HOOKED ON HAPPINESS
We catch up with trout tickling Paul Whitehouse, one half of the endearing and loveable duo from Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing and discover a man on mission to save our rivers, the secret of their series success and the launch of his new book, How We Fish – The Love, Life and Joy of the Riverbank.
He’s best known for his countless classic characters in some of Britain’s favourite comedy shows, but for Paul Whitehouse the state of our country’s rivers is no laughing matter.
The man who became a household name in the 90s with shows like The Fast Show and Harry Enfield’s Television Programme was left fuming earlier this year when he saw how much waste is pumped into the River Wharfe, whilst filming the documentary Our Troubled Rivers, in Ilkley.
Yorkshire Water came under a deluge of complaints after it was revealed how filthy the Wharfe has become.
Speaking at the time, the 63-year-old comedian said: “You can really understand why people get angry with the water companies. I’m getting angry with Yorkshire Water and I don’t even live in Yorkshire.
“It’s incredible that in this day and age we are still seeing so much sewage being pumped into our beautiful rivers and I am staggered how they are still getting away it.
“There’s no doubt water companies should shoulder some of the blame. Hopefully the documentaries helped make people sit up and realise this is not good enough and something must be done to stop it.”
“There’s so much pressure building that changes will have to be made and I won’t be giving up, I can tell you that. Not on anything.”
For the past seven years, Paul and his old friend Bob Mortimer have been delighting us with their antics on the riverbanks in the hit series Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, a show that brings Paul as much happiness as anything he’s ever done.
He said: “I’m basically doing what I love most with one of my closest mates with a lot of laughing, reflecting and memories thrown in – what could be better?
“I think a lot of middle-aged men can relate to that escapism and if it’s helped people talk to each other about important things, then I couldn’t be happier.”
Looking back to when they first decided to launch the show, Paul said: “Cuddly Bob and I were sitting on on the banks of a river one perfect day with flies rising and trout plopping and we were lost in a glorious world that so few people have any knowledge of and we thought what a great programme it would make.
“But having both endured recent heart issues we realised that if we were going to do anything together, we’d better get on with it! Fishing is the glue of the episodes but I think that the heart-healthy theme legitimises the concept.
“My surgeon told me he hadn’t put my stents in so that I could sit around by the fire but rather to fire me up with new life. Gone Fishing is about wonderful places, great banter, warm friendships and old-style angling methods but it’s also about hope.
“In your sixties, even after serious illness, there’s a whole world waiting to be explored and I also hope the message comes across that angling is a great sport and accessible to all.”
Many best remember Whitehouse for his roles in 90s series The Fast Show, but his comic career started a decade earlier while working alongside his old friend Harry Enfield.
Together they created legendary characters like Stavros, Loadsamoney and DJs Smashy & Nicey for TV shows Saturday Live, Friday Night Live and Harry Enfield’s Television Programme.
But it was The Fast Show that elevated Whitehouse into a household name and it was a series he looks back on with great fondness.
He said: “I’m very proud of the work I did with all these guys. The Fast Show stands up well today, even after nearly 30 years. The cast, which included the likes of Caroline Aherne, was so talented and they all went on to do great things.
“It was the sheer variety of the show I liked. It combined knock-about comedy with moments of real poignancy and I loved doing Rowley Birkin QC, the 13th Duke of Wybourne, and even managed to get a bit of fishing in here and there.”
Whitehouse’s creative CV is not just impressive but varied. He’s appeared in films including The Death of Stalin and also starred in and co-wrote Only Fools and Horses, the Musical which has broken records at the Theatre Royal and is soon to tour the country.
Now following the success of the series and Whitehouse’s love for the sport, he and the show’s fishing consultant John Bailey have brought out a book celebrating their timeless joy of angling.
How we Fish, the Love, Life and Joy of the Riverbank, sees the two fishermen collaborate to untangle the rich tapestry that is fishing – from mentors to memories; from philosophy to modern jargon; from watercraft to becoming self-styled ‘Fishing Detectives’.
Punctuated by brilliant stories and recollections from fishing day trips past, How We Fish is the perfect tome for the veteran fisherman or the budding angler and is the latest chapter in the rich and joyful life of Paul Whitehouse: writer, actor, comedian, musician, conservationist, presenter
and the best friend a fisherman could have.
Only Fools and Horses The Musical comes to Bradford Alambra and York Grand Opera House in October 2024.