I’m told that British comedy is an acquired taste and I seem to have acquired almost at birth. Their bawdy, frankly sexist and often politically incorrect but just as often erudite humour appeals to my own peculiar sense of haha. In North America we’ve become – thanks primarily to public broadcasters in Canada and the US – familiar with a handful of British comedic geniuses. I recall listening to Hancock’s Half Hour on radio and then watching it on our first television set. Even at an early age my warped mind found poor neurotic Tony, Hattie and Syd great fun. I adored the Carry On films, particularly the two Kenneths – Hawtrey and Williams. Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii sent me into stitches one “little titter” at a time. Benny Hill I never really liked – there was something about his humour that made me uneasy, and I can’t really put my finger on it! Hmm almost sounds like a Benny Hill line doesn’t it?
Still many popular UK comics from the last half of the 20th century – as well as our current – remain unknown on this side of the Atlantic and amongst those one of my favourites is Scottish actor and impressionist Stanley Baxter (left). Baxter was a child actor who forged a successful adult career in films, on stage, on radio, and on television. He was a popular pantomime dame up until his self-imposed retirement in 1992. However in 2002 he can out of retirement and did a series of radio programmes right up until 2012. Once again he chose to leave the public eye though compilations of various shows have been put together for broadcast and as DVD packages.
I dare say given North American sensibilities his penchant for appearing in drag would have worked against success this side of the pond.
I’ve been threatening to take up driving again but fear this may be the most likely scenario.
As always with British comedy some of the references go over my head or, given that these sketches were done in the 1970s, be dated but this is one of the best Marlene’s I’ve ever seen.
When we lived in Warsaw we had full, if not necessary legal, cable access to BBC-TV and I always enjoyed Mastermind but don’t ever recall Sunday Tabloids being any of the contestants’ expertise.
In doing a big of poking around about Stanley Baxter it turns out that he is a bit of a recluse however I found an interesting article by Cole Moreton who, until recently, was a report for the Independent in the UK. The Invisible Man: Searching for the reclusive Stanley Baxter is a fascinating read.
On this day in 1954: Willie Mosconi sets a world record by running 526 consecutive balls without a miss during a straight pool exhibition at East High Billiard Club in Springfield, Ohio, setting a record which remains unbroken.