Mr Flibble Talks To... Replacement Flibble
Gordon Kennedy and the Absolutely team revolutionised TV comedy, and, as Hudzen, he very nearly revolutionised Red Dwarf by removing Kryten after his first season. Mr Flibble grabbed lunch with the man with the silly oiled nipples...
9 March, 2001
Gordon Kennedy
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Mr Flibble ordered the fish and whispered his first question to Andrew: How did the part of season III's Hudzen come to you?

It was one of the first times I'd ever been just sent a script and asked if I was interested in doing the part - so I had to steal myself from saying 'yes' straight away and read the script! (Laughs)

I'm not sure what they thought I was going to do. I think they just thought, 'Oh, he's quite big.' But then I turned up and started doing this weird voice. I think it might have been enhanced eventually, but I started doing it with my real voice - which just about ruined my vocal cords for the rest of my life!

What's it like to be the newcomer on a set of regulars?

You come in and start, it's like your first day in the office; and you are very much a temporary adornment, so there's a lot of attention on you. They're not going to turn around to Chris Barrie and say, 'Actually Chris I don't think you're performing that correctly.' So there's a lot of attention on you. I've done it the other way round when you're in a series and an outsider's come in - it's very difficult.

In that particular episode - and in a lot of episodes - the writers were particularly generous in giving the guest stars or the guest performers an important job to do. You weren't just there filling up the numbers. They'd thought about it, and you were there for a real reason.

Mr Flibble's tie was flown in from Paris for the show. Was your costume specially fitted, moulded like Roberts'?

No, we didn't do a fitting. The first fitting we did was the night before we [shot] it. They'd done measurements, and it was strapped on. I had huge great big platform shoes, and very, very good make-up. It kind of angled the face, which was amazing.

I think they rewrote. I'm sure they had to stick nipples on because there was a line [they added about nipples] at the end that Chris Barrie said. (Laughs) Of course if you ever had any complaints about your costume being uncomfortable, compared to pure old Rob Llewellyn - I mean really! I didn't really complain - I kept my head down. Mine was only a bit of crappy plastic, it was fine.

Mr Flibble said he was nervous of pyrotechnics. How did you find working with the effects?

It was fun. I'd done a bit of that before. It was most unlike modern, high-performance special effects. You were actually in the middle of the special effects, so it's not difficult to be startled by stuff. Whereas I remember an actor who was in Star Wars: Episode 1 talking to his friends. They said, 'How was it.' He said, 'To tell you the truth, I haven't got a f**king clue. They sent me a page of script which I had to learn, seven or eight lines of dialogue. I got dressed in a costume which was basically blue. I walked into a blue studio, they asked me to climb up a blue ladder, and they said, "The goodies are up there and the baddies are down there." I have no idea.'

I think that is difficult. I think when you're running around when there's bombs going off, as long as you're focussed on what you've got to do, it's no problem at all.

Did you enjoy blasting away, then?

If you get a f**king big gun you do just become 6 years old. (Laughs) It wouldn't really matter if they did King Lear with a big gun - you'd still be 6 years old when you picked up the big gun and go (cocks shotgun) tch-tching. Because it is just the coolest thing in the world. And also I happened to be 7 feet tall when I was doing it.

Did you do this in front of the studio audience?

No. It was all done in pre-record. I never did it in front of an audience, and in a way that was good, I liked that. Because it just makes your performance 'real-er.'

I did a sit-com, Athletico Parthtic, for the BBC, [and] part of it's undoing was the fact that we did half of it in front of a studio audience - because we recorded vast amounts of it outside. Quite inexperienced performers would come in to a studio in front of an audience, and it really wouldn't bear much relation to what was going on outside. I think you either do one or the other.

Hudzen also had a promo video before the scene itself. One camera, blank background...

In a corner of the set, down by the toilet... That was great, when we were rehearsing it they were saying, 'Just try and make it like a crappy commercial for Robocop.' Which is what we did. That was good fun.

Mr Flibble sucked the last of the fish from the bone and belched silently (of course). Embarrassed, Andrew moved on: A lot of the Absolutely team have been in Red Dwarf, why do you think that is?

I think we were just around! (Laughs) I think at the time of Absolutely we were very much seen as comedy actors. We weren't comics; we didn't do stand-up.

Which of the Absolutely characters did you most enjoy playing?

It was funny, because we thought Stoneybridge was all right, but we weren't sure about it. It just absolutely took off. You notice when you're going out to film the second or third series, when you walk on in character people are standing and clapping!

There's absolutely no consistency in [the sketches]. In the first two or three [shows], we all changed names and characters. We'd go, 'What was that, who was I?' Eventually, by the end of series two, we'd sort of sorted it out. Because I was nominally in charge, but not really, I became the kind of fascist dictator. Morray's character became my stupid assistant, 'Margaret' became the sex God and John Sparkes said as little as possible because his accent was the worst! (Laughs)

Mr Flibble said he still gets mail from Red Dwarf followers. Did you ever get any crazed fans?

One time we got a letter from two guys in Manchester who'd hitched all the way to Stoneybridge - there is a village of Stoneybridge, which we didn't realise. It's right up on an island in the Outer Hebrides. It's literally four houses, like somebody's scattered them on the landscape. And these people were hassling the locals - they were really disappointed because they didn't speak with regional accents! (Laughs) I thought we'd get into trouble. Thankfully, Stoneybridge wasn't big enough to care or notice.

Do you think there's anything like it on TV now?

Distinctive comedy's still there - The League of Gentlemen is fantastic, and they were very complimentary to us when they started. I met them a couple of times, and they said they were so influenced by Absolutely. Not derivative, they just saw what was possible. To an extent - rightly, with their talent - they took that all-embracing 'written by, performed by...' to the next level.

Tell us about your new film, The Announcement...

It's a film that Morwenna [Banks] wrote, is one of the lead actors in, and co-produced. I'm just in it. I was very lucky to be asked to be in it, because they had a fantastic cast - Mark Addy, David Baddiel, Tom Hollander; just a huge cast of brilliant actors. And me, which was very nice.

Basically it's the story of about 12 friends who come round to someone's house for a dinner party - and at the dinner party someone make an announcement, and the film's about the ramifications of that announcement. It's about how all these stories interweave, old stuff comes up. It was fantastic fun.

We shot it in about ten days, so it was pretty intensive. It's nearing completion in America now. It's an American director, a chap called Troy Miller, who did Jack Frost (1999) - and that was fantastic because we had an American crew, so when the clapper loader was calling action it was done in an American accent. So you felt like Humphrey Bogart!

Mr Flibble enjoyed talking to Gordon Kennedy, and now that it's over...Mr Flibble's very cross.