Basil Brush: 'I mainly like tea shops: I love dunking my ginger nuts!'

This article is from 2019

Basil Brush: 'I mainly like tea shops: I love dunking my ginger nuts!'

credit: Steve Ullathorne

Britain's most loveable fox and showbiz legend chats about his much-anticipated Fringe debut

Basil Brush has been in showbusiness across six decades, having rubbed his tail up against the likes of true icons such as Pavarotti, Abba and Stacey Dooley. Through it all, he's retained his suave charm and infectious laugh, and at long flipping last, he makes his way to Edinburgh for a Fringe debut. Here, we throw him some of the tough questions of the day …

So, Basil, you're making your Fringe debut with two shows, one for kids and one for the grown-ups. Have you been to Edinburgh before?
Of course I have been to the Scottish capital before! It's a cultural hub, full of history with a castle and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, although they've got both of those in Windsor where I do my pantos so I will feel at home. You have a long history of famous people and inventors. You've got John 'Yogi' Baird who invented that great fantastic animated series; then of course, Charles 'Rennie' Mackintosh who invented that life saver of an indigestion tablet. I always keep one in my pocket for a vindaloo moment.

It's very Scottish in Edinburgh and I can go around completely unnoticed because I am small and ginger. I will never get pestered for my autograph, I feel totally at home. I also love golf and in Scotland you are never far from a golf course; my driving is perfect. I have Rolls Canardly: it rolls down the hills but 'canardly' roll up them! Ha! Ha! Boom! Boom!! Oh that's a different drive, sorry don't upset the greenkeepers. I understand you have a new bridge, so it will be my first time going over the second Forth Bridge, but not sure if it will be the second time over the first Forth Bridge … I was never good at maths.

Who are you hoping to bump into while you're here?
When you are as short as I am, I don't bump into them, I normally trip them up. I could bump into an American tourist, stars of stage and screen, maybe even Donald Trump himself if he comes over to play at one of his golf courses. He's always known to wear the traditional kilt while he's over here, which would give me the unbelievably opportune moment to shout 'hey, Donald where's your trousers?' I love that song.
My old mate Biggins might be up there, but when I bump into him I finish up in A&E: larger than life he is. But don't remind him that I beat him on The Weakest Link, he's very sensitive. But we have done several pantos together so we actually get on very well.

Basil Brush: 'I mainly like tea shops: I love dunking my ginger nuts!'

If someone has no idea what the Basil Brush live experience entails, how would you describe it to them?
My family show is full of laughter, some of it in the right place. It's a four-dimensional experience because the audience will get wet, cream-pied, and have the chance to win many prizes. It's mad, fast and perfect for families to enjoy on many levels: the kids will be loving it, but so will the grown-ups. The evening show is very similar but for grown-up children. Those that grew up with my show on CBBC are now in their twenties and will love to reminisce. It will have a bit of this, bit of that and plenty of the other: celebrity interviews, Foxit, Tender Tinder moments, and the chance to get on stage. Both shows are hosted by a real, live talking Fox and Mr Martin. There's always a 'mister', but he could be a 'miss'. That's a whole other story.

There a lot of famous foxes: Edward, Emilia, Liam, Glacier Mints and 20th Century. Is there any one you feel especially close to?
I feel close to all Foxes: Samantha was the classic vixen, but It was always hard to take your eyes off those two enormous … front teeth; just like mine. I was always very unhappy that I never got to make an advert for Fox's Glacier Mints; they used that flippin' polar bear. What's he got to do with foxes!? Also Foxy Bingo used that imposter; the foxes on the John Lewis advert used a couple of extras on the trampoline, so I decided that I had to put myself out there as the only talking fox on the box, and take advantage of everyone's love of all things smooth and fluffy. Like my tail, for instance: very 21st century fox. I do feel that I and Edward Fox are of the same suave dynasty (like the TV series but not American). But the closest I feel to any fox is Fantastic Mr Fox. I'm hoping I may live up to that description in Edinburgh and that they come out thinking that the fantastic Mr Fox, Basil Brush, was worth wasting an hour on the Fringe.

And there quite a few famous Basils: Rathbone, Fawlty and The Great Mouse Detective for three. Do you like any of them?
There are many Basils that I associate with. Rathbone, of course, but I mix him up with Rathbones of London in which I have about £10 invested: 'Balloons are up, feathers are down, and nappies remain unchanged: Ha! Ha! Boom! Boom!! Basil Fawlty I grew up with; I have a side-kick just like Manuel. Mr Martin is my sidekick cos he stands at my side and I kick him. I could adapt one of Basil Fawlty's sayings: 'don't mention Brexit. I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it!' Especially when I have tea with Miss Nicola …

Basil Brush: 'I mainly like tea shops: I love dunking my ginger nuts!'

I assume you're not a fan of foxhunting, but has it ever impacted on you?
Foxhunting has never been a problem as long as I do the chasing. Chasing Kylie is always fun, she's the same height as me and always stops. She could turn me around any day; I would love to do the locomotion with her one day. But the only time I have been chased by men in red coats is when I failed to pay my bill at Butlin's. It's autograph hunters that are the biggest problem: no matter how hard I try … I can't find any.

