The Den of Geek interview: Keith Chegwin (Part Three)

In the final part of our interview, Cheggers talks Swap Shop, kids smoking on telly, The Adventure Game, adult toys and - yes! - that Naked Jungle...

Keith Chegwin. Legend.

Haymarket Hotel, London. Thursday 8th November 2007.

Check out part two of the interview here

We left things on a bit of Swap Shop cliffhanger last time, so that’s exactly where we’ll pick up…

When did you find out where you were going each week in Swap Shop?

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Er, believe it or not, months in advance. What happened is that it was going to be done as a ten-week series, and that’s it, and they suddenly realised what a storm they had here, and they ran it for three months or more.

So anyway, we used to share our outside broadcast facilities with sport, so what happened was, wherever the rugby was, we’d be there. And that’s what determined it! But then rugby chucked us out, the reason being that adults would watch me in the morning doing Swap Shop, and go “ah, that’s where the telly is, I’ll watch the rugby on telly later on, I won’t go to the rugby ground”. So rugby said get out!

It must have been an incredible show to be involved with…

You know, we only had four television channels in those days, and even I was blown by it, because, you know, you turn up at York Rugby Football Ground, and you announce on the morning that you’re there, and 8,000 kids would turn up! 8,000!Not to be rude though, but you didn’t half trade some crap on there…

The amount of people who come up to me even now and say “where’s my bloody Kerplunk?”!

Were there any memorable swaps?Oh, God, adult toys! And I wouldn’t swap them. We used to get a lot of people coming around taking the mickey. And they turned up with these adult toys, saying “go on Cheggers, swap that!”

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Because all your segments were entirely live, weren’t they?

Oh yeah…!So presumably there was a lot of vetting…?

No, not really. Very little. We used to do the swapping as live. I’d hear in my ear “don’t go to your right, don’t go to your right!”.

The amount of times! Live on air, one producer said “go to your right, there’s a kid with a can of Pale Ale”, and I’d go to the right and they’d say “go back where you were, there’s a kid smoking”.

It was all as-live, and I remember we had one kid who came to swap a radio in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, this beautiful radio. And at the end of the show, the police came, and I was going to be arrested for swapping stolen goods! The kid had nicked it!

Some great moments, but even then, how popular it was, you used to get bands trekking up to Scotland to be on the show, to be on the outside broadcast! From Status Quo, to everyone you can think of!

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And when it transitioned to Saturday Superstore, was it the same behind the scenes?

It was a change, it really was. It was a real gear change, because…

[in jumps the PR rep, as, er, we’re eating into someone else’s slot. The burger that has followed us through this interview comes back too. Cheggers must be famished.]

The thing about Swap Shop, and the success of Swap Shop, was that it had the mechanics of the swapping. Whereas Superstore we were basically trying to think of an idea to keep Saturday mornings running. And it was basically the same show, but I went out on the old delivery van, didn’t do swapping, but did a show.

Did you prefer Swap Shop?

Erm, if the truth be known, and I think Mike Reid won’t mind, I did, yes.

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So did we…!

[Aforementioned PR rep points out to Cheggers that he hasn’t eaten his burger yet. He still doesn’t take a bite. We quickly pick out two final questions to ask him while this goes on]

Okay, here’s one. You were a contestant on The Adventure Game?

Oh my God, even I can’t remember that! The crystal? Bloody hell! That was a long time ago, that was in Bristol. I went all the way down to Bristol to record the show.

It must have been weird…

It was a really, really odd show to do. It was ahead of its time. It was all done with colour separation overlay and effects, er, but yes, I remember going through nearly every maze I could think of, and trying to solve every problem there was, and not being very successful at all! It was one of those shows where I thought dammit, I wish I’d never done this because I look thick!

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Did you do the vortex?

No I didn’t, no! I never got that far! But that was a good show, wasn’t it?

[We agree]Our office is split primarily, then, for what we remember you for, and it’s fair to say you have a reasonably diverse career. On one hand, it’s Cheggers Plays Pop and Swap Shop, and on the other it’s Naked Jungle and annoying the Daily Mail, along with Extras.

Oh God, the bloody Daily Mail. I hate ‘em. I can’t tell you. They’ve offered me thousands of pounds. Somebody leaned over the gate the other week and offered me ten grand to have a chat.With the Daily Mail?

Oh, I won’t do it. They’ve lied so much about Keith Chegwin.Ultimately, though, you’re hard to pin down. Where do you go next?I don’t know. I’m just a fan of moving around and trying different things. A lot of people think I must accept everything that comes in, and I don’t. I turn a lot down, and the only reason is I don’t think it’ll be a challenge or exciting for me, so when the prospect of the game came up, I thought it’d be a fantastic challenge and that’s moving forward. I don’t like to stand still. It’s like I did the Naked Jungle thing, and people thought it was a series or career. No, I’ve done it once, the gag’s there, it’s gone.

It’s like I did Extras with Ricky Gervais, and all the acting parts came in. And I thought, well I don’t want to be in a hospital bed in Holby City. It’s not a challenge is it? What is it? It’s me just lying in a bed. I wouldn’t do it.

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Is there one thing you’ve turned down that you wished you’d done?

Er …..[long pause] No, not really.Is there one thing you’ve done that you wished you hadn’t?[No pause whatsoever] Naked Jungle. Worst thing I ever did. Can’t tell you. My mother was so upset. So you’ll never get me without me clothes on, ever, ever again.

I can assure you I won’t try!

And with that, we leave Keith to his burger. “Bloody brilliant”, he shouts as we leave the room. We presume he means his burger, though…

***Cheggers Party Quiz is published by Oxygen Games – www.oxygengames.net – and is available on PC, Playstation 2 and Nintendo Wii.

Keith Chegwin’s own website can be found at www.keithchegwin.com

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