In his first major production, Peter Kay created a series of episodes titled That Peter Kay Thing, which released in the year 2000.
The Bolton comedian produced the six-part spoof documentary series for Channel 4, which gave birth to one of his most successful comedies to date in Phoenix Nights.
It was written by Peter Kay, Dave Spikey, Neil Fitzmaurice and Gareth Hughes, and was directed by Andrew Gillman.
Set in and around Bolton, each episode functions as a self-contained documentary following a different set of characters, many of them played by Kay. Notably many of the characters went on to appear in Phoenix Nights.
During the third episode, The Ice Cream Man Cometh, which is regarded as the best one in the series, we met Mr Softytop who loathes his job as an ice-cream man and often takes out his frustrations on sidekick, Darren, played by Kristian Tiffany.
Speaking to It’s Gone Viral about his role in the episode after being bombarded by messages from friends when a clip of the show was shared on social media, Kristian recited a wonderful memory of what it was like working so closely with Peter Kay. He said:
“Peter was a laugh a minute to work with. He’s a man who is exactly as you see on screen. Funny, friendly and incredibly welcoming to everyone on set.
“I remember the first day of filming when he turned up with his false teeth in for the character and he had the whole crew in stitches.
“Filming with Peter is like acting in the middle of a whirlwind. His improvisational skills are a force to be reckoned with and I can’t tell you the amount of takes that ended with me looking perplexed or in fits of laughter and completely lost for words”.
During the episode, Mr Softytop attended the Bolton Show in an attempt to drum up more business and defeat his Ice Cream rival, Signor Whippy. The scenes were filmed during the actual show, with many members of the public in genuine attendance, leading to a very awkward situation for the actor. He explained:
“Whilst we were filming at the Bolton Show, Peter had to go to the other van and play his Signor Whippy scenes.
“As we were light on crew I was asked to look after the Softytop van. Having been at it all day and with the sun shining too much, I decided to put out one of the deck chairs [from the set] and relax for a while – in full ice-cream man costume – only to open my eyes 10 minutes later and see a queue of angry people all wondering why I was fast asleep in the sun and not serving ice cream.
“‘I’m filming a TV show’ went down like a lead balloon, as there wasn’t a camera in sight. Just me, my chair, an ice cream van and a clapped out Ford Fiesta!”
Kristian also explained how Peter cast many of his close friends in the show, some of which have gone on to star in other big productions – including his own Phoenix Nights. Sian Gibson, who stars is Car Share, appeared in That Peter Kay Thing, although many viewers will not remember her.
“Peter cast a lot of his life-long friends in the show and I believe he has known Sian for a very long time.
“Having been brought in through auditions I didn’t really know anyone else. Though I did get to work with Steve Edge (Alan from Phoenix Nights), one of Peters friends, who was also in my episode buying porn while I went for a Solero!”
Following on from his role in That Peter Kay Thing, Kristian went on to perform in Musical Theatre, away from the comedy circuit but hopes that one day Peter may recall him for a follow-up series, to see what Mr Softytop is up to now.
“After That Peter Kay Thing, I went on to do more of what I had been doing previously in musical theatre, Doing shows across the UK and Europe in various productions.
“Nothing really in comedy, as a lot of cast members went on to do and nothing major in TV following this.
“Peter had talked some years ago about doing a follow up series, 10 years on from each of the episodes, but sadly this never came to fruition. Maybe he’ll re look at this for a 20 years on series in 2020?! We can hope.”
After performing alongside Peter in his role on the show, but not seeing the comedian much since, Kristian revealed how Kay welcomed him and a friend backstage during his Mum Wants a Bungalow tour a few years later, but with a bit of an unexpected twist.
“I haven’t spoken to Peter in a while, but did keep in touch. The last time I saw him he had just done a stand up show at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on his ‘Mum want’s a bungalow tour’.
“My best friends dad had always wanted to meet him and so I asked if it would be ok to go up to his dressing room and say ‘Hi’.
“I did not expect him to answer the door in his underpants and throw his arms around me… but that Is what I got. Safe to say my friends Dad was even more surprised that I was.”
After re-living the role eighteen years later for his wedding, Kristian revealed, whehn writing to the biggest Peter Kay fan page in the world:
“18 Years ago I spent a week serving ice creams with Peter Kay. Then on my wedding day I was put back on shift by my new wife!”
The actor went on to explain how he landed the role to begin with, after a very manic rush to the location, which could have changed his life had he missed it:
“I was 19 years old and trying to make my way into acting. I’d managed to get myself an agent who gave me a call to say there was an audition in to play an ice cream mans assistant in a new Channel 4 show and obviously, I jumped at the chance.
“The audition process was pretty thorough and Peter attended every single one of them. The first audition I walked in the room and received such a warm greeting. I instantly recognised Peter, but couldn’t immediately place it, but with him being so friendly with me I assumed we’d met a few times before.
“I discovered later that we had never met, but I had actually seen him do his stand up routine on TV – and laughed my a*se off.
“I will never forget the third audition for as long as I live… It was a very hot day and I was running about 20 minutes behind, so had to leg it through London to try make it on time.
I arrived dripping with sweat and completely out of breath, then was ushered straight into the audition. The audition was to get up with Peter and improvise a scene with him in the ice cream van. It went pretty well, but it wasn’t until I left the room that I caught a whiff of myself and I realised how badly I smelled of B.O. following my sprint through the city.
“I can only assume Peter took pity on me and gave me the job so that I could afford a can of deodorant for future auditions!”
Finally, Kristian explained what he’s up to nowadays, leaving the industry altogether for a whole new career, but one which lends itself well to his experiences both personally and professionally.
“I don’t really do much at all in the industry, save for voice overs on radio and TV.
“These days (and for the last decade) I work in commercial radio as a writer for Capital FM. Thankfully this is also something I love, so I am pretty lucky in that respect.
“Once every few years That Peter Kay Thing gets a repeat and my Facebook takes a battering!”
Peter Kay’s latest production Car Share has been a huge hit on BBC One and on iPlayer, with millions tuning in both online and via their television. It is not yet known what Kay will work on next, but fans are hoping that a third series of Car Share will be produced and reveal whether John and Kayleigh ever ended up together.
Alternatively, it is rumoured that Peter is set to take a break from the circuit and spend time with his family, or that he is in the process or writing material for a new stand-up tour.
Are you an actor from a Peter Kay production with a story to tell from working with Britain’s favourite comic? Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.