ITMA AND HER
The very first radio to television crossover with wartime favourite Tommy Handley updating his popular 'Hitler and powdered egg rations' routines to attract the late-night post-pub youth audience. Shrewdly pre-empting the rise of American jive music, Tommy and co-presenter Mrs Mopp visited a different dance hall each week to encourage couples into taking part in risqué parlour games such as 'Jitterbucket' (contestants must dance the Jitterbug with buckets on their heads) and 'Guess The Weight Of Tommy's Nut Sack' (contestants must guess the correct weight of Tommy's bag of walnuts). Much of the rest of the show consisted of nothing more than stock footage of blank-faced teenagers waltzing around pointlessly to the sounds of the Jack Parnell Orchestra. Yet the series soon became a favourite among students and although the series was made in the final year of Handley's life, he was still able to capitalise on his cult status by opening the country's first super-ballroom - 'The Ministry Of Aggravation' in Coventry.
"You come here often?!"
DID YOU KNOW: Handley's appeal to the young was such that many years later he was immortalised on the cover of THE BOOTLEG BEADLES best-selling comedy video 'Sgt Beadle's Golightly Family Band' alongside another comedy great - the eponymous star of brilliant alternative comedy series THE JUNG ONES. High praise indeed.
If there was one kind of speciality act doomed to fail on radio then it had to be ventriloquism. But one man was not prepared to listen to the naysayers and that man was the pioneering Roger De Courcey. If anyone could pull it off then it had to be De Courcey - after all a medium in which the listeners couldn't see whether his lips were moving or not was perfectly suited to him. Peaking at an audience of an astounding 19 million, listeners loved playing along at home, trying to guess whether it was Roger or Nookie who was talking. Inevitably the huge success of EDUCATING NOOKIE drove many other variety acts to try their luck on the wireless with far less success including Les Bubb and Ennio Marchetto.
DID YOU KNOW: EDUCATING NOOKIE did eventually transfer to television for a short run on BBC One. However as soon as viewers were able to see that Roger De Courcey's lips did indeed move throughout the entire act, the show was quickly dropped never to be seen again.
Most famous perhaps for being Prince Charles's favourite radio series but they made comedy for the small screen as well and not necessarily what you think. Some may know of THE TELEGOONS (a puppet version of radio's 'Goon Show') and a few may even be aware of GOONREEL (a pilot TV version of the radio series). However, almost no one outside of the BBC top brass and the government were aware of a public information film that the Goons made in 1952 that was to be broadcast in the event of a nuclear attack on the United Kingdom. Thankfully it was never broadcast but the surviving footage remains as an all too chilling reminder of the threat that hung over the country during the frightening Cold War era.
"Quick! To the fallout shelter..."
HANCOCK'S HALF HOUR
Comedy in the fifties is usually thought of being cosy and safe and is often seen as representative of an idyllic Britain that has long since passed away. But while that might be true of much of that decade's comedy, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to HANCOCK'S HALF HOUR. Galton and Simpson's uber-dark series was very much the precursor to such modern-day shows as THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN and Chris Morris's JAM as the eponymous hero found himself in another nightmarish situation each week. Two particular favourites are 'The Eye Donor' and 'The Escalator'. In the former classic, the Lad himself plans to become an eye donor at his local hospital until he is horrified to find out that he is going to actually lose one of his eyes ("One whole eye? Why that's very nearly half my eyes!"). In the latter, Hancock gets his leg trapped in the new escalator at Broadcasting House, marooning all of its other users in the process unless he agrees to have it amputated ("I don't care if you do have to go and produce 'Woman's Hour'. I'm not doing a Robert Newton for anyone!") The term 'classic' simply doesn't do it justice!
"That's very nearly half my eyes"