Thinking of Fred Emney got me thinking about a couple of other old British comedians from my youth that I remember being very funny… at least they were funny in the limited exposure that I had to them since it came from their occasional appearances on the TV!
Two that come to mind immediately were Richard Hearne and Jimmy Edwards. Totally different in style and personality, they were nonetheless very funny in their time.
Richard Hearne was best known as his alter ego of Mr Pastry who was a fundamentally a slapstick artist with a penchant for being slapped in the face with custard pies etc. Essentially he was a circus clown modernised and transferred to the small screen!
I found him riotous back then, but it’s impossible to say if he’d even be able to make a living today. Society and children in particular have become more sophisticated and performers seem to have lost the innocent humour that he and others of his ilk such as Norman Wisdom carried off with such accomplished ease. I like to think he’d still be appreciated.
Jimmy Edwards had a few more problems. His trademark handlebar moustache and call of “Whacko!!” made me laugh. I knew nothing about his war record in the RAF. I knew nothing about his DFC, or the plastic surgery he’d required after being shot down over Arnhem or the effects it had on him. All I cared about his antics as Headmaster of Chiselbury School ‘For the sons of GentleFolk’.
Today of course the scenes of him shouting “Bend over Wendover” and he administered corporal punishment on the same poor lad week after week wouldn’t be allowed… but it was amusing back then. What was less amusing was the way his career was all bar destroyed when he finally ‘came out’ and admitted he was gay!
Homophobia being what it was even in the more enlightened 1970’s this was tantamount to professional suicide, especially with his alter ego being the headmaster of a boys boarding school.
Despite his continued popularity and continuing work in variety around the UK, notably with Eric Sykes in Syke’s play “Big Bad Mouse”, Jimmy’s TV career dried up to nothing. Jimmy Edwards died in 1988.
I could ramble on forever on ‘forgotten comedians’ but I’d end up including memories about so many we’d never stop. Maybe another day ok? 🙂