Jeremy Clarkson has confessed that when he hosted Top Gear in its early days he and co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May had to convince audience members not to leave early by paying them.
It may be hard to believe, seeing as getting tickets to watch the show being recorded in its heyday was near impossible due to high demand, but it seems that in those first couple of years not that many people really wanted to be in the studio with Jeremy and the gang.
Speaking to George Nicole on his The DriveThrough podcast Clarkson confessed that audience members used to get bored and try to leave, so the presenting trio had to bribe them to stay and keep the studio looking full.
"One of the very [unfortunate] things is when we first began very few people were watching," he said. "Not just in the studio – we were having to pay, and this is out of our own pockets, we'd get a studio audience of probably, I don't know, 30 people. And by the end of a recording, we'd probably be down to ten. They'd just leave. They were bored.
"And we were having to pay out of our own pockets for them to stay. 'Here's a tenner. Please stay, please just stand in the back of shot, please don't go!'... 'Here's 50 quid. Please don't go!' We were battling and nobody was watching on television either, really, not in the first couple of years."
Clarkson, who now presents Amazon Prime Video's The Grand Tour with Hammond and May after the trio departed Top Gear together in 2015, added that he actually thinks the small audience in the earlier days helped because it meant that the trio had time to cultivate their characters and get into the flow of presenting together before a bigger audience arrived.
But it wasn't just the earlier days that were difficult either as Clarkson admitted that it became increasingly "tricky" to come up with new ideas for the show as time went on.
"In the early days it was dead easy thinking of madcap ideas. 'Let's see if we can build better ambulances, let's see if we can make a car that will drive across the channel or let's see if we can make a car into a train'," he said. "But there comes a time after 15 or 16 years when actually you've done everything and so the production meetings became more tricky.
"We started to realise guests are always tricky to get hold of and particularly on a show that was transmitting several weeks after. So if they're promoting a film or a book, which is almost always why a guest goes on a show, they're unwilling to come on because they're not promoting something that's happening eight weeks down the line. So guests were tricky. Thinking of ideas was becoming tricky."
Top Gear airs on BBC Two, while The Grand Tour airs on Amazon Prime Video.
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