When Bob Mortimer recovered from the triple coronary bypass operation that had saved his life, he discovered he’d additionally had a change of coronary heart about the way in which he labored. His behavior had been to say no to new initiatives – he stayed devoted to his double act with Vic Reeves – however after the operation, in October 2015, he simply began to say sure. “I wouldn’t want it on folks however there’s a optimistic facet to a near-death expertise,” he says. “Folks used to ask me do you fancy doing this or that – and it was like I had a file of causes in my head for not doing issues. I’d riffle by way of it till I discovered one. However I’ve dropped that. Now when somebody says do you fancy doing this? I’ll be like, yeah, why not? I’ll have a go.”
One of many issues he mentioned sure to was the impressed surrealist soccer podcast Athletico Mince (which now has had 12 million listeners). One other was the panel present Would I Deceive You? which, he says, has oddly given him extra recognition than most likely anything he’s performed. And a 3rd was a suggestion by his outdated mate Paul Whitehouse that they go fishing collectively.
Whitehouse, at 60, is a 12 months older than Mortimer. They’d identified one another since their 20s. Nearly each time they met, they talked about going fishing, however they by no means had. Final 12 months, although, after Whitehouse had helped Mortimer by way of his restoration – he’d had a few arterial stents put in himself 5 years earlier than – the thought began to really feel a bit now or by no means. They deliberate an outing, after which pitched the thought to the BBC. “There was that factor of jeopardy that I assumed they could go for,” Whitehouse explains. “There was all the time the prospect one in all us would possibly drop down lifeless on the riverbank.” To their shock – given the BBC’s lukewarm reception to different initiatives they’d individually pitched lately – a sequence was commissioned.
The pair are explaining this to me, with their mixture of deadpan and overexcitement, on a banquette in Guidelines in Covent Backyard, the oldest restaurant in London. Within the sequence, they speak a very good deal about “coronary heart wholesome” consuming, however have made an government choice to take a break day from any regime for this lunch, on condition that Guidelines, with its emphasis on chops and steaks and suet and sponge, has a menu just about unchanged because it first opened in 1798, 200 years earlier than cholesterol-anxiety. “It’s a travesty to eat turbot right here, isn’t it?” Whitehouse says. “It’s steak and kidney pie or pudding.” They each go for pudding, and peas and jersey royals and swiss chard (to point out keen).
Whitehouse hasn’t eaten right here earlier than however Mortimer has – he has an irregular “gossip night time” right here with the actor Matt Berry. “We normally sit there,” he says, gesturing to a panelled nook, framed by searching scenes and work of thoroughbreds. “It’s an excellent spot for a little bit of gossip. And earlier than I went on telly I wouldn’t fairly have had the nerve to come back.”
Mortimer labored as a solicitor earlier than he took up comedy. Whitehouse believes his good friend would have made it right here anyway. “What if you happen to had caught on the lawyering and your spouse – your authorized secretary, you bonded over divorce regulation – had mentioned. ‘It’s your birthday Bob, I’m speaking you out for a particular night time. Brian is coming, too. We’re going to Guidelines!”
“Possibly,” Mortimer admits. “Who’s Brian?” After which, “I don’t assume outdated posh is as intimidating as new posh, is it?”
“It’s not,” Whitehouse says. “I imply, you’ve turned up in the identical jacket you fish in, and so they haven’t flinched. There’s most likely maggots within the pockets.”
“There’s actually DNA in there from the roach I caught – and the bream,” Mortimer grins on the thought. “That fucking bream!”
They surprise what I considered the sequence. “Don’t inform me: it’s midway between Detectorists and The Journey,” Whitehouse says. I recommend it’s nearer the midpoint of Ready for Godot and The Compleat Angler.
The plates of steak and kidney pudding arrive. “Whooorr,” says Whitehouse, instantly, in his “Rowley the outdated drunk” persona. “It’s so plump, like an stomach awaiting the incision. Have a look at that magnificence!”
“This has come on the proper second, Paul,” Mortimer says. “I’m more and more of the thoughts that every one fats is nice.”
“And sugar is dangerous.”
“Sugar and carbs. In the event you watch this documentary The Magic Tablet it’s about fats being good and carbs dangerous.”
“I used to be watching a factor final nightabout how good carbs are for you.” He excavates his pudding. “However most likely not suet.”
None of us is kind of positive what suet is. Mortimer Googles it. “Suet: the arduous, white fats of the kidneys of cows and sheep.”
Whitehouse proposes the view of every little thing sparsely. “And this actually is moderation for me as a result of I haven’t eaten one in all these since Fray Bentos reigned supreme in 1972.”
Like Mortimer, Whitehouse is having fun with a type of second profession – in his case as a personality actor in movies. He has come right here from coughing and mumbling out the swear phrases (“for aeroplanes and Australia, the place nobody swears”) within the forthcoming film of the Hatton Backyard heist by which he stars with Ray Winstone and Jim Broadbent and Michael Caine. This follows on from his good cameo because the politburo’s Mr Fixit in Armando Iannucci’s The Demise of Stalin. He additionally has a job in Iannucci’s adaptation of David Copperfield, about to enter manufacturing.
“How lengthy are you on display for with Michael Caine is all that issues to me,” Mortimer says.
“My display time is about seven minutes whole,” Whitehouse says. “However first scene, day one, I’m in a backyard and” – he slips into pitch excellent Caine – “it’s ‘Hiya Brian, what are you doing right here?’”
“It’s bizarre that, isn’t it?” Mortimer suggests. “My worst one was I did a factor with Derek Jacobi, and his character is in a wheelchair. We hadn’t met and I used to be nervous and received his character’s title fallacious straight off. He checked out me: ‘Oh, you absolute arse!’ He was having enjoyable with a younger man.”
One of many issues the fishing sequence has introduced residence to Mortimer, he says, was that adults cease doing the issues that had introduced them probably the most pleasure as youngsters. He has made an excellent profession out of refusing to subscribe to that concept.
“You already know the factor I appreciated about fishing once I was 14 was being out along with your mates mucking about, throwing bread round, getting a bit moist perhaps. I puzzled if that could possibly be the identical if you had been 60. And it didn’t really feel that totally different…”
“Fishing’s dying out a bit, although,” Whitehouse suggests. “If you’re on a practice and also you go bombing previous rivers and canals, the Trent and the Ouze, they might be lined with fishermen even 20 years in the past. Now you don’t see anybody, actually on the canals.”
The pair of them loved their outings a lot they carried on even after ending filming. They had been on the Wye a few weeks in the past.
“I used to be the one who received us began, actually,” Whitehouse says, “however now I’m normally attempting to tug Bob away. There’s all the time one thing magical about being on a river as night falls. Nature begins to come back a bit alive. However I get to the purpose the place I wish to get to the pub.”
Within the sequence, they have an inclination to camp out, and Mortimer does the cooking – one thing else he has performed extra of since his coronary heart scare. “My mum was a very good cook dinner,” he says. “My dad died once I was six. I used to be the youngest of 4 boys and as usually in households when there’s a bereavement the children divide up the roles. One takes on an authoritative function. I used to be the kitchen helper, so it’s good to return to that. And the center factor provides you a motivation to do your finest with all this dreary stuff you must cook dinner. You already know, cauliflower-based pizzas. Beans. All that.”
We research the dessert menu. “Are we doing it?” Whitehouse asks.
“Too proper we’re!” Mortimer says, with a giggle.
“Golden syrup sponge custard!”
“Make that two,” Mortimer says.
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, Wednesdays, 10pm, BBC Two