Keith, Orville & Cuddles – The DVD

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“Why this?” you might ask. “Why Keith, Orville & Cuddles — It’s a Quacker?” And yes, we have encountered Harris before, on his own Christmas special, and guesting on Royal Varieties, but this is a light entertainment objet worth holding up to the light. Quacker is a DVD, self-produced for Keith to sell from the merch table at his live shows — although Amazon does list a signed copy (out of stock). What’s notable is its production; credited to Fabalus Films, a Scarborough-based audio-visual company. The catalogue of Fabalus Films is a small one, with just two other titles. The first is a visual tour of the UK’s roller coasters, shot with a budget of £500, for the members of the Roller Coaster Club; while the other’s entitled The Grumbleweeds Forever? A documentary, this follows the Grumbleweeds, now down from a five-some to a double-act, as a new ‘Weed takes his place alongside sole surviving original member, Robin Colvill, aka the one who did Jimmy Savile. Plus, according to the box, “featuring impressions of Cher, Tina Turner, Lily Savage etc.


Fabalus Films is a two-man operation, consisting of a hypnotist named Ken, and his friend — Robin. As it ‘appens. Consequently, in a thrilling creative collaboration between Britain’s best known duck dad, and a man who recently performed the voice of the beast Savile in reconstructed police interviews for Netflix, It’s a Quacker is edited by Robin Colvill. When I say ‘edited’, I mean ‘hunched over his laptop, squinting at Windows Movie Maker’. As we press play, a simple title in Powerpoint font bids us “welcome to the show and here are your hosts ORVILLE and CUDDLES,” and the further we get, one suspects the more formal “here are” was used instead of “here’s,” because he couldn’t be certain where the apostrophe was meant to go.

Orville’s framed centre of screen against a black cloth, and unusually alone; not on a lap. “Hi everygoggy, it’s me, Orville!” His voice echoes noticeably. Are we in a spare bedroom? Garage? Abandoned warehouse with dried blood congealed around the drain? It’s shot by a camcorder fixed on a tripod, with no zooms or pans, evoking the suicide tape of Bjork’s stalker. Everything feels wrong; slid under the counter, or downloaded off the dark web through a layer of VPNs. Is Orville about to be snuffed? Forced at gunpoint to bring Keith off with his beak? “Eeee, my kidnappers are treating me just smashing, changing me nappy and everyfing!” Cuddles is there too, but never in the same shot, and Orville calls him a silly monkey — “Ooh, he does smell. Stinky poo!” I suppose it’s testament to Keith’s ventriloquist code that they shot the awful quality sound live, with him crouching out of frame, rather than just dubbing Orville’s voice on later.


These haunting interludes are the only new footage, specially filmed as links for what’s essentially a clip show, running through bits and pieces from Harris’s illustrious career. The highlights are clearly digitised VHS rips from his personal collection, and vary in visual quality from very bad to completely unwatchable; in fact, so scuzzy, that I was forced into a written piece, as they wouldn’t stand up to the rigours of a video essay. A 2001-quality clipart clapperboard transitions into our first scene; a Robin Hood parody, presumably taken — as is most of the DVD — from the 1980’s Keith Harris Show, due to the presence of Stu Francis, pushing out a big fake belly as Friar Tuck the Fish Fryer. Harris swings onstage on a vine, with a little goatee like his own evil twin, while Orville’s dressed in Lincoln green and a feathered hat (which is a bit ‘cow in a leather jacket’). Last seen in the Christmas special, Dippy the Dinosaur’s Little John, to which Orville remarks “Little John?! He’s a big’un for a little’un, ent he?

The prevailing sound here is children’s laughter at jokes they often don’t understand, all written around Keith Harris (born 1947)’s frame of reference, like a pair of rabbit ears in a tankard (“jugged hare!”). I’d forgotten what a thoroughly exhausting performer he is, and every line of dialogue is either the set-up or punchline to a pitiful gag. It’s very much the comedy of mistaking one word for another; of “that’s not what I meant, you daft apeth!”; of someone repeating themselves after being told “you can say that again!” Orville wants to fire an arrow? Tuck gives him a bow tie — “not that sort of bow!” Sheriff Cuddles cries seize him? A reply of “sneeze him?” with an achoo. Now thrown into sketch comedy after years of solo ventriloquism routines, the script retains Keith’s repetitious I-say-I-say cadence. “They’re only baby snakes!” “How’d you know they’re baby snakes?” “They’ve got rattles.”


