'They're not laughing with you, they're laughing at you' - Terry Wogan's 10 best TV moments
Ten golden moments, from the Son of God to Top of the Pops
This morning we heard the sad news that broadcaster Terry Wogan has died aged 77 after a short battle with cancer.
Wogan’s main strengths were his trustworthiness, his warmth and his unique tone: a free-wheeling, mischievous stream-of-consciousness that made him the consummate live presenter. In tribute, we rewind 10 of his most memorable TV moments.
1. He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy (1991)
When turquoise-clad former TV presenter David Icke claimed to be the "son of the godhead” on Wogan's BBC One show in 1991, Sir Terry skilfully turned him into a figure of fun. When the studio audience started giggling at Icke’s pompous pronouncements, Wogan gently told him: "They're not laughing with you, they're laughing at you.”
2. Flower power (1978)
When he was Radio 2’s breakfast DJ, Wogan recorded a tongue-in-cheek version of Cornish folk song The Floral Dance, which reached number 21 on the charts. He appeared on Top of the Pops in a beige suit, intoning the lyrics live and trying not to laugh, while pelting the baffled audience with flowers.
3. Par for the course (1981)
Always a keen golfer with a penchant for dapper knitwear, Wogan set the world record for the longest successful golf putt ever televised. During a pro-celebrity tournament at Gleneagles, he holed from 100ft.
4. Are you trying to interview me, Mrs Robinson? (1982)
In the decade that it aired (1982-1992), Wogan's eponymous chat show got the biggest guests of the era and frequently hit the headlines. One of Wogan’s most awkward chats was with actress Anne Bancroft, The Graduate's Mrs Robinson, who was only told that the show was being broadcast live moments before she left the green room. Bancroft was so petrified that she counted to 10 before descending the steps onto the set – a technique that proved strikingly ineffective as she proceeded to give a series of monosyllabic replies.
5. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark (2001)
Wogan provided wry commentary on the Eurovision Song Contest for 28 consecutive years. “All I've gained by watching it over the years," he said, "is a numbing of the prefrontal lobes.” One of many memorable asides came when he dubbed the two Danish hosts of the 2001 event “Doctor Death and the Tooth Fairy”. When Graham Norton took over the gig, Wogan advised him: “Don't start to drink before the fifth song. It's a long evening.”
6. Who grilled JR? (1981)
Wogan’s chat show career was launched with a high-profile one-off show where he interviewed actor Larry Hagman, who played JR Ewing in Dallas and was the era’s biggest TV villain. Hagman would go on to make regular appearances with Wogan, and the pair’s chemistry was palpable. Wogan also reduced Victoria Principal (who played Pam Ewing) to tears of mirth with his mocking of the US super-soap.
7. Taking the Mic (1982)
Wogan’s trademark on celebrity game show Blankety Blank was a wand-like, knitting-needle-shaped microphone. When comedian Kenny Everett appeared as panellist, he snatched it off the host and attacked it with an outsize pair of scissors, bending it out of shape. Wogan calmly produced a spare from underneath his jacket and carried on.
8. Simply the Best (1990)
Former footballer George Best made an infamously drunk, dishevelled and rambling appearance on Wogan's chat show but Sir Terry handled it with understated aplomb. When he asked Best what he liked to do with his time these days, Best replied: “Screw. I like shagging, Terry.” “I see,” smiled Wogan, bringing the interview to a hasty close: “Ladies and gentleman, George Best!”
9. Nicolas uncaged (1992)
Bad boy actor Nicolas Cage made a memorable entrance onto Wogan’s chat show by somersaulting onto the set, striking Elvis poses, karate high-kicking and throwing banknotes into the audience. Mid-interview, Cage stripped off his promotional Wild at Heart T-shirt, handed it to the unflappably amused Wogan and finished their chat bare-chested beneath his leather jacket.
10. The one Ronnie (1986)
Ronnie Barker had decided to retire in 1984 but kept it secret for two years, his longtime comedy partner Corbett being the only one in the know. Barker eventually announced it publicly during an appearance on Wogan.