Actor Simon Oates is best known as Dr John Ridge of Doomwatch, which comes to
the end of its present run on Monday (9.20 BBC1 Colour).
What's not so well known is that he's also an experienced comic who has worked in pubs,
clubs, hotels -and once compered a Rolling Stones tour.
Simon started doing cabaret in 1965, calling himself Charlie Barnet the Cockney comedian. ‘I used to go on with a cigar in one hand and a pint of beer in the other. I worked all the pubs in the East End. I was just telling jokes, and I thought, do yourself a favour, sing a few songs as well.
After starting in rep, Simon went on to West End plays. On television he’s done most of the major drama and - adventure series. ‘He has directed in rep, too, and says he’d change anybody's lines. ‘Nothing is sacred. I’ve changed Noel Coward, Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw - you name it. If a line is not right or not funny, change it.’ On something like Doomwatch, though, it’s not necessary. ‘But when you’ve got a character that’s set there are very few writers who won't let you change something to suit what you would say. I don't hesitate to say “No, Ridge wouldn't say this line.” I also put in as many jokes as I can. Because however stark the situation, people' still make jokes.’