Day in the life of Edmond Wells

International John Cleese impersonator Edmond Wells interviewed by Mark Tweedie.

Day in the life of Edmond Wells

Getting-up time is anything from 8.30am to lunchtime, depending on when I’ve got back home  from work. Occasionally I fancy a cooked breakfast, otherwise it’s something simple such as cornflakes. I have to watch my diet as I’ve one or two allergies. During the day, I’m busy promoting what I do. Lately I’ve been sorting a new series of websites tailored to my different guises. Basil Fawlty is the most popular of all – more on that later – but there’s Monty Python stuff too. Once, I did a Ministry of Silly Walks routine outside the Houses of Parliament for a software company’s advertising campaign. Also, I do Agent Q, from the James Bond movies.

Not all are former Cleese characters. I do the assassin, Jaws, also from James Bond – I had a set of stainless steel teeth especially made up – and Rubeus Hagrid, the giant of Harry Potter fame. I’m 6ft 7in, but with the raised boots for that costume I’m 7ft 2in, and I’ve got a “fat suit” that gives me a 58-inch chest. There’s a pink umbrella to go with the costume that fires flares – about 12ft indoors and 400 outdoors. Oh, and I’m a qualified toastmaster.

I remember seeing Fawlty Towers the first time around. It was jaw-droppingly good, and my mates and I used to re-enact bits such as Basil’s goose-stepping scene. After college I went into interior design, working much of the time in North Wales and the North-West. Over 20 years I was involved in all kinds of projects, some of them multi-million-pound jobs: Hotels, offices, shops, even a 100-room private house.So, why the change of direction? If you’re dealing with lots of sub-contractors you can get a bit manic; you’ve deadlines to meet yet things are crumbling around your ears. People noticed my resemblance to the comedy star and pulled my leg. They’d say: “Watch out, here comes Basil on the warpath!”

Also, I’d go into pubs in unfamiliar towns and occasionally a wag would announce: “Look! Basil Fawlty’s just walked in.” But actually I owe my break to a chicken curry. It gave me indigestion at 3.30am one morning. I got up for a cup of tea and turned on the box. A chap came on from a lookalikes agency; he asked anyone who resembled a celebrity to call him. So I did. He said there was a Basil Fawlty on the books but he had a Scottish accent and didn’t look much like him either. Eventually I got started, but going from a drawing board to this new malarkey was scary, and the first time out I died a thousand deaths. I was that frightened: You might as well have had a cardboard cut-out.

Suddenly, though, the penny dropped, and since then I’ve had more than 1,000 bookings in 14 countries. I’ve worked in Dubai and Muscat, San Francisco and Vancouver, Scandinavia . . . In London, I’ve appeared everywhere from the Dorchester to a private party at Annabel’s.I do anything from weddings to bar mitzvahs plus events, exhibitions and advertising work for large corporations; also Fawlty Towers nights for pubs and restaurants. Usually my act is spontaneous, not scripted. The surprise element is key, so I won’t let on precisely what happens. Suffice to say I’ve had uproarious reactions, with people rolling around in stitches.

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I put on a fake moustache and a Basil-type shooting or loud-check jacket plus cravat, and sometimes I’ll have a Sybil and Manuel with me. For something at a hotel I might be at the reception desk, where I’ve a talking moose head that lip-syncs with my words. I’ll meet and greet guests, or move around tables in the manner you’d expect from a top-class Torquay hotelier. I’ve a radio-controlled rat, and you might find me stalking that with a shotgun or asking if anybody’s seen the Major. Recently I’ve been testing another rat that scoots up walls. And then there’s my serving trolley, which yields a surprise when I make a grand entrance and lift the cloche cover. One prop I could do with is an Austin 1300 estate, as in Basil’s car-thrashing scene, though an 1100 would do.

Have I ever met John Cleese? Not in person, though I’ve communicated with him by email, when he said: “You really do look like me.” I’ve done stuff on stage with Andrew Sachs, the real Manuel; he’s a nice man.

More about Ed’s services at www.fawltytowersweddings.co.uk; 07767  863415.

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