Count Arthur Strong: in his own (eccentric) words

The former music-hall star is back in the limelight – and he won't be happy unless he has a meat-based finger buffet backstage

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Count Arthur Strong is back (oh, how we’ve missed him) with a new series of jolly escapades, starting tonight at 8:30pm on BBC1. Now, it’s been a while since we last caught up with the Count so we sat him down for a few questions – and, well, he gave us the sort of answers we’ve come to expect… 

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Have you missed being on TV, Arthur?   

Unfortunately I did miss being on TV. Which is a real shame, as it sounds just the sort of thing I like. Clever comedy with a sort of ‘everyman’ lead character who people look up to. Yes I’ll definitely look out for it. Could you remind me nearer the time? What’s it called again?

What have you been up to since we last saw you?  

I don’t know when you last saw me do I? If it was yesterday, not much. On the other hand if it was six months ago, quite a lot, including having my eyes tested, (FYI passed with flying colours). It would help if you could be more pacific. Do you do this for a living?

Do you get recognised in the street nowadays? How do you stop it all going to your head?

Of course I get recognised in the street. Why would people stop recognising me? Only the day before yesterday Mrs..whatsit from three doors down said hello. She wouldn’t have said that if she didn’t know who I am/was would she? Unless she’s as mad as she looks. She still thinks her cat’s alive, which I had nothing to do with.

With great fame comes great responsibility – how do you feel about being a role model to others? Have you done anything good with your newfound celebrity status?  

Well my being a model started with the knitting pattern covers in the 1950s and it just went on from there. And do you know I can still remember that first knitting pattern as though it were tomorrow. For a Tyrolean cycling pullover. “Knit three, pearl two, knit three, pearl two”. You try telling the young ones that today. They look at you as though you’re speaking Welsh.

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Do you have any dressing room demands?  

Not demands. Requests. I like a daybed in there and a cocktail cabinet and a meat based finger buffet, (which is regularly replenished), and the complete works of Charles Dickens (I am an avid reader) and a typewriter that’s also a computer (for my new book I might write) and some crayons. And that’s not half as much as some of them demand for their dressing rooms. Danny Baker has them put a huge box of grapefruits in his and a light that’s a flamingo.

What’s your favourite thing about having your own show?  

Getting the opportunity to meet people like whoever you are and doing things like whatever this is. They’re the things that mean so very much to me. Incidentally is there any money for doing this?

Err.. no. So what do you and Michael get up to in the new series?  

Blimey, now you’re asking! Well I think in one he ends up drunk with his trousers… no hang on… that was me I think, at the wrap party. Oh I don’t know what was in them! How can I remember something that happened some time ago. Watch them. I think I do an exorcism in one! Put that. Oh and we do a surprise on him for his birthday.

Are you hoping to make it into Michael’s next book?  

Put it this way, he won’t sell any if I’m not. So I should hope so. I‘ve told him he should do a historical romance next, in the Catherine Cookson mould and base the romantic lead on me and my early life as a war refugee in Doncaster. He’d sell literally dozens of them. But does he listen?

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Are you happy for him and his new girlfriend Sinem? 

Yes I am happy for him and Sinem. He’s very lucky. The thing is with him, he always thinks the sky’s going to fall in on him. Well not literally, obviously. It’s an expression I use for illustrative purposes. To suggest the sky could actually fall in is stupid and frankly I’m surprised at you.

If you could give Michael one piece of advice, what would it be?

Think before you speak. Stop correcting people’s English. Sit in that other chair. Stop doing that whistling thing with your nose when you breathe in. Don’t bite your finger nails. Get me a cup of tea… How long have we got? Use a proper cloth handkerchief…

Who do you think would win in a fight – Eggy, John or Michael? 

John. He used to box flyweight in his youth and I was his trainer. Just like in the ‘Rocky’ films. Except Victor Sylvesterstone was about three hundred weight heavier than John. And I was much more convincing than the trainer in that, Burgess Meredith, who was also the ‘Penguin’ in Batman on the telly. And I would have been a better penguin than him as well. Because of my love of all animals, except next door’s cat. Who will literally get its neck wrung if it excretes on my garden path once more. What was the question?

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Let’s move on. Do you watch anything else on TV? Do you watch yourself?  

I do watch myself, if I can remember I’m on. Not in a conceited way but in a lovely way. I also watch documentaries and ‘Bargain Hunt’. I think they should offer me the job of hosting it. Do you know who produces it? Tell them I’ll do it. For money, obviously. Get back to me.

Have you heard of shows like The X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing?   

Of course I’ve heard of them. What sort of question’s that? Have you heard of a Ford Focus? What kind of an idiot do you think I am? You wouldn’t ask Steven Hawkeye that would you?

Are you hoping to be back for another series of Count Arthur Strong after this one?  

I do hope not… I mean I do hope so! Some of the loveliest memories I have are of doing that show with those people. They really all are friends for life and funnily enough I was just talking to one of them about a year ago. The bald angry one in the cafe. So it would be nice to see him again… I think.

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Count Arthur returns to BBC1 on 19th May at 8.30pm. Count Arthur is still on his UK wide tour. Tickets – www.countarthurstrong.com