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Friday 6th February 2004

One of the things I like about being a writer is that you can have a stupid idea for a sketch or a joke and then people work to make that idea actually happen. I have never taken advantage of this by say, writing a TV sketch that places me in the middle of a bed full of naked women (but now I think about it, I don't know why I didn't do that) and in fact in my plays I generally ended up writing the most humiliating things for myself (see Excavating Rita), which probably says something about me.
I am currently working on a radio pilot "That Was Then, This Is Now" which takes a sideways look at the crazy things that happened this week in history (sorry, just guessing what the Radio Times might say about it). At a meeting a few days ago, we were trying to come up with some ideas. Two of the comics in the show, Dan and Danny share with me a love of interactive museums, especially ones that you are transported around on little rides (see previous entries for some of my thoughts on this). I told them about the "humdrum lives" thing in the Robin Hood adventure and they said they had recently been to the Oxford Story, which has a tape delivered by Magnus Magnusson (or one by Timmy Mallett for the kids, which sort of puts a date on when the museum was opened). They remembered Magnus saying something along the lines of, "Man has always dreamed of Time Travel, but time travel has always been possible: to the past we call it history, to the future, imagination."
I loved the portentuous meaninglessness of this and we all laughed. The next day I thought it might be funny to open the show with a parody of this speech, and it might be even funnier if we got Magnus Magnusson to say it, so that he would (probably unknowingly) be parodying something he himself had been made to say maybe 15 years ago. I wrote something up and sent it to my producer.
In fact here's what I wrote -
"MAGNUS MAGNUSSON (PORTENTUOUSLY) Since time began, Man has dreamed of time travel. Ha, you foolish humans. Time travel has always been possible? To the past we call it history, to the future, imagination….to the present, we call it looking at stuff that is happening around you, or on TV.
But can we learn from that happens in history and in the present to predict what will happen in the future? In three words, “No, we can’t.” Despite this some people are still prepared to give it a go. Some call them fools, some call them dreamers. The people who call them fools are correct. I am Magnus Magnusson and I am in no way responsible for, nor do I endorse what you are about to hear. But they gave me fifty pounds, cash, to do this introduction and I can’t afford to turn that kind of money down. I am always available to record portentous sounding, but ultimately empty and meaningless introductions for TV, radio or tourist attractions. So come with me now… or if you prefer, stay where you are and listen to a show that I am metaphorically – and literally-washing my hands of….
(Perhaps the faint sound of hands being washed under a tap UNDER)
MAGNUS A show that is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. A show entitled “That Was Then, This Is Now”."

She emailed back and said it was a good idea, but maybe it was a little bit "Little Britainy". She was of course referring to the Tom Baker introductions in that fine show. I explained to her that in actual fact I was very consciously ripping off myself, as it was in fact more of a copy of what me and Stew wrote twelve years ago for the opening of the Lionel Nimrod show. In fact I informed her that seeing as we also used Tom Baker on that show one could claim that Little Britain was a little bit "Lionel Nimrodish".

Our producer said she would do her best to book Magnus, but she had heard he had retired and no-one had any idea of where he lived, or whether he'd still be up for it. I was kind of hoping we might have to travel to Iceland to do it. It would be nice to go there again for a different reason than having to look at the severed penises of animals. Unless everyone in Iceland has such a collection.

Our producer did a marvellous job and tracked Magnus (he lives in Glasgow) and today recorded him reading out the script over the phone (it's a bit more technical than that, but essentially). Magnus didn't want to do the line about the fifty quid, which is fair enough (his agent had read the script and said "it will be more than fifty quid won't it?" - it was), so I said it would be OK to cut it.
I wasn't there, so I don't know how it turned out, but I just love the fact that because of a stupid conversation I had with some comics a few days ago, we have ended up with Magnus Magnusson's voice on tape, which in turn parodies something that Magnus Magnusson committed to tape some years ago.
I love my job.

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