Meet the man behind Boycie

Boycie - John Challis
Boycie - John Challis

The man behind legendary Only Fools and Horses character Boycie, of that trademark machine gun laugh, is appearing in Corby next month when his new one-man show reaches the town. John Challis, who played pretentious second-hand car dealer Boycie in the country’s best-loved sitcom for more than 20 years, will be revealing all about his time in the comedy in his new show, Only Fools and Boycie, which is currently touring the UK.

“Only Fools and Horses is still as popular as it ever was; it’s amazing how people enjoy it. I talk about my personal experiences in it and the spin-off, The Green Green Grass. It’s the man behind the mask thing,” says John, 72.

So how did he get the part? He instantly switches from his normal voice into those memorable nasal tones of Boycie, joking: “I can’t tell you that; you’ll have to come and watch my show.

“I based him on someone I used to know in the ’70s from a pub. He was a particularly patronising man who had this way of talking nasally and in a very monotone way,” he demonstrates.

Boycie’s distinctive moustache was something John says caused him grief: “I would grow a moustache then shave it off, then stick a fake one on, then would spend time wondering whether or not to grow it again. Eventually I decided to keep it on and don’t know if it’s a good thing or not.”

Boycie’s rat-a-tat-tat laugh was something developed over time though.

“In the early episodes, Boycie doesn’t laugh like that at all,” recalls John. “It came about through a woman who used to go to our pub. She had a machine gun-like laugh and people used to come in the pub just to hear her.”

Having a laugh was something the cast always did during filming what is still one of the funniest TV series ever.

“We always had a right laugh filming,” says John. “The funniest one, for me, was when everyone found out what Boycie’s real name was; in the seance scene. The character who came through asked for Aubrey. We all had our fingers touching around the table and there was a long pause after Aubrey had been called for and then I had to say ‘I am here’. It just brought the house down.

“John Sullivan was a great man and having great people writing stuff like that means you can’t go wrong.”

Jolly Boys Outing was recently voted the number one Only Fools and Horses episode ever.

“Yes, that’s a great one. Jolly Boys Outing was a very special one though and Margate had a bunch of us hooligans descending on it. We went going on all the fairground rides; we took over Margate for a couple of days and had great fun. We all treated it as a very nice holiday; one of those where you don’t have your parents with you but then have to go home.”