T H E
C O M E D Y
M A G A Z I N E
At Christmas Issue 1
Barry Cryer Interview
Contents Gerald Thomas A centenary celebration of the Carry On film director.
page 4 Christmas Goodies A history of seasonal sillinessÂ Â from Tim, Graeme, and Bill
page 12 The Cor! Interview Welcome to Cor! Magazine. Editor: Robert Ross Designer: Gemma Fanning
Robert Ross exclusively chats Christmas Comedy, with Barry Cryer O.B.E.
Editor's note Well, what a year it’s been. And what a turn-up for the books! From the malaise of lockdown we started delivering daily comedy filmed updates, and live Book Club chats over on the Comedy Historian Facebook page. There have been jolly little short recommendations for blu rays and books you might want to buy, and there’s been a myriad of anniversary celebrations across Twitter and Instagram. Now, the resurrection of an old favourite: Cor! Magazine.
We decided to start from issue one for this digital age version. We may plunder the past for inspiration although we’ll never duplicate material completely. For example, in this issue we salute Gerald Thomas, the Carry On director who would have turned 100 in December. In issue 3 of the old Cor!! Magazine I wrote a tribute to him. That’s a very different piece. A very different time. Twenty-seven years ago to be precise!
Similarly, the late lamented Tim Brooke-Taylor - who was a loyal, and vocal supporter - agreed to an exclusive interview for Cor! Magazine. It eventually turned up in the very last issue of the original run - a Goodies special. Our salute to The Goodies at Christmas this time is a brand new article, specially written to mark 50 years of my allBack when I was but a fledgling comedy time favourite television comedy show. historian, I was happily writing quiz Oh. One lovely nod back to the old days. We are still giving books, and scripts, and short stories, our back page over to a portrait of an absolute comedy and articles for various fan magazines. A legend for the Hall of Fame. The original issue one few of these were even published! When celebrated Peter Butterworth. Well, the new issue one comedy behemoths Bernard Bresslaw does exactly the same. With a different pose, this time and Les Dawson died within hours of from Follow That Camel. I still adore that man. Of course. each other in June 1993, I was So, buckle-up and delve in to the new Cor! Magazine. determined to celebrate them. Hence, I Please do let us know your thoughts, and any suggestions founded my very own comedy fanzine. you may have. And remember, this year comedy is the
Over five years we produced fourteen answer. I have a feeling comedy may be pretty useful editions of Cor! Magazine, with the page throughout two thousand and twenty one as well. count getting ever heftier. My spare time, Carry On! meanwhile, was getting ever scarcer. Commitments to writing books became my priority. So, without fanfare in 1998, I put Cor! Magazine to bed. The old girl 3 was only slumbering, for now she is back. Fresh for the 21st century!
Gerald Thomas welcomes new boy, Sidney James on location in Ealing for Carry On, Constable in 1959
Carry On Directing Gerald Thomas at 100
"Our films started by accident, we were given a script of an army comedy that nobody else seemed to want. Peter Rogers and myself decided it would make a funny picture."
Arguably no other film director has given such unmitigated joy, for so long, as Gerald Thomas. As the director of every single Carry On film, and various subsidiary comedy successes, his hit-rate is unparalleled. Born in Kingston upon Hull, 100 years ago, on 10th December 1920, Thomas was training as a doctor when World War II interrupted with four years army service. Philosophically facing the fact that it was too late to return to medicine, Thomas joined the British film industry in the slipstream of his older brother, Ralph Thomas. Young Gerald was billeted at Denham Studios, and was assistant editor on such prestigious films as Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948), before editing the crime thriller The 20 Questions Murder Mystery (1950), for director Paul. L. Stein. Thomas was gainfully employed as editor on many of his brother’s finest films, including Appointment with Venus (1951), Doctor in the House (1954), and Above Us the Waves (1955). Ralph Thomas’s filmmaking partner was producer Betty Box, whose husband was film producer Peter Rogers. The four became inseparable. The Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas partnership started with the children’s drama Circus Friends (1956), and quickly graduated to tense, economically-made thrillers like Vicious Circle, starring John Mills, and Time Lock (both 1957), featuring a young Sean Connery.
Working out of Beaconsfield Studios, Peter Rogers was the Executive Producer on The Tommy Steele Story (1957), a cheap and cheerful salute to the meteoric rise of the British rock ’n’ roller. Together with scriptwriter Norman Hudis, Rogers and Thomas made their first fully-fledged comedy. Tommy Steele was again the star. In fact there were two Tommy Steeles, for The Duke Wore Jeans (1958) was a pop music re-imaging of The Prisoner of Zenda. Then came the Carry Ons. Carry On Sergeant (1958) emerged from a much-rejected army script called The Bull Boys, but with pitch perfect casting of radio and television comedians, and the brisk, no-nonsense direction of Gerald Thomas, this pugnacious little film became the third most popular box office attraction in Britain of the year. With the editor’s eye of Gerald Thomas practically cutting the film on the floor as he shot it, and his proficient speed keeping the budgets as tight as possible, the resulting Carry On film series was lively, and energetic. Crucially they were financial smashes too. Matron Hattie Jacques retrieving a wellplaced daffodil at the end of Carry On Nurse (1959) made the second film in the series an international success - most surprisingly of all in the United States.
