Clive Anderson, lawyer to entertainer

AN ELGIN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE By Surabhi Sunil

Back when present-day talk show hosts in Britain were still pruning their talents, Clive Anderson was the reigning talk show king. He started off with ‘Clive Anderson Talks Back’ on Channel 4 and moved on to BBC after 10 seasons to start ‘Clive Anderson All Talk.’ At BBC his show ran for five seasons.

Image by Steve Ullathorne, inews
‘I was never aiming to be rude. I wanted to be funny and to take the conversation into slightly different areas’

An awkward presence with sharp wit, he presented barrister like nature even on his shows, grilling guests like he wanted them to confess to a crime. A very funny man, his words and talks were sometimes also considered borderline rude to the person being addressed. Speaking on this he claims, “Yes, but the thing is, I was never aiming to be rude, I wanted to be funny, and to challenge, and take the conversation into slightly different areas. But I also wanted to assume… not intimacy, exactly, but the sort of conversation you might have with a workmate. So just a bit of joshing, really. Sometimes it worked, while on other occasions – and maybe more occasions than I’m willing to admit – it didn’t.”


A famous incident of his aim misfiring was with one of the founding members of the world renowned band Bee Gee’s, Barry Gibb. Enraged with Anderson’s lack of respect towards the band and their music, it prompted him to swiftly walk out in between the shoot.

Many incidents such as these are splattered all across his career as a comedian and talk show host, but Anderson started off as a barrister specialized in criminal law. He began experimenting with comedy and writing comedic scripts during his 15-year legal career, before starring in Whose Line Is It Anyway?

“Is there no beginning to your talents?” Archer retorted that “All the old jokes are the best ones,” for Anderson to reply “Yes, I’ve read your books.”
Exploring four areas of the world which have become symbols of “hell on earth” with the motive of establishing whether this definition is a fair one, or simply the product of British tabloid misconceptions is what brought Anderson to Calcutta (Kolkata). Here, he witnessed the poverty of the slums as well as the rich remnants of the Raj at the smartest cocktail parties all detailed in his book ‘Our Man in . . . Heaven and Hell.’ In an interview with a news outlet however, he mentioned that despite the poverty that he saw he still enjoyed visiting Calcutta.
Image by ANL, Shutterstock

Clive in 1974 with comedy theatre co-stars Crispin Thomas, Griff Rhys Jones and Susan Aldred when he did comedy he had time off studying law.

One of television’s best loved comedians, his dry wit along with a sarcastic and pessimistic style has kept audiences entertained for decades. The 67-year-old lawyer turned comedian turned chat show host, had intended to return to stand-up comedy with the reprise of a one-man show called Me, Macbeth and I that he presented in Edinburgh in the summer of 2019. “I wanted to tour it this spring, but that’s obviously off,” he says. “And I’m not sure when anyone will be brave enough to sit next to a stranger in an enclosed space again just to see me do stand-up.”