You made your showbusiness debut in 1963. That was also the year when JFK was shot and Doctor Who was first screened. How much do you remember about that year?
I can't believe I have been in showbiz for so long. I was literally born on stage! The audience liked it so much my mum kept it in her act. Ha! Ha! Boom! Boom!! I know exactly where I was when JFK was shot: I was making the David Nixon magic show, my first telly appearance. I knew they couldn't pin it on me. Also I had nothing to do with the Great Train Robbery, although I did buy an off-peak train ticket from London to Manchester and that was more like daylight robbery

Doctor Who started as well: 'Exterminate. Exterminate'. It was all about the catchphrase in those days. 'Boom! Boom!!' I would have been a wonderful doctor but I couldn't pass the exams. I just want to play with a sonic screwdriver really. What do they do when the triple As run out, that's what I want to know? But a Timelord? No, I'd prefer to be just a lord; or maybe they might knight me. 'Basil Brush shortest night of the year'. Only if presented on 21 December, the.shortest NIGHT of the year. Oh forget it …

Basil Brush: 'I mainly like tea shops: I love dunking my ginger nuts!'

Will you tackle some of the day's big issues?
We will touch on some politics, a bit of Brexit. I have to say, it depends on who I am listening to: I tend to swing both ways. Or maybe that's just the way I walk when I am on all fours; ooh, there's some adult content right there. It's taken over my tea-time viewing; the next scandal is Foxit, because they have foxed up the whole process. Are we in? Are we out? Is it going to be hard or soft? It reminds me of the hokey cokey. And in fact what if the hokey cokey really is what it's all about? Did you hear about Larry LaPrise, the man who is said to have written the hokey cokey? He died a few years ago. It was traumatic for his family because when they tried to put him in the coffin, they put his left leg in and that's when the trouble started …. I bet Mr David wishes he'd never started it, because he just put his foot in it!!!

Do you have a favourite conspiracy theory?
My favourite one is that we never actually went to the moon. It's like the movie Capricorn One. It's perfect that it's all on the dark side as we can't see round there (although I loved what Pink Floyd did). Did they really go? I don't know. Was it a film? Here's another conspiracy for you: am I a real talking fox or is there someone behind the scenes pulling the strings? I AM REAL. If I say it enough even I will believe it … 'there's no place like home, there's no place like home. Aunty Em!!! Toto!!!' Sorry, I digress. Though that's another acting job I should have got: Toto should have been a fox!! Lock, Fox and Two Smoking Basils: another film that slipped from my grasp. The Desert Fox: but that's just about puddings. I digress again. But now that's made me feel hungry: give me a haggis!

Where did your legendary catchphrase come from?
'Boom! Boom!!' actually came from the old classic music hall genre when the comic would tell a joke and then the drummer would bang the drum twice as an accent to say when to laugh. This has continued in panto to present day. But I prefer the made-up story that we were filming the David Nixon show and they used to record our voices with those classic boom mics. And one day a man in the lighting gantry dropped the mic just as I told a joke, and he shouted 'Boom! Boom!!' as a warning. It hit me on the head and no one could stop laughing. I tend to go out in disguise, so people don't shout Boom! Boom!! all the time. I sometimes disguise my brush as a candy floss but then people try to lick it when I am at the seaside.

Basil Brush: 'I mainly like tea shops: I love dunking my ginger nuts!'

What emotions do you feel when you walk past any pub called The Fox and Hounds?
When I go past any Fox and Hounds I feel hungry and thirsty. I just have to pop in, prop up the bar, and rummage through the bins. Did you know that according to Google, there are 48 Fox and Hounds pubs. I intend to visit them all in 48 mins with Street View; never have to leave the comfort of my own lair. But I mainly like tea shops: I love dunking my ginger nuts!

What's ahead for Basil Brush beyond the Fringe?
I will have a very short holiday: as Blackadder says to Baldrick, 'did you enjoy it?' I shall be embarking on a short tour with the shows from Edinburgh and then panto at the Theatre Royal Windsor. I hope that Harry and Meghan will meet me for a cuppa in the High Street, or maybe an afternoon stroll in Windsor Great Park. I did his fifth birthday party at Kensington Palace and hope that I can entertain the next generation of royals.

Who knows what else: Saturday night telly, a ministerial position in the cabinet or a trip to the dark side of the moon in search of a flag? The sky's the limit. I am enjoying my showbiz life but it's about the journey not the destination and I would dearly love to have another generation say that they grew up with Basil Brush. It's an ambition of mine to bring back some smiles onto the faces of our entire country; the world has got very serious and we must not forget to laugh, not just at things that are funny, but also at ourselves. So bring it on Edinburgh. Remember, laughter's the best medicine. But if I'm really sick, call me an ambulance: 'You're an ambulance!' All together now: HA! HA! BOOM! BOOM!!

Basil Brush's Family Fun Show, Underbelly, Bristo Square, 3–15 Aug, 1pm, £11.50–£12.50 (£10.50–£11.50). Previews 31 Jul–2 Aug, £9.50; Basil Brush: Unleashed, Underbelly, Bristo Square, 3–25 Aug, 6.45pm, £12–£13 (£11–£12). Previews 31 Jul–2 Aug, £7.

Basil Brush: Unleashed

  • 3 stars

The showbiz star and fox puppet shares his thoughts on current events at this adults-only show.

Basil Brush's Family Fun Show

  • 3 stars

The showbiz star, children's entertainer and fox puppet hosts this family-friendly show of laughs, storytelling and songs.