Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Ben Elton Q&A: "The F-Word Is All Very Well, but It's Very Little Use as a Comma": The Comedian and Author Talks Upstart Crow, PG Wodehouse, and Churchill and Attlee

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Ben Elton Q&A: "The F-Word Is All Very Well, but It's Very Little Use as a Comma": The Comedian and Author Talks Upstart Crow, PG Wodehouse, and Churchill and Attlee

Article excerpt

Born in 1959, Ben Elton began his career as a stand-up comic, where he was associated with the left-wing "alternative comedy" scene. He was a writer on "The Young Ones" and "Blackadder" and later the Queen musical "We Will Rock You", and has published 16 novels, including "Popcorn". '

What's your earliest memory?

Being in hospital for a night aged two. I had suspected meningitis; they basically knew I was fine but insisted on keeping me in. They wouldn't let my mum stay with me and I was in a room on my own and I was very distressed. My dad was furious with the hospital. I remember a bewildered night and a nurse occasionally coming in to say it would be all right in the morning.

Who are your heroes?

PG Wodehouse changed my life when I was about 11--discovering him gave me the reading habit plus the best lesson in comic timing anybody could have. As an adult, I'll go with Mandela. No leader ever had more cause for bitterness and vengeance and no leader ever set a better example or showed more greatness of spirit. The policy of truth and reconciliation is the best example of conflict resolution ever set.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

The book that affected me most of all was Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, which I read when I was 17.

Which political figure, past or present, do you look up to?

Churchill for 1940 and Attlee for 1948. Britain's two finest hours and in the same decade. What were the chances?

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Pop and rock, 1956 to 1989. …

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