Only Fools and Horses has become one of the nation’s best-loved comedies and although you may claim yourself to be a super-fan, you may not be aware of the sort of things that went on whilst the cast were off camera.
The classic sitcom ran for seven series and had 15 special episodes over the course of twenty years. Can you imagine throughout that time the amount of hilarity that occurred whilst the cast were filming all those episodes? Well you’re about to find out some of the capers they got up to! Through several years worth of interviews and extracts from autobiographies, we have collated some incredible stories that will certainly amuse, shock and amaze you.
Here are top 8 of the most bizarre and hilarious occurrences that happened behind the scenes of the iconic television comedy series..Oh and we’ve saved the best ones for last.
8. The cast pestered Buster Merryfield about his real name and to shave his beard!
Buster Merryfield played the role of Uncle Albert from 1985; who replaced the senior citizen figure of Grandad when Lennard Pearce unexpectedly passed away.
Over a number of years, the cast would pester Merryfield to admit his real name – which he later revealed to be Harry. Despite this, he would never answer to his birth name; only Buster.
Although he admitted his true identity to his cast members, he concealed the secret of his birth name until the day he died, but this was later to be revealed in the press after his passing.
Merryfield was in fact given the nickname by his grandfather the moment he was born; due to weighing a hefty nine pounds – and it just seemed to stick.
The cast also wished to see what Buster looked like without his trademark beard – but he never gave into that one!
7. David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst had superstitions
Despite being a huge BBC show, many of the rehearsals for Only Fools were held at a local church in Hammersmith, London and it was only dress rehearsals and the final performance that were studio-based.
Before the filming session which was performed in front of a live audience, Jason and Lyndhurst would eat the same meal every single time, as a result of nervousness and superstition, so as not to mess up their usual routine. Jason would have sausage, chips and beans, and Lyndhurst would go for egg, chips and beans.
6. Buster Merryfield was a nervous wreck at the beginning
During his early days on the show, Buster Merryfield suffered from severe anxiety during filming sessions as he had no television experience whatsoever. It was at the older age of 59, in which he retired from his day job at Natwest Bank and decided to pursue acting professionally.
Despite being in amateur productions throughout his young adult life, he never made his big break until 1985 on Only Fools.
During the filming of his first few episodes, he would frequently fluff his lines, not give enough time to deliver a punch line, or would suddenly lose his train of thought when delivering lines.
Lyndhurst and Jason gave him a good talking to, with the fear that if he didn’t pull himself together, he’d either walk away from the acting industry or get the boot. They gave the advice that if he were ever to make a mistake; just to throw the blame onto someone else or make it part of the joke. Over time, Merryfield relaxed into the role and created the iconic Uncle Albert that has now become a legendary TV character.
Merryfield once said of his career: “You know, I’ve figured it out. I always said I wanted to do 40 years in a bank. A few years in the war. About 20 years as an actor. Five years to write a book and then another 10 years as a painter. By the time that’s all done I will be about 102.”
Merryfield did of course sadly pass away at the age of 79 in 1999 from a brain tumour, but we all agree he did great in his lifetime and we love him!
5. David Jason gets emotional over the Queen Mother
In 1986, the cast of Only Fools and Horses were delighted to be given a slot at the Royal Variety Performance. It was presumed they would just perform a well-known scene from the sitcom, but fans were delighted to learn that they would actually be taking part in a brand-new one-off sketch.
At the end of the performance, Del accidentally mistakes the Queen Mother for his employer; who was actually a spectator of the show in the theatre. Quite hilariously, Del waves to her – and much to David Jason’s disbelief, she waved back!
After the performance, Jason was said to have been quite emotional when meeting the Queen Mother in the flesh – she thanked him and he told her that he was deeply touched that she enjoyed the sketch.
The entire cast had been filming ‘A Royal Flush’ at the time, so after the show took place, they drove back down to Dorset and celebrated with a bottle of whiskey.
