With Great Sadness.

ALAN NIXON WRITES –

This is the one blog I never wanted to write – an obituary for my good friend, collaborator, and outstanding comedy writer, Charlie Adams,who passed away this Friday.

If you knew Charlie Adams, you liked Charlie Adams.

He was one of nature’s sunniest personalities whose life seemed a series of happy accidents. Charlie bounced into my world when I was producing Radio 2’s long running topical comedy The News Huddlines. He had first tried his hand at writing for Radio 4’s satirical show, Week Ending, and was bumped off for basically being ‘too funny’. His ‘punishment’ was to write for one of the country’s top comedians, Roy Hudd, a task he relished for many years as a writer and eventually Head Writer.

Charlie not only penned many memorable one liners –‘looking through the obituary columns for news of my agent’ comes to mind – but created one of the programmes legendary characters, the compulsive ‘flasher’, Mr Friggins, voiced by Chris Emmett. The figure lived for long after Charlie’s term on the show and he happily collected the royalties.

It’s difficult to appreciate the sublime skill required in constructing a “quickie’ or near-perfect line that can lift any programme above the ordinary in seconds. It was Charlie who, responding to an item on the death of the great blues singer, Muddy Waters had the cast sing, “Well, I didn’t wake up this morning…” Short, sharp, succinct and hilarious. That was Charlie.

His ability to deliver finely tuned topical material in bulk and on time brought him to the inevitable attention of television and many top comedians of the day. Charlie’s contribution to most of the variety and sketch shows throughout the eighties and nineties can hardly be measured. He boasted among his many ‘clients’, Bradley Walsh, Shane Ritchie, Bobby Davro, Bob Monkhouse, Marti Caine and countless others.

Charlie was thrilled to have written for the legendary Bob Hope, on one of his visits to London. He would recall how the relationship continued after that and Bob would ring up at unseemly hours of the night from Chicago asking for ‘topicals’ on people he’d never even heard of.

Charlie, of course, obliged.

He was a font of terrific anecdotes and we made a pact at our ‘business meetings’ to limit stories to just three quarters of our time together. The truth is, I could have listened to him for hours. Charlie spent time in the States he was a font of knowledge on the American comedy scene having read almost every book on great sit-coms from Lucy, through Mary Tyler Moore to Everybody Loves Raymond. (Young writers check these out). He had attended talks with and met very many of the talents who created them.

The sadness of his great one-liner skills is it left little time for him to pen the classic sit-com of which he was capable. He had begun several and one, at the BBC, was highly regarded but considered ‘too American’.

I think they meant ‘too funny’.

At the peak of his profession he was the main creative force behind the BAFTA winning “Noel’s House Party”.  Its host Noel Edmonds considered Charlie  ‘the best writer he’s ever worked with’.  Again, it’s hard to appreciate how much a powerhouse of ideas Charlie Adams was behind the scenes in these top rated series, continuously inventing and re-booting comic segments, keeping the show fresh week after week, series after series.

He also created the character of Mr Blobby, who became a national treasure, tons of toys and gadgets and eventually a theme park. I was walking through Glasgow Central station on the day Charlie passed away, the town where we were both born, as a live brass band was playing ‘Someone to Watch over Me’. I suddenly remembered Charlie telling me that Mr Blobby, who had no words just bubbly sounds, and would try to hug anyone at inappropriate moments was, underneath it all, really a drunken Glaswegian who wants to be everybody’s pal.

In recent years, Charlie and I worked on a web site together, the purpose of which was to bring more humour to presentations and speeches. Charlie was a natural salesman – with those mellifluous tones and light Scottish burr – and supported his writing career selling everything from Dymo tape to flowers (More hilarious anecdotes). So he was a fountain of wisdom about business, talks and, of course, writing with humour. To work alongside him was a pleasure and privilege and, often, a punctuation lesson.

Every time I posted a blog fronted by the words “Charlie Adams Writes”, I got a thrill from the knowledge that whoever read what followed would find it entertaining, succinct, witty and wise.

If you knew Charlie Adams, you liked Charlie Adams.

My heart goes out to those who knew him best, his family. To Shona, his wife; to his comedian son, Paul, carrying on the family flame; to Jane, his daughter; and to all the grandchildren.

He oozed pride at being a granddad – “I was born to born to do this” he told me.

When Charlie walked into a room every second line was an attempt to make you laugh or smile. And it was always humane, warm, witty, and highly entertaining.

Just like Charlie.

Rest In Peace.

Comments

With Great Sadness. — 8 Comments

  1. Oh, Alan – such lovely words for such a lovely fella. Of course I had no idea that a tragedy had occurred until I hopped onto FaceBook today… and there is nothing I can add other than to echo your wishes to Charlie’s family.

    Truly, he WAS everything you say: a gent, a companion, a wellspring of knowledge, a constant source of laughter… the world is a poorer place for losing him and we shall always need a ‘Charlie’ in our lives.

    Rest in Peace, chum. You’ve got a much bigger audience now.

