Paul Chuckle plays Trevor in The Madame Blanc Mysteries. Image courtesy of Channel 5
To me and most likely to you, Paul Chuckle is one of the most recognisable faces in the country.
“The tache and spikey hair,” he points out, makes him pretty distinctive. “I can hardly get around the supermarket without several people wanting a photo. Nowadays it has to be distanced though. It’s lovely them knowing me. It’s an honour.”
Mask wearing has given a taste of anonymity. “Yesterday when I went to Asda I had the mask on and it was only one person that said, ‘you’re Paul Chuckle, aren’t you?’”
Wearing a mask as a disguise probably doesn’t work when your face is on it delivering a social distancing message. “I have got one of those. Have you seen it? A picture of me and Barry, saying 2 metre you.”
From 1987-2009, Chucklevision was compulsory viewing for all children and most of the grown-ups looking after them. It turned Paul and Barry Chuckle (real surname Elliott) into household names as the accident-prone pair embarked on a new escapade each episode, with reliably calamitous consequences. Oh dear, oh dear.
Although it hasn’t aired on TV for over a decade, it was voted the best CBBC show of all time in 2019. Generations of children who grew up watching the show are still fans. Many of the 293 episodes are available on YouTube for fans old and new – and also its star.
“I occasionally put them on and make myself laugh, Chuckle says. “I’ve not seen them for years and you forget you did that. We did some really funny stuff. I agree with anybody that says that.”
After Chucklevision ended, the brothers might have thought they were in for a quiet retirement.
“We carried on touring for two or three years,” Paul recalls. “First couple of years we were full everywhere like we always had been. By the third year, the amount of people coming to see us started to drop.”
Then a completely unexpected collaboration came out of the blue. After “getting on like a house on fire” with rapper Tinchy Stryder who the brothers met on Celebrity Juice, they started messaging each other on social media. Fans said they should work together. So they did.
“We went down to a studio, spent the afternoon,” Chuckle says. “We had no script. He did a bit then we answered. We were just having a good laugh. I had a nice drop of whisky and we banged it out.”
What they banged out became a track called To Me, To You (Bruv), which was released to raise money for the African-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust.
Thanks to the song – and Tinchy Stryder (“he’s a good lad”) especially – the brothers were able to take a slight career change.
“The whole thing was great fun and kicked off the career of nightclubs wanting me and Barry to go and sing the Tinchy song,” Chuckle says. “When Barry wasn’t very well that evolved into me doing a couple of DJ gigs. And that went down a bomb.”
Barry died after a battle with bone cancer in 2018 but Paul is still carrying on the Chuckle legacy. Despite having just celebrated his 74th birthday, he’s regularly out until 3am in the morning DJing in clubs. Freshers Week has been an incredibly busy time.
“Busier than ever,” he says, “because the second years are having their Freshers this year as they missed out last year. It’s just magic this year, it really is. Loving it. Absolutely loving it.
“I’m obviously living on the reputation of Chucklevision because these kids 18 to 25 year olds, they’ve grown up with us. They’re all chanting. I say ‘to me’ and they answer ‘to you’.”
There’s pantomime in Cardiff lined up for Christmas, and a guest appearance this week in Channel 5’s new antiques murder mystery series The Madame Blanc Mysteries, created by and starring Sally Lindsay.
Chuckle plays Trevor, “a bit of a Jack the Lad”.
“He drinks a hell of a lot, too much really,” Chuckle explains. “The type of guy that everybody would get on with unless he was diddling you.”
The series was shot in Malta. Co-stars include fellow showbiz veterans including Sue Holderness and Robin Askwith.
“We’ve all been in the business for many years. I think I’ve been in probably more than anybody else. Since 1963. A long, long time. But I still feel like a 30-year-old.”
He’d love to do more acting.
“I think there’s a lot of people won’t take me on seriously as an actor because of Chucklevision,” Chuckle says. “They expect me to be going ‘oh dear, oh dear’, ‘to me to you’ – all that stuff instead of serious acting. So it probably holds me back a bit from some of the roles.”
Something that would be great, Chuckle agrees, is a reunion with one of Chucklevision’s old writers. Before the days of Doctor Who, Queer As Folk and It’s A Sin, Russell T Davies wrote three episodes of the show.
“I remember Russell coming on set, but he was just another writer in those days,” Chuckle says. “We got on really well. He was a good writer. I remember we didn’t have to change anything on his scripts. When they gave us a BAFTA in 2009, Russell T Davies handed the thing over to us, which was nice.
Now he’s back at the helm of Doctor Who – and now Jodie Whittaker has announced she’s moving on – would he be up for taking over the sonic screwdriver?
“I wouldn’t mind!” he says. “I doubt if they’d take me seriously in that role. Now James Bond… Yes, I could do that.”
The Madame Blanc Mysteries airs at 9pm on Saturdays on Channel 5. You can book a personal message from Paul on memmo
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