With a massive yellow dinosaur taking up half the tiny stage, Keith barely has room to pull back his arm for the climactic arrow firing. And then I soil myself, as Cuddles jumps from his throne to run around; always a horrible sight, of which there’s loads on this tape. Skinny, bipedal Cuddles, moving too fast, as though he could make a sudden run at the lens, his orange arms reaching through the screen to clasp around your face. The upright version nods along to its dialogue as the fixed plastic mouth stays completely still, until cutaways to the ‘real’ Cuddles in close-up. At the close, Robin Hood celebrates his victory in a medieval tavern, with more comedic confusing of words (coffers/coughers), and a song proclaiming “Robin Hood’s become a legend, he’s a friend to you and me!

It’s important to keep in mind that Harris compiled this DVD himself, and out of the available material, considered every sketch the best way to represent a life in showbiz. Particularly think about this during the jokes which bridge each section, presenting viewers an all-or-nothing choice between ‘very dumb lollystick gags for small children’ and ‘a reference they don’t know’.

     “What musical instrument does a skeleton play? A trombone!

     “D’you know where there aren’t any fat people? Finland!

     “What’d you do if you lock yourself out of the house? Keep singing until you find the key!

Back at the warehouse, I notice Cuddles has a hand; a disgusting wrinkly pink rubber glove Harris squeezed his mitt into, which has drawn-on fingernails and knuckle-joints, flapping and gesticulating like a corpse’s as he cackles through another intro. Next it’s the 1991 cartoon, Orville and Cuddles, inelegantly cutting in midway through the title song, the full version of which explains all you need — “Orville is green, Cuddles is mean, Orville and Cuddles, here on your screen.” We get a couple of episodes, with one titled Midnight Cowboy, which sadly doesn’t end with Orville dying from TB on a bus. But there’s no animated Keith, and it’s dialogue free, with him voicing all the non-verbal grunts and “ooh!” noises.


The animation is appallingly lazy, with visible felt-tip strokes, and never less than three frames messily piled on top of each other at all times, as characters lurch halfway across the screen in a single step. Each short episode consists of the pair spinning round, falling over, and hitting their heads, and one sees Orville win money at the funfair and stash it in his nappy, where it must get covered in shit and piss. Though this used to air on CBBC, there’s zero online footprint, other than a comment suggesting it was cheaply produced by a Bulgarian animation studio.

But honestly, the live-action clips are no better, where Keith bloody loves a film parody. Raiders of the Lost Feather must be practically a full episode, with twenty-odd minutes of sand-coloured papier mache tombs, as Indiana Duck (in full Indy outfit, little whip included) and sidekick Digger Bone take on a two-handed Cuddles as evil Nazi, Herr Grip. Notable here is how The Keith Harris Show, barring guests like Stu Francis, fills every other role with child actors; terrible child actors lumbered with accents they can’t do, and wading their lines into the laughter of previous jokes. The plot is Herr Grip’s stolen a magic feather which allows its holder to rule the world come the next full moon, giving a rather relaxed deadline of 15 days to stop him. In Turkey, they meet their contact, a child in a fez named Mustafa Hotdog.

     Mustafa: “It is I!

     Keith: “Ah, eye contact!

     He arms them with a flying carpet.

     Keith: “I bet he got that from the cosh and carry!

     Audience: “


There’s greenscreened flying and riding down rapids, and a mummy’s arm with some “have you pinched my butty/botty” confusion, before Cuddles is defeated. The next clip is so deeply repressed by the national psyche, it manages to achieve no Google hits, meaning it wasn’t released as a single. Yet, here’s my most favoured of content genres, the surprise rap. Or to be specific, The Nappy Rap. Between the disco lights, smoky dance floor, and Keith’s wobbly VHS, Orville’s hardly visible in his sideways baseball cap and sunglasses, but you can still pick out his opening couplet.

     “Listen everybody cos this is true, I’m Orville the duck and I’m talking to you,

     Now it’s all very well being cute and sweet, I wanna sing a song with a funky beat…”

While I’m beside myself with fury something titled The Nappy Rap isn’t about plops ‘n’ widdles, I’m assuaged by its double-function as both rap and ‘do the x’ dance instructional, with MC Orv and accompanying flotilla of children rapping at us to “come and do the nappy rap; you do a little wriggle, then you clap!” Regrettably, Keith and the kids struggle to keep pace with the beat, leaving the words garbled and incomprehensible, and me spending a good chunk of my prime years running it back again and again, ear cupped like Hulk Hogan, trying to piece everything together. I shall have to assume the verse preceding “we’ll all get together and we’ll do the nappy rap” was about squeezing out a great big turd for Keith Harris to deal with. I could pick out the occasional line, like “give your dummy to your mummy cos you won’t need that!