  2. Pingback: Eulogy From A Passing Friend – RIP Charlie Adams | @hell4heather

  3. Thank you Alan. A wonderful and colourful true depiction of a great man and true. Charlie was a comedy friend – always there and so clever and quick. I’d e mail him in a panic- and he’d turn around gags and observations in 24 hours – sometimes less. I cherish his work. He has afforded me laughs I never would have got without his input, refinement and originality. A sunny, loyal optimist . Tragic that we are robbed of him in his prime. There was so much more to do. Charlie RIP. Never forgotten. Your material still used. What will we all do now? Loyal good writers are rare – Charlie has left a legacy for the future.

  4. I was working for Charlie on a new BBC show called Caught In The Act. We would spend Friday and Saturday huddled over a couple of coffee-stained tables, bashing out one-liners on cheap Adler typewriters (this was 1993). The performers were rehearsing downstairs when the call came up for a joke about ugly babies. Did we have one? Of course we had. A Tippex of writers set about doing the mental task of coming up with a great one-liner. 30-jackpotless minutes went by and Charlie had to go to the studio floor with the new joke so read out something he had written himself (probably in the first few minutes) – at birth, the baby was so ugly the hospital had to put tinted-glass on the incubator. The imagine that creates…it fitted the style of the show if a little unfashionable in its structure but it worked fabulously. He had gazumped us but gave the writers every chance of coming up with something of our own. Generous to the last.

  5. Hi Alan – you were quite obviously a great friend of Charlie’s to be able to write such a lovely summation of such a very, very nice man. I think you may know I did hospitality for several series of Noel’s House Party and always enjoyed my conversations with Charlie – oh, and he had his own special order for his sandwich – no mustard and no mayonnaise!
    My thoughts are with his family at such a sad time – I remember him with very fond memories. RIP Charlie Adams.

  6. Charlie Boy.

    When I first met Charlie Adams he was working on The News Huddlines, a BBC radio series produced by Alan Nixon way back in the early 80s.

    In those days Charlie had a wilder look (not angry wild, creative wild) a blond-ish bouffant of hair and a bushy beard – and he wrote lines fast.

    The show was topical and relied on the latest news, so much of it was recorded, down in the old Paris Studios in Lower Regent Street, very near to its broadcast date.

    And when Charlie was writing his one-liners for the opening monologue, culled from the news stories of that very day (a miners strike, Joan Collins’ latest boyfriend, the latest England cricket defeat etc etc) Charlie was there in the thick of it.

    And he stood at the typewriter!

    No sitting down mulling sensitively about the exact composition of a sentence, Charlie stood at the typewriter writing and compiling wonderful one-liners for Roy Hudd to say to a live audience – and get laughs. Real laughs. The sort that you wished you’d written.

    I’d never seen anyone standing and writing before (…or since).

    In those days, we all had manual typewriters with big clunky buttons and a carriage return. They were noisy, mechanical things – and heavy too. Paper was rolled in and pulled out with the script still fresh on the page. Remember…no computers, no laser printers, no mobile phones, no websites, no emails, no facebook pages, no blogs.

    And Charlie was the man. Funny and fast.

    In those happy days I was pushing a situation comedy and unbelievably it was commissioned. But there was a sting in the tail (or what turned out to be the happiest sting you could imagine). As a new writer I was told to watch Charlie and learn –because I would be teamed up with him.

    The BBC liked teams, and they liked Charlie – they also didn’t trust me to write anything funny on my own – and so it began.

    I drove down to Chislehurst to see Charlie on a cold October day in 1983 (got lost going there…got lost coming back too, come to that. No sat-nav then, you see) and Shona cooked a lovely meal for both of us. Paul was a cheery little nipper with jet black hair and Charlie told me how he’d added some one-liners to make the script funnier. And so it was. But we both couldn’t make each other out.

    Charlie was still working in the wholesale flower business in those days – and very successful at it too – and was reluctant to go ‘full-time’.

    He had the Huddlines wrapped up, and could do it in his spare time, and so was pondering his next move.

    But we wound up getting some decent BBC commissions – a long running radio show for Roy Castle, produced by Ron McDonnell, came our way with big name guests and lovely repeat money too – so, egged on by Shona to take the plunge, Charlie went full time. His career blossomed.

    It seems like only yesterday.

    We miss you, Charlie.

    Deep thoughts to Shona, Paul and Jane.

    Jon

  7. Alan
    I’d like to add a note for new writers like myself. Because Charlie took me under his wing maybe eighteen months ago now, offering advice and imparting genius the likes of which I’d never expected to receive and felt honoured to be given by him. I don’t mind admitting I was, and am still, in awe of Charlie Adams. I once wrote a blog about falling off a treadmill on to my backside in the gym, painstakingly describing the whole event for laughs in five of six, long-sweated-over paragraphs. Then Charlie read it, added a single comment and made me howl more than anyone else ever could. He said, simply, ‘BUT THE TREADMILL! WHAT ABOUT THE TREADMILL?!?’ I am going to miss you so much Charlie XXX

  8. So glad to have worked with him at Central TV in the 90′s. As a writer, I looked up to him, as a producer I bowed down to him; he saved my skin with his writing. What a legend. Giggle in peace Charlie.