Paul Whitehouse opens up on real reason for turning down Gone Fishing initially

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Paul Whitehouse, 62, has opened up on the first time he went fishing with close friend Bob Mortimer, 61, back in 2015, after the latter had recovered from heart surgery. The comedian explained that during the trip, the pair managed to talk openly in a way that often felt difficult, and it inspired him to consider appearing on a fishing programme.

Fishing is my escape from all that

Paul Whitehouse

He had previously rejected offers to appear on similar programmes, as he was apprehensive to turn his passion into what felt like a job.

However the star felt as though men would be able to relate to his and Bob’s meaningful discussions as they tried to catch fish together.

Paul explained: “The first time we went fishing together was not long after Bob had his heart surgery in 2015. 

“His treatment had been significantly worse than expected, but I badgered him to come out fishing at Stockbridge on the River Test. 

“This wasn’t for the camera at all, but as we were sitting on the bank making each other laugh about our heart issues, it came to us that this might be helpful for other people, too.

“I’d been asked countless times to do fishing shows, but I’d always turned them down because fishing is my escape from all that. 

“But there was a validity about this that made it worth considering,“ he added to Radio Times.

Bob recalled that the pair showed up at the BBC to pitch the showhoping that the premise and their ability to “natter” would seal the deal.

The show focuses on the pair’s friendship, laughter, and memories of their fathers taking them fishing.

During lockdown, the series became a form of escapism for fans, and gave them the opportunity to see “beautiful” countryside.

Seeing two men interact on the programme in an open and candid manner has resonated with viewers.

Paul said: “Only the other day, somebody came up to me and said, ‘My husband, who suffers from depression, loves your show’. It does seem to have a very positive effect on people.”

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The friends first met back in the 1980s when they appeared at a festival in Canada.

Bob was there with his comedy partner Vic Reeves, while Paul was featuring alongside Harry Enfield.

Paul claims they “gravitated towards each other” at the event, and have been firm pals ever since.

When Bob suffered a heart scare a few years ago, Paul had already undergone a similar experience and decided to help his friend get back on his feet.

He felt that getting Bob out amongst nature would do him the world of good, and from that first fishing experience, the premise of Gone Fishing was born.

“When Paul and Bob first came to see us three years ago with the idea of making a series about fishing, we couldn’t have imagined their daft idea would become one of the most loved shows on TV,” said BBC Two’s controller, Patrick Holland. 

“Brimming with friendship, care, beauty, escape and a bit of fishing, it’s a show we are so proud of on BBC Two.” 

Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing is on BBC Two today at 8pm.

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