More outdated parodies; more I say! Oliver Tweet (Cuddles: “more like Oliver Twit!”), with Harris in a rubber nose as Fagin, proper going for it, like he’s finally got the opportunity to show what he can really do — “West End here I come!” They don’t do numbers from the real show, but kinda-soundalikes, so instead of Pick a Picket, it’s “my name is Fagin, and cheating is my game, I rob and steal and thief and lie, that is my claim to fame!” Dippy the Dinosaur even gets his own song, one-upping Harry Secombe from the film — “I am Mr. Bumble, fumble dumble me” — before Oliver’s rescued by his grandfather (Harris in split screen) and everyone celebrates with another ditty.

     Fagin: “Oliver is happy, he’s found his long-lost friend.

     The Artful Dodger (Cuddles): “He won’t need to steal for me.

     Bumble: “Or work for me in misery.”

What a tragedy we don’t get to see Bill Sikes as interpreted by Stu Francis. Next is a musical number which plays in the wrong aspect ratio, with early 2000’s widescreen forced to fit the tape’s 80’s pan and scan, because Robin off the Grumbleweeds didn’t know how to fix it. After the previous 45-minutes, it’s like being rocketed into the future, with sudden high-tempo techno rhythms, as a woman in a red dress, recognisable from the Louis Theroux as Keith’s wife, lip-syncs aggressive sampled cries of “come on!” This is the video for 2002’s club remix of I Wish I Could Fly, leaning into the ironic late-90’s market for nostalgia bants, along with Keith’s toilet-mouthed uni tours. A string of rave remixes added a banging tempo to samples of beloved childhood originals, like Rainbow Rave Up, Sesame’s Treet, and Here Comes Bod; songs for uni students whose main ice-breaker was “remember Mr. Benn?!” to drop Es and have tawdry turn of the millennium sex to, regretfully ejaculating right at the moment a man in his fifties using a high-pitched duckling voice dejectedly squeaked “I wish I had a mam and dad, but I don’t.”


It’s a particularly weird addition to a tape otherwise filled with content for toddlers, as the song ends with Cuddles’ knowing demand of “shut the duck up!” And then, more parodies. Quackman and Bobbin is everything you’d expect; Cuddles as the Joker with bright red lips; QUACK action bubbles in fights; holy-this and holy-that; Keith answering the Quackphone with a “you don’t say, you don’t say, you don’t say?” Who was it? They didn’t say. Joker’s henchmen of Riddler, Catwoman and Penguin are played by children, delivering every line with a noticeable pause which asks “oh, it’s my turn now?”

     “Put the telly on, Bobbin.”

     “Why would Bobbin want the television on him?

The next numbers return to Keith’s sickly roots, with Orville on his lap in a fairground set, the pair of them carneys, for a haunting lament where a rubber duck has wandered off from his game — “he waddled off and went away, we’ve got to find him before morning, maybe he’s just gone off to play.” Children in duck costumes jig to synthesised quacks, while others search the fair with torches. “And he’ll be cold and frightened, sitting in the dark, Orville do you really think, that he did it for a lark?” A saxophone kicks in, as lyrics opine of tears, and “broken hearts that will never mend,” but with a final plea from Orville of “come on home,” there’s a thumbs up from Keith as he turns to see his row of ducks complete again.


Final sketch is Robinson Crusoe, with Keith stuck alone on a desert island where there’s no access to YouTube or Patreon, the lucky bastard. He’s got a Michael Eavis beard and holes in his trousers, including one right where his nob is, and knocks an LP off a gramophone with a trendy “I think I just invented the first scratch record!” Orville’s up a tree, for a song about being friends, before problematic Cuddles pops up with a bone through his nose, and they find Dippy inside a big cannibal’s cooking pot. “The savages did it,” says Keith, “they eat men, you know.” Then a posh chap with big ears and stiff arms comes on, offering a ride on “mummy’s yacht” just in time for everyone to make the Royal Wedding, meaning that of Andrew and Fergie. Everyone cheers as Rule Britannia plays, a little union jack waving from the cardboard boat which is probably on its way back from Epstein island, and that’s it, with just the closing links from Orville and Cuddles. A final “Ooh, I ‘ate that monkey!” leads us into slim credits, under the original I Wish I Could Fly — credits in which Keith Harris’s name is misspelled both times as Kieth. Well done, Robin.

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my videos, my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

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~ by Stuart on September 8, 2022.

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