Interview: Clive Anderson

Selwynite NANCY NAPPER CANTER interviews ex-Selwynite Clive Anderson about Selwyn and interviewing.

Clive Anderson Douglas Adams Footlights law nancy napper-canter Peter Cook Selwyn

Hi Clive, and welcome to The Tab. What are you up to at the moment?

I am preparing this week’s edition of Loose Ends, a  programme I present on Radio 4 every Saturday evening.

You’re a rare Selwyn BNOC. Do you have fond memories of your time at Selwyn? 

I think there were and are bigger names than me, but I do have fond memories of Selwyn. Before I got more involved with the Footlights and other theatre, I edited Selwyn Stutters – the college newspaper – and played football, not particularly well, for Selwyn’s second eleven. I also played Guildenstern in a production of ‘Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead’ in the Selwyn Diamond. Mostly, though, I sat around having intense conversations to the sound of Neil Young and Rod Stewart.

You studied law. Was it hard work, and did you work hard?

I did a burst of hard work revising for  the first year exams as I  thought I was going to be found wanting and maybe even get chucked out. I did a bit better than I expected, which should have inspired me to put the work in to achieve academic distinction. Unfortunately it allowed me to ease off for the next two years and spend even more time on extra curricula activities.

Any tips for law students facing their finals? 

Well, obviously don’t do as I did. But don’t panic, you almost certainly know more than you realise.

Tell me about your best May Week.

In my first year I was for some reason co-opted onto the Selwyn May Ball committee. It was a great ball only marred by someone falling over and cutting his hand badly on a wine glass and a firework going out of control, setting fire to a girl’s dress. It turned out it had been my job to arrange the insurance for this sort of thing, and miraculously I had. In the next May weeks I was in Footlights Revues, though there was plenty of time for parties before the evening performances and balls to go to afterwards. Those were the days.

When you were in Footlights, did you know who was going to be famous? And were you right?

I lacked the imagination to think any one would become famous, but Geoff McGivern was a strikingly good actor and he still steals every scene he crops up in in films and TV. Douglas Adams used to write sketches which were a bit too long… Only later did we realise he was basically submitting the first drafts for his Hitchhiker novels. Griff Rhys Jones was always impressive, but I think I thought he would have become a theatre director rather than the huge TV star he has become.

What was Griff like as a student?

Much as he is today, only chubbier. He is one of those irritating people who gets better looking as he gets older.

What would you do differently if you had your time at Cambridge again?

Maybe read history and law rather than just law. Certainly work harder at academic studies. But it is easy to say you would work harder in a theoretical time you are having again.

As a former barrister, do what action do you think The Tab should have taken against the nationals for nicking our ‘rear of the year’ photos?

Report them to Lord Justice Leveson; he doesn’t have too much to look into in his inquiry. “Rear of the year” – did you run this past Germaine Greer?

Who have you most enjoyed interviewing? 

Mikhail Gorbachev was a high point for me; an important figure in world history and, even through a translator, extremely witty and entertaining. I also had a great time doing an episode of my chat show in which all four guests were fictional characters played by Peter Cook.

Finally, to steal a question you asked Alan Partridge: what’s your secret of how to do a good interview? 

Prepare as well as possible, don’t shy away from asking the difficult question. And hope the guests don’t get up and leave halfway through.