Basil Brush is an anthropomorphic fox, best known as a British television character aimed at children. He is primarily portrayed by a glove puppet (see picture) but has also been depicted in animated cartoon shorts and comic strips. The character has featured on children's (and later adult) television from the 1960s to the present day.
A mischievous character, Basil Brush is known for his catch phrase "Boom! Boom!", used after something he finds funny, and also for speaking in a "posh" accent and manner, referring to himself as a "fella". The character claims to dislike puppets, and says his most prized possession is his "brush", this being the traditional name for a fox's tail. His persona, speech and gap-toothed look are said to have been based on the actor Terry-Thomas.
Basil Brush was originally created in 1963 by Peter Firmin for The Three Scampies children's show, but his main popularity was achieved due to appearances on "The Nixon Line" with magician David Nixon and subsequently The Basil Brush Show, which premiered in 1968. Basil was for many years operated and voiced by the publicity-shy actor Ivan Owen, who died in 2000.
"I beg your pudding?"
Throughout the 12-year run of the show, Basil was always accompanied by an actor, initially Rodney Bewes — aka Mr Rodney — better known as one half of The Likely Lads. Bewes was replaced by Mr Derek — Derek Fowlds, later to appear in Yes Minister and Heartbeat — who was the stooge for Basil's quips between 1969 and 1973. The subsequent presenters were Mr Roy (Roy North, 1973-1977), Mr John Howard (Howard Williams, 1977-1979), and Mr Billy (Billy Boyle, 1979-1980).
Basil was in three more shows in the 1980s: the educational programme Let's Read... With Basil Brush (ITV, 1982-1983), Crackerjack (BBC), and Basil's Joke Machine (ITV, 1986).
Basil also came on The Weakest Link in 2006.
Basil recorded two albums (both with the same title), Boom! Boom! It's Basil Brush in 1970 and 1977. His adventures also appeared on the pages of TV Comic during the peak of his popularity.
The Basil Brush Show (2002 TV series) In 2002, Basil made a comeback in a new children's BBC sitcom, again named The Basil Brush Show, in which his new comic foil, Stephen, is played by Christopher Pizzey. It is produced by The Foundation, part of the RDF Media Group. Child actors Georgina Leonidas and Michael Hayes also appear on the show. Basil Brush is now shown to have a family, which includes his destructive, hyperactive but cute nephew Bingo, and his criminal cousin Mortimer. Other friends have been introduced as well, such as the moneymaking child Master Dave and the more sensible Molly as well as Miss Hippy, as played by Rhiannon Duffin. Where the original shows were taped before an audience of children, the new programme is shot in studio and features a hysterical, post-production laughter track. In keeping with Basil's history, no-one is directly credited as being Basil's puppeteer on this show, although actor Michael Windsor is credited as either Basil's "fitness instructor" or his "personal assistant". Michael Windsor was revealed to be the puppeteer.
Interspersed with the main programme, there are now various animated shorts in which Basil and/or another character is seen making jokes. The more recent puppet looks different from the original 1960s/ 1970s puppet in a number of aspects, but the 'well-spoken' voice of Basil is similar to the original Ivan Owen version.
Basil briefly appeared as a presenter for several Friday episodes of the popular British children's TV programme Blue Peter in 2003 in which he had his own joke segment.
Basil played Dobby the house-elf in the French & Saunders sketch "Harry Potter And The Secret Chamberpot Of Azerbaijan" for Comic Relief Red Nose Day 2003.
Basil appeared on French and Saunders in 2004.
On 10 December 2005, Basil appeared on The Weakest Link and won the show, receiving £10,900 for his chosen charity, the Blue Peter 2005 charity appeal, "Treasure Trail" (in aid of Childline). This makes him the first puppet to win The Weakest link (Roland Rat had previously appeared as a puppet contestant, but did not win). Basil returned to Weakest Link as one of the contestants on the show's 1000th UK edition, recorded on 1 November 2006. It was shown on BBC Two on 18 December 2006. Although he made it to the final round, this time he failed to win. However, the winner still decided to share half of her winnings with Basil's chosen charity.
Basil Brush was mentioned briefly in the Black Books episode "Blood", in which Manny (Bill Bailey) purchases a 'large-print biography of Basil Brush', which he describes as "quite good actually".
Basil Brush starred in the Christmas pantomime Cinderella in 2007, including St Albans, where he would appear from a large box on wheels for various hilarious off-plot moments, and encouraged children in the audience to shout 'Boom Boom Basil!' after each use of his catch phrase.
On 20 December 2007, the BBC announced that Basil would be co-presenting a new version of Swap Shop with Barney Harwood on BBC Two. The new series is titled Basil's Swap Shop.
HarperCollins Publishers have recently signed a deal to publish a Basil Brush TV tie-in publishing programme for 2008. The Basil Brush Show which is being made in 2008, dumped Mr. Stephen and replaced him with Liam and also new fox Roxy is now in the programme.
In December 2017, Basil appeared as a contestant on a Celebrity edition of ITV quiz show The Chase.