Still Laughing all the way from the Bank?


Before setting up New Tricks Training in 2000 we had our equivalent of a “Gap Year.” Tim had had 29 years working for a bank and Ken had clocked up 19 years at the same organisation. Both of us were frustrated entertainers (hence our role in training!) and wanted to do “something completely different” before setting up our training business specialising in presentation skills. We both left the bank on 31 December 1999 and as the New Millennium kicked in we had real fire in our belly for an adventure.

Thus New Tricks Productions was born and we set about writing comedy sketches, learning to sing & tap-dance and before we knew it we’d hired Her Majesty’s Theatre in the heart of the West End (yes, that one!) home to Phantom of the Opera. And so began an incredible journey – if only twitter, blogging and iphones had been around then! Still we were flabbergasted to find so many of the stories still on-line ten years on.

Morecambe & Wise? No! It’s Norman & Lyon

We met a wonderful publicist named Tei Williams who specialised in arts marketing and she lined us up for a small article in the Daily Express and our world went crazy from that moment in May 2000! We became a National News story ending up with editorial coverage in The Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, The Evening Standard, The Independent – by virtue of the basic premise (and much used headline) “Laughing all the way from the Bank.” We were lambasted by Mark Steel (see Independent link) (for the sheer cheek of bypassing a gruelling and lengthy apprenticeship in comedy clubs) interviewed on Capital Radio by Paul Ross (charming) on Radio 5 Live Nicky Campbell (git) , on TV by Gloria Hunniford (lovely) and Esther Ranson (aloof), and featured on Channel 4 News and BBC’s Liquid News with Christopher Price (RIP). We were the Evening Standard Magazine’s Hot Tip of the week. The Guardian published an amazingly inaccurate article which muddled Ken & Tim’s back stories. Ken’s phone rang for days – family and friends wanted to know how his (Tim’s) divorce had passed them by!

We corresponded with Ronnie Barker (who lived near our home town of Chipping Norton) and he marked-up our scripts like a mad “Headmaster of Comedy.” We still possess those scripts and the pencilled annotations, “No! No!, NOOOO!” “Needs a stronger tag line!” “This one’s OK” make us smile to this day. Along the way we shared TV Green Rooms with the likes of Roy Hudd (fantastic bloke – great listener), Susan George (beautiful), Robert & Babs Powell (too good to be true), John Lenihan (hysterical), June Whitfield bloody marvellous) and Sir Norman Wisdom (nuts – completely nuts). And we met loads of other folk who made our journey such fun.

There was an inept photographer who just didn’t “get” us and consequently delivered some really “pants”publicity shots, Bernadine Sole who tried to teach us to dance, Robin Martin-Oliver who taught one of us to sing. There was Tei who for a small sum got us so much publicity, Mike Rowbottom of Central News who followed us around to make a “fly-on-the-wall documentary for itv,” Shane Barnes who, with his tractor, pulled our removal van full of props out of the mud and Richard “Minor Parts of Oxford” Plant who supplied and serviced the two Morris Minors we drove around in as characters Maurice & Morris. A good friend and ex-colleage, Martin (Martrain) Measures provided sound effects of a Deltic Deisel train for one sketch (very niche!) Ken’s sister Cathryn and her boyfriend (now husband) Tom did some amazing graphic design work for our enormous stage banners and programme. The costumiers at the RSC were fantastic and let us roam around their warehouse trying stuff on (sketches were written around some of the amazing costumes we discovered there!) The stage crew at Her Majesty’s were about as arsey as they could be to a customer paying nearly ten grand for a day’s hire!

We’d unwittingly chosen to put on our show in London slap-bang in the middle of the Edinburgh Festival 13 August 2000! Genius (we were about the only comedy on in London that night) and stupid (not a single agent, talent scout, comedy producer was in London.) We had but two reviews one by The Stage and the other by The Daily Telegraph who it seemed weren’t even there! Brian Marshall an agent who kind of took us under his wing in the build up to the event (“Yer’ll be alright with me I were script-writer to the Krankies”) offered us 23 weeks work on Babaccombe Pier (the apprenticeship Mark Steel thought we should do) but the picture here will explain why we turned him down!

No room for entertainers!

Still, ten years have slipped by (rather too quickly for our liking.) Goodness we had a laugh back then (much of the time we were crying with laughter) and whilst we get a buzz out of “performing” keynote talks at conferences and training others how to present – there’s a little bit of us that fancies giving it another go!

Perhaps we could be coaxed back out of retirement – but where should we play next. Having staged a show in the West End perhaps we should aim for Broadway. Broadway village hall in Gloucestershire! perhaps!


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3 Responses to “Still Laughing all the way from the Bank?”

  1. Dan Trodden Says:

    Gonna be 4N Xmas Party, innit?!

  2. Ken Norman Says:

    Not necessecelery. It’s Brad Burton’s call.

  3. Old Dog Blog’s 2010 Review « New Tricks Training’s Old Dog Blog Says:

    […] Still Laughing all the way from the Bank? June 2010 2 comments 5 […]

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