjoyed an exceptionally long and successful career, including a run of almost 50 years in the BBC Radio 4 pun-fest I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.
Born in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1940, his talent was obvious to everyone but him from childhood. In his last year at Winchester College, his form master wrote to his mother, suggesting that if Tim failed his A-levels, he could probably find work as an actor ‘or a musical comedian’. If that was meant to be a criticism, it was also prescient.
By the mid-Sixties, he was part of the lunatic committee that became Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and co-wrote one of their most popular sketches – the Four Yorkshiremen, competing to brag about who had endured the most deprived childhood.
With John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman all puffing cigars and quaffing champagne, Brooke-Taylor listened to their boasts of overcrowding – 26 children in a room with no furniture and a hole in the floor.
‘Room?’ he scoffed. ‘You were lucky t’have a room. There were over 150 of us living in a small shoe-box in middle of t’road!’ The Pythons were still doing that routine when they played the O2 in London in 2014. Brooke-Taylor commented that it was a good thing they’d kept going so long, because they had finally conceded they owed him royalties for the sketch.
The Goodies TV programme starring (left to right): Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden with their giant Dougal
Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor (right) of The Goodies ahead of a performance at the Redgrave Theatre in Bristol on their remarkable 50th anniversary tour
The Beeb was never quite sure what to make of them. While Monty Python was definitely post-watershed, scurrilous comedy for the university crowd, The Goodies seemed to attract audiences at any time in the schedules. Their visual comedy appealed to all the family. When they were chased around a maze by a gigantic Dougal the Dog from the Magic Roundabout, or were divebombed by geese dropping bouncing eggs like dambuster bombs, the effect was hilariously surreal. Stoned students loved it, but so did sixyear-olds, and adults who grew up on the Goons.
These jokes travelled well too. Australia especially took the Goodies to their hearts, screening their shows nightly for decades.
And international comedy judges were also impressed: In 1972, the episode Kitten Kong won the prestigious Silver Rose of Montreux television award, with a spectacular monster movie spoof.
It featured a score of BBC stars in cameos, as a baby cat the size of an elephant ran amok in London. Three years later, the Goodies won again with a send-up of early Hollywood. They were so popular with a young audience that they had a string of pop hits – Funky Gibbon (which reached No 4 in the charts and saw them dancing on Top Of The Pops), The Inbetweenies, Wild Thing and Black Pudding Bertha.
At around the same time, Brooke-Taylor joined Garden and urbane jazzman Humphrey Lyttelton for a Radio 4 show of quickfire wordplay, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.
The pilot episode in 1972 went so disastrously that afterwards, in the pub, ‘Humph’ made them swear never to try it again.
But they relented, and gradually the game show became a cult favourite, with the addition of regulars Willie Rushton and Barry Cryer.
All his life, he insisted he was only ever as good as the people around him. ‘At college, I got to know likeminded and really good people, but at that time I didn’t see it as a serious way forward,’ he explained two years ago.
‘Certainly in my case it was the people I was with who got me doing my best work. I would never have done it on my own.’ There’s another way to look at that.
Without Tim Brooke-Taylor’s easy-going temperament, his amiable charm and universal popularity with fellow comics, much of the greatest comedy of the Sixties and Seventies simply wouldn’t have been possible. But he was far too self-effacing ever to say so.