John Challis: Boycie & beyond

Round & About

National treasure John Challis comes to Farnham Maltings this month – he tells us more

Enjoy an intimate evening with one of the nation’s greatest comedy actors, best known, of course, as Boycie in BBC1’s Only Fools and Horses, who will reveal secrets from behind the scenes.

In fact, the man who portrayed a used-car dealer in the beloved series had been destined to become an estate agent. However, a lack of application and a tendency to impersonate the partners led to a parting of the ways, much to his parents’ horror. After spotting an advert on the back page of The Stage, he joined a touring children’s theatre.

Having worked with some of the biggest names in show business, John will spill the beans about his Only Fools and Horses co-stars Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst and friends and fellow performers including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Oliver Reed and George Best. He’ll also recall tales from his time in Dr Who, Coronation Street and other TV classics. A small cameo role in Citizen Smith incubated his best-known role. He played a policeman and decided on a very whiny voice, and was pleasantly surprised when John Sullivan, the script writer, said he loved the characterisation. He was further surprised when the script for Only Fools and Horses dropped through his door. None of the cast then knew what a phenomenon the show would become.

After John graduated from children’s theatre, he loved acting in thrillers. “One ambition of mine, though never achieved, was to appear in a thriller alongside James Stewart,” he says. But one of the astonishing plays he remembers seeing is Othello with Paul Robeson, Sam Wanamaker and a young Albert Finney. The love of the thriller is also reflected in his favourite books. “I think my favourite books are by John Grisham and Michael Ondaatje, but since moving to the Herefordshire countryside, these have been joined by historical books about the Welsh marches.”

John is looking forward to returning to this area of Surrey. Between the ages of 10 and 17 he was a boarder at Ottershaw School and remembers “many an enjoyable weekend cycling to and from my best friend’s house in Weybridge… To say nothing of picking up a guitar and joining a rock and roll band. Due to the fact it was a type of music not appreciated by the head a lot of the concerts were ‘underground’.”

l John will star in Only Fools & Boycie at Farnham Maltings on Thursday, 1st November followed by a Q&A and chat with the audience. Visit