This ten-minute clip from 1997 is almost excruciating in its sublime awkwardness. The Bee Gees agreed to come on Clive Anderson All Talk (the show was a reworking of a previous incarnation in which it was called Clive Anderson Talks Back), and the lack of chemistry between group and host reached something like an all-time high. Anderson, who was trained as a lawyer before succeeding in showbiz as an odd variant of presenter, is best known in the U.S. as the host of the improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway? Even in the best of times, he is best taken in smaller doses.
It’s not really clear who comes off worse here, Anderson or Barry Gibb. There’s little argument that Anderson was being annoying that evening, but he’s not much different than everybody else who occupies that kind of role, and it’s unclear why Barry let Anderson get under his skin to the extent that he did. Anderson has a nattering style of humor that can be described as “I take the piss, you take the piss, everyone takes the piss.” So as part of his droll-esque comments, Anderson chose to poke fun at 1970s fashions, Barry’s famous falsetto, Australia’s former status as a penal colony, and who knows what else. It’s not so much that Anderson was making light of the Bee Gees, it’s that his every utterance bought into a kind of superficial understanding of the topic at hand, whether it be sibling rivalries, the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll lifestyle, the songwriting process, or whatever. Whether Anderson was a big Bee Gees fan seems implausible but is completely beside the point—he was content to trade in barbs that accepted as a given the punchline logic of every imaginable human interaction.
Be sure to watch the whole video—it’s a slow build, and there’s no big unmistakable infraction that makes Barry’s departure inevitable—this is a case where it definitely takes two to tango. By the halfway point, Barry is visibly annoyed by Anderson’s inanities. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is apparently Anderson’s reaction to the news that the brothers once called themselves “Les Tossers”—when Barry gets up to leave a few minutes later, he takes a moment to call Anderson a “tosser” too.
The poleaxed look on Anderson’s face after the musical trio departed the set is priceless.