The tiniest creature on radio, but perfect in every detail. Except one.1
Actor, comedian, birdwatcher, musician, composer and author – best known as the little furry one from the BBC’s “The Goodies”.
Bill was born William Edgar Oddie in 1941 in Rochdale, Lancashire, in the United Kingdom. He was raised mainly by his father and grandmother – his mother had left when he was two, and though she returned occasionally, she was eventually committed to a mental home, and retained very little memory of her son. As a boy Bill collected bird eggs – a hobby which was not then illegal, and was indeed very popular with schoolboys, but which he is heartily ashamed of now.
Upon moving to Birmingham, Oddie attended Halesowen Grammar School, then King Edward’s School in Edgbaston. He quit his egg-collecting hobby, and switched to birdwatching instead. He became an expert on his local patch of “wilderness” – Bartley Reservoir – sending copious and accurate reports to the West Midland Bird Club.
In 1960, Bill began studying English at Cambridge university. He became a member of Cambridge Footlights – due in a large part to his talent for writing hilarious songs in a rock ‘n’ roll or pop style. The 1964 “Cambridge Circus” show went to America, and upon returning, Bill was signed up by David Frost as a writer for “That was the week that Was” – an anarchic and controversial look at the British establishment.
At the same time, Bill teamed up with fellow Footlights member Graeme Garden to write the scripts for BBC Radio’s “I’m sorry I’ll read that again” – a zany collection of awful puns, silly voices and even sillier plots, rather reminiscent of the Goon Show. Each episode generally had one of Bill’s ridiculous songs: such as “Cactus in my Y-fronts” or my personal favourite: “The Ferret Song”. Bill appeared in several other comedy shows through the 60’s, and wrote for many of them.
“The Goodies” came into being in 1970. Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden wrote the scripts, and Bill was again responsible for the musical side of the show. The Goodies’ recording of Bill’s “Funky Gibbon” reached number 4 on the UK charts.
After the Goodies ended in early 1980, Bill branched out. He collaborated on several books and a TV show with his second wife Laura, and Bill was involved in other projects, including the cartoon Bananaman, which he voiced along with his fellow ex-goodies.
“Bird-watchers are tense, competitive, selfish, shifty, dis-honest, boorish, arrogant, pedantic and above all envious”2
From the mid 80’s, Oddie began to focus far more on bird watching, conservation efforts and writing, rather than on comedy. The majority of his television and radio work in the 1980s was related to birds, with occasional stints in other areas, such as providing the voice for Asterix in the 1989 film “Asterix and the big fight”. In 1997, Bill finally got his own birding television series: “Birding with Bill Oddie”.
The new millennium began badly for Bill – hospitalized in February 2001 with severe clinical depression. He has branched out again since then – appearing on talk shows, archaeological programs, and a strange experience known as the “Heaven and Earth Show” – which apparently sends celebrities off to spiritual retreats. He hosted the nature program “Bill Oddie goes Wild” – which saw him wandering round Britain looking at wildlife of all kinds (and birds).
Bill is an avid conservationist and represents organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth, Royal Society for Nature Conservation, Fauna and Flora International, BirdLife International, and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. He has been a council member for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Ornithological Society of the Middle East.
Bill has been married twice - to Jean Hart
with whom he had two daughters: Bonnie and Kate (Kate Hardie
- actress). He has a third daugher: Rosie, with second wife Laura Beaumont
1 I'm sorry I'll read that again
2 Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book
Bill Oddie’s list of achievements:
Film and Television writing credits:
With Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden:
With Graeme Garden: