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Harry Hill (left) and Liza Tarbuck (right).

'It's an odd bunch': Harry Hill and Liza Tarbuck on filming 'Britain's Greatest Obsessions'

to find out how and why these particular subjects have become so embedded in our collective psyche and national identity.


Britain’s Greatest Obsessions sees a host of top celebrities explore uniquely British preoccupations and passions in an attempt to find out what makes the British tick.

In each episode, one celebrity guest presenter undertakes a journey through British culture and history, to find out how and why these particular subjects have become so embedded in our collective psyche and national identity.

Sky HISTORY caught up with comedian Harry Hill, who gets under the skin of the famed British sense of humour in episode one, and Liza Tarbuck, who guides viewers through our national obsession with all things weather-related in episode four.

How would you describe the premise of the show?

Harry Hill: It does what it says on the tin, doesn't it? We chose what we thought were great British obsessions. I chose humour and the way British people are basically very smug and pleased with themselves about their sense of humour. This is seen as one of the great British personality traits: laughing in the face of adversity. There's this feeling that our sense of humour is in some ways superior.

In my episode, I spoke to Henning Wehn, 'the only German comedian in the world'. He told me that other nationalities have a sense of humour, but they don't see it as a thing to boast about. They don't rate it as highly as productivity or efficiency.

One of the things he told me was that if a British person works in a factory and screws up, then they'll go to the pub, and everyone will laugh about it. But in Germany, everyone will say 'And there was a whole day's work lost!'

Liza, when did your obsession with weather first begin?

Liza Tarbuck: I just think the weather is a part of us. It's the easiest way to have a conversation with someone. Minute by minute, you've always got something to say about the weather.

Look at the news. The last three weeks we're in the middle of August, it's summer, and everyone's talking like it's the apocalypse. We know that the seasons are coming every year.

One of the reasons I love living here is the changing of seasons, being able to mark things by weather, being glad to see rain, or being excited by a storm.

Just to go a bit deeper, weather is our biggest connection to the planet. It stops you from being distracted by the usual quotidian events and gets you right into the heart of the matter, that we live on a planet.

There's a real sense of camaraderie in the series, had you ever worked together before or with the other celebrity hosts?

Liza: I only work with Harry now.

Harry: We don't work much together but I always feel in a vague way that we are working together.

Liza: When he kettles me into something I feel obliged to say yes, let's put it that way. I saw Harry early on when he may have been still part-time in comedy and hadn't given up medicine. So, we've known each other for a long time. We're united by a common love of art.

Harry: I've met Chris Packham before, and I've met Lorraine [Kelly] and Suggs. I had met Reg [D Hunter], I know his work and I'm a fan of his stuff, but I've never really worked with him. Lorraine was great, I was impressed because she does this sort of thing every day, she's good at moving it along. I felt that.

Liza: I love Chris Packham. Everything he said was so salient and splendid. I was taken with his commentary because he's so well thought out and he just cuts through.

What's great about Reg, from the point of view of this show, is that him being American brings a very interesting point of view. He's sort of outside but is on the inside as he’s lived here for so long.

Was it fun discussing the topics of the show with each other?

Harry: It was very easy, really, wasn't it? But it's an odd bunch, isn't it?

Liza: It's funny when you're sat with loads of old pros, knowing that everybody needs a moment to speak and everything that they say is going to be interesting.

It's like working on the radio, you have to be quiet to allow that bit of clear record to come across. Sometimes it's annoying because you've got a lot to say. After all, the subject matter is interesting.

That was the point of the show, it triggers conversations and that's the best we can hope for.

Who did you meet in your episode that stood out for you?

Harry: I spoke to John Styles, the Punch & Judy entertainer. I am a big fan of this guy. He's immersed in all things Punch and Judy. I'm a patron of the ‘Punch & Judy Fellowship’, they gave me the 'Golden Slapstick'.

Liza: Well, yet again I was oiling pigs and putting sun cream on pigs. We were filming at the Vauxhall City farm about the weather's effect on animals. That was a lovely day because it's always nice to have a sidekick that can't talk back.

What did you most enjoy about filming the show?

Liza: I enjoy working live so when you're presented with somebody who's good on their topic, I find that quite exciting. Everybody's got a passion for something and it's up to you to find it.

For me, I found absolutely everything interesting. It was fascinating to look at weather from a historical point of view from how it impacted battles and to invasions like the Spanish Armada. I realised quite early on that, every time we found something to sort of have a little scratch at, it just opened up the next thing.

Britain’s Greatest Obsessions premieres on 12 September on Sky HISTORY at 9pm. SKY HISTORY is available on Sky 123, Virgin 234, TalkTalk 327.