I feel somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but I best remember Clement Freud not for his being a politician, or a liaison officer during the Nuremberg trials or even as an entrepreneur/chef, but for his appearance in dog food commercials.
I remember vividly seeing him and his long-faced dog Henry – the pair looking remarkably alike – understatedly selling dog food on our screens. And he apparently wrote his own scripts for those ads, which perhaps explains why they were deadpan and witty.
However, as we heard last night during this Time Shift film – which was in effect a memorial to Freud, who sadly died in April this year – he was a man who’d experienced a great deal in his life. The grandson of Sigmund Freud, we heard some lovely tales of his experiences with his infamous granddad, including one incident when he first experienced “people watching”.
Sigmund and Clement watched as a man on the street had an epileptic fit. They observed that some people threw coins at the man in a fit of some kind of charity – or perhaps guilt for not actually physically helping him – while others ignored the man and yet more passed by, only glancing at the spectacle.
When the young Clement asked his grandfather why most people didn’t throw money at the man or even stop to help, Sigmund wittily replied, “Because he wasn’t doing it well enough.”
Clement was an extremely intelligent man who had a world view of people that is perhaps something of an exclusive club, spawned arguably by his grandfather’s unique and revolutionary take on the psyche. But Clement never claimed to have Sigmund’s ability to ‘read’ people, but his people skills did see him become famous.
He began his working life as a commis chef at the Dorchester, but by the end of his long career, he’d been an MP, a columnist, an author and, as I mentioned earlier, an officer at the Nuremberg trials.
This documentary was literally in Freud’s own words, and was made all the more valuable for that. His anecdotes and jokes were often extremely funny; he brought a certain panache to even toilet humour.
The archive footage and personal reminiscences were a pleasure to watch and this was definitely a fitting memorial to the man. If you missed it, you can catch it on BBC’s iPlayer here.