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Oddie, Bill (1941-)

Actor, Presenter, Writer

Main image of Oddie, Bill (1941-)

Throughout the 1970s, Bill Oddie was known as the hairy, cynical, anarchist member of The Goodies (BBC, 1970-80, ITV, 1981-82). Since its demise, the comedian and songwriter has displayed the flip-side of his character -conservationist and ornithologist in a series of nature programmes.

Born in Rochdale on 7 July 1941, Oddie read English Literature at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Joining the Footlights, he contributing the musical numbers to the successful revue A Clump of Plinths. His sketch-writing, performing and song writing continued with the madcap radio series I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again. His songs from the series were released as singles and on an album titled Distinctly Oddie.

Working as a contract writer, he wrote material and performed songs for the satirical shows That Was The Week That Was (BBC, 1962-63) and BBC 3 (BBC, 1965-66). Switching to commercial television he contributed to the sketch show At Last the 1948 Show (ITV, 1967) and then had a major role in Twice a Fortnight (BBC, 1967) with Graeme Garden, Michael Palin and Terry Jones. His writing partnership with Garden continued with scripts for Doctor in The House (ITV, 1969-70) and its sequels. His song-writing found another outlet as he became a permanent participant in the second series of Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor's sketch show Broaden Your Mind (BBC, 1968-69).

The trio then approached the BBC's Head of Comedy, Michael Mills, with an idea for a new situation comedy-based project. The Goodies, a landmark in British comedy with its blend of unadulterated slapstick and film trickery, was the perfect platform for Oddie's comic writing and songs. Oddie's songs turned The Goodies into pop stars with four top twenty hits including 'Black Pudding Bertha' and the classic 'Funky Gibbon', described by Oddie as sounding like Parliament on a bad day. During the hiatus between The Goodies leaving the BBC and reconvening at ITV, Oddie and Garden wrote the sci-fi comedy Astronauts (ITV, 1981).

The Goodies' Cricklewood office closed in 1982, so Oddie returned to children's television. He had previously presented the Saturday morning show Saturday Banana (ITV, 1978). With his fellow ex-Goodies he voiced a collection of characters including Chief O'Reilly and Crow in Bananaman (BBC, 1983-86). He played the semi-recurring character Dr. Dimple (his bedside manner included self-penned songs) in Tickle on the Tum (ITV, 1984-88) and acted in two comedy dramas, From the Top (ITV, 1985-86) and The Bubblegum Brigade (ITV, 1989), which he scripted with his wife Laura Beaumont.

Besides comedy, Oddie's great passion is ornithology. From the moment he discovered a bird's egg as a child he became an avid bird watcher, and has become Britain's foremost writer and broadcaster on the subject. He has been seen studying exotic birds in Papua New Guinea, Oddie in Paradise (BBC, 1985), watching birds around the world in the series Birding with Bill Oddie (BBC, 1997-2000) and observing Britain's wildlife in Britain Goes Wild with Bill Oddie (BBC, 2004) and Bill Oddie's How to Watch Wildlife (BBC, 2005-6).

Graham Rinaldi

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Thumbnail image of Goodies, The (1970-82)Goodies, The (1970-82)

Daft and surreal comedy from Tim, Graeme and Bill

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