Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse’s friendship, as any fan of absurd character comedy will know, goes way back. But this latest television venture, Gone Fishing, alludes to a turning point for the two comedians, as they each deal with the repercussions of recent heart problems (Whitehouse had to have three stents fitted in his heart, and Mortimer had a triple heart bypass). In light of these undoubtedly life-shaking health scares, the pair turn to fishing as a way of embracing the great outdoors, and indeed, life itself, once more. The pair embark on a trip across the UK, where Whitehouse departs his angling knowledge on Mortimer’s enthusiastic ear.
Whitehouse and Mortimer’s genuine, deep personal bond is the set piece of this programme, giving the show a purity about it. Here we have two open, modest and genuinely hilarious men, who both have health concerns but are adamant that these will not stop them from enjoying the simple, and finer, things in life. Conversation drifts across an array of diverse topics, from death and the afterlife, to friendship, show business and their comedy beginnings. Both came to performing stand up comedy through friends, and admit they probably wouldn’t have ever gone into performing if it wasn’t for the encouragement and confidence of their comedy counterparts.
As well as showcasing a variety of fishing techniques and fish species, (which are not exclusively interesting to angling enthusiasts, on the contrary, the beauty of these creatures and their habitats can be appreciated by many a casual viewer), Bob fulfils his side of the deal by rustling up ‘heart-healthy’ (low cholesterol and saturated fat) meals, confessing on occasion that the dishes might fall on the ‘dreary side of tasty’.
Gone Fishing is an important conversation piece. It discusses the effect that significant and sudden health problems (such as those suffered by Mortimer and Whitehouse) can have on the wellbeing and general confidence of those who suffer them. Not only will this programme make you laugh, but it will leave you with your heart feeling full. What is more important than friendship and health? Not a lot as far as I can tell.
All episodes of Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing are available on BBC iPlayer