4. Del Boy’s fly-pitching scenes reflected the personal life of David Jason
While Del Boy Trotter was a professional fly-pitcher, it seemed David Jason knew much more about playing the role than one may have expected, due to his own personal experiences growing up.
He would frequently watch the act of illegal trading of stocks during his childhood days in London, which allowed him to ad-lib during most of these scenes.
Jason had a very normal upbringing. His father was a porter at Billingsgate Fish Market and his mother; a charwoman. Before making it in the acting industry, Jason worked as an electrician for six years before deciding to take a leap of faith and follow his dream of making it in the entertainment industry.
In an interview with The Daily Mail, Jason recalls: “It was my training as an electrician when I left school which provided the inspiration for Del. When I was 19, my mate Bob Bevil and I were touring builders’ yards, trying to blag a contract out of them, when we happened on a contractor called Derek Hockley — a real Cockney player in a camel-hair coat with immaculately greased hair and sharp clothing.”
Little did he know as a young adult, that those early experiences would set him up to play one of his greatest roles.
3. The cast pull a prank on the RAF during the Gulf War
In the midst of the Gulf War, David Jason briefly met a guy who worked at the RAF headquarters. The pair got along well, and the RAF chap suggested they both race 3-wheel vans against one another with ‘Trotters Independent Traders’ painted on the body. I think that bit was a joke…
Anyway, just to add to the banter, Jason, Lyndhurst and Merryfield thought it would be hilarious to send a Trotters van to Kuwait via a Hercules plane during a supply run. They filled the van to capacity with all sorts of bits and bobs- chewing gum and cake; amongst many other random objects to cause a laugh.
You’ve probably never heard of this story, as Jason was concerned the public would get the wrong end of the stick and come to the conclusion it was solely for publicity purposes, therefore the media never got hold of it. He later claimed that the whole intention of the gaffe was to have a bit of banter with the RAF lads.
2. Jason and Lyndhurst also pulled one epic prank on Lennard Pearce
It seemed Jason and Lyndhurst couldn’t help themselves when it came to teasing Lennard Pearce who played the role of Grandad between 1981-1984. On one particular occasion, the pair went a little too far with a stunt…and Lennard wasn’t too chuffed.
Talking to the Daily Mail in 2013, Jason said: “When filming began, Nicholas and I bonded quickly, despite our 21-year age difference. We shared a love of mucking about, although we sometimes went too far. Lennard Pearce normally saw the funny side of things but once, when we broke into the wardrobe room, turned his costume inside out and nailed his shoes to the floor, he refused to work until we apologised effusively.
“Another time, we rigged the men’s toilet at our rehearsal hall with novelty explosives which detonated when you opened the cubicle door. That seemed like a funny idea until we heard a bang, followed by a gigantic scream from the little old lady who cleaned the hall and had entered the Gents with her mop. It nearly finished her off.”
1. Lyndhurst receives hilarious dig from a schoolgirl during filming
One of Lyndhurst’s favourite memories was during a filming session on a rainy day in London, in which a young school girl who happened to stumble across a filming session made a hilarious dig at the cast members without even realising.
In a segment of The Story of Only Fools and Horses, Lyndhurst recalled the moment:
“We were in London’s Chapel Street Market. It was early morning. The sky was black and the rain coming down in buckets. The cast and crew were sheltering under huge umbrellas. We were cold and bored. Into this rather bleak scenario, a schoolgirl aged about seven or eight came running, soaked to the skin and looking for shelter. There was a huge clap of thunder and she dived under the brolly I had been given.
I watched her as she caught her breath, her puzzled face trying to make sense of what she could see – a large group of grown men and women trying to shelter from awful weather in otherwise a deserted street.
“What you doing Mister?” she said.
“We’re making a TV programme! I replied.
“What’s it called?”
“It’s called Only Fools and Horses…”
She considered this for a moment, looked again at the drenched and morose group of filmmakers and said…”Where are the horses then?”
Absolute comedy gold. That story never fails to make me laugh.
What are your favourite stories about Only Fools? Have we missed any good ones out? Let us know!