Comedian Bob Mortimer says performing at the Leeds Arena shortly after undergoing major heart surgery in 2015 helped him recover from the shock of his sudden illness. “I am grateful to those 7,500 scary faces in Leeds because I was forced to go through that and to realise I was absolutely fine,” he said. Speaking
Comedian Bob Mortimer says performing at the Leeds Arena shortly after undergoing major heart surgery in 2015 helped him recover from the shock of his sudden illness. “I am grateful to those 7,500 scary faces in Leeds because I was forced to go through that and to realise I was absolutely fine,” he said.
Speaking to Lauren Laverne as a castaway on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, the 59-year-old said he wore a heart monitor throughout the performance and that his doctor had told him to stop if his heart rate went above 153.
“It was about 160 after the first song we did, but I carried on. A lot of the problems are psychological after a heart operation,” said the former lawyer from Middlesbrough. He also revealed that for 30 years he and Vic Reeves, his television comedy partner, have played Vaughan William’s Sea Symphony before going out on stage together. “It always gives me goosebumps. It is just the two of us, alone and scared stiff.”
Choosing the orchestral piece as one of his permitted eight tracks, he explained that since the emergency operation three years ago, just four days after a visit to the doctor to investigate “a tiny little pain in my chest”, he gets “slightly depressed” when he thinks about how little time he may have to listen again to all the music he has loved over his life.
The one-time football hopeful, chicken factory worker and bin man, also talks about two life-changing incidents in his life. First, the death of his father when he was seven years old and which he suspects contributed to his fear of loss and a “crippling shyness that defined the first 30 years of my life.” At university, Mortimer says, he met no one, but “didn’t really mind sitting on my own listening to my music.”
Eventually his status as a television personality came to his aid, with others happy to make the first social approach.
A second pivotal life moment was his encounter with Reeves (real name, James Moir) in a pub in south London.
“He was in a tiny room upstairs, with six or seven of his friends as the audience, and he was wearing a Bryan Ferry mask, tap dancing and making a high-pitched wailing. I started going every week,” recalls Mortimer.
His musical heroine is Joni Mitchell, and Mortimer chooses her song Down to You as a favourite.
Selecting the Squeeze song Some Fantastic Day for his desert island playlist, he also reveals he has asked Reeves to sing the song at his funeral.
“He hasn’t asked me to sing it at his though, so he obviously knows he is going to last a little bit longer,” said Mortimer.