"Gerald Thomas was a brilliant director, and a cherished friend. Everybody at Pinewood Studios called him 'Speedy' Gonzales. They would stop him in the corridor and ask him: 'How many days ahead of the shooting schedule are you, Gerry? How many weeks!' He was a marvel." Peter and Gerald enjoying publicising Carry On Columbus, in 1992
The fizz of the direction, the gelling of the cast, the high octane mixture of sentimentality and slapstick… This was the Carry On formula, and it wasn’t mucked about with. Collapsing chaos in Carry On Teacher (1959), and a bucket of water in the mush of new boy Sidney James in Carry On, Constable (1960) was pratfall schtick that Thomas would deploy time and time again. Indeed, so successful were these early Carry Ons that the Rogers and Thomas team delivered even more comedy films in a similar vein, with the same personnel. The frenzied, breakneck finesse of Thomas’ direction was unflagging: notably in the Kenneth Williams orchestra-conducting scene in music academy comedy Raising the Wind (1961). Thomas also coaxed out left-field performances from his repertory company of players: memorably the cynical greed of jeweller Charles Hawtrey in Please Turn Over (1959), the apple-cheeked romantic lead of Joan Sims in Watch Your Stern (1960), and the slow-witted droll of policeman Jim Dale in The Big Job (1965).
Peter Rogers Now, with scriptwriter Talbot Rothwell at the reins, the jokes got more and more saucy but the heart and affection was still there. Moreover, the perfect run of Carry On pastiches allowed Gerald Thomas to prove he could direct any genre. The black and white Film Noir tension of Carry On Spying (1964) gave gravitas to The Third Man spoof - a film on which Thomas had been assistant editor - wrapped-up in the zeitgeist of the James Bond films. The wide open prairies of Carry On Cowboy (1965) found on Chobham Common, in Surrey was a thrilling backdrop for cattle-rustling and lust in the dust. There are some genuinely scary moments in Carry On Screaming! (1966), with reanimated neanderthals, slobbering werewolves, and a resurrected Mummy. And there’s a real sense of David Lean-styled historical grandeur about the British Imperialist satire Carry On… Up the Khyber (1968). All while being consistently and outrageously funny too.
Even the deceptively makeshift slosh-filled climaxes of films like Carry On Loving (1970), and Carry On Girls (1973) have an irresistible slapstick verve. Clearly Gerald Thomas was a master of comedy, who loved his cast of tireless troupers, and revelled in the honest vulgarity of the smutty seaside postcard humour at the very core of the Carry Ons. He brought the same quality to his feature film version of ITV situation comedy Bless This House (1972), and ploughed on throughout the tail-end glee of Dave Freeman’s caravan-based romp, Carry On Behind (1975). As throughout the series, when giving a joyous script of misadventure, the direction of Gerald Thomas added a true sense of fun and comic drive. There was no fatigue at all over a continuous twentyone years. A laudable feat of endurance. It was certainly no easy job to retain the joy of the Carry Ons in several television series of compilation half hours that Thomas painstakingly put together, and that were watched by millions throughout the 1980s and 1990s. And he was justly proud of the epic post-war adventure The Second Victory (1986), returning to the straight filmic drama that had started his career.
Top Left: Larks with Carol Hawkins and Robin Askwith, filming Bless This House in 1972 Top Right: Directing Kenneth Cope in Carry On Matron, in 1971 Bottom Right: Discussing a Carry On Again, Doctor scene, with Kenneth Williams and Jim Dale in 1969
I was fortunate enough to meet Gerald Thomas twice, both on the Pinewood Studios set and at the world premiere of the last film he directed, Carry On Columbus (1992). The notoriously quick shooting schedule had been pared back even more, and his familiar gang of actors had been whittled down over the intervening years, but the sheer gusto and enthusiasm of the man was undimmed. He died in November 1993 at the age of 72, just over a year after the film’s release, but his lasting legacy shows absolutely no sign of stopping. It’s a carnivalesque catalogue of innuendo, and farce; stuffed with a feel-good, giggling holiday-spirit. That undiluted fix of raw happiness is going to be a much-needed tonic for a very long time to come. Here’s to Gerald Thomas, a passionate film-maker who only ever wanted to entertain. So Carry On. You know it makes sense!
Panto Season Round Up!
It’s Panto Season. Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is!! Amazingly, with theatres dark across the country and the industry facing a very uncertain future indeed, some ingenious producers have accepted the challenge and will be staging some much-needed family entertainment this Christmas.
Traditionally the home of the most lavish of Panto productions, the London Palladium is presenting Pantoland at the Palladium. Julian Clary, a gloriously camp regular of the Palladium Panto in recent years, is joined by the ﬁrst lady of musical theatre, Elaine Page, and an all-star cast including Palladium favourites Gary Wilmot, Nigel Havers, and ventriloquist extraordinare Paul Zerdin. A socially-distanced spectacular, Pantoland at the Palladium will enjoy a strictly limited three week run from Saturday, 12th December. Visit: www.palladiumpantomime.com to book. Down at the Mayﬂower theatre in Southampton, it’s the pantomime of your dreams: Sleeping Beauty. Comedy legend Joe Pasquale stars as Muddles, with SitCom favourite Lesley Joseph as the evil Carabosse. Beautiful newcomer Georgia Carr is the Princess herself. Running for a bright and breezy seventy ﬁve minutes, with no interval, Sleeping Beauty is on from Saturday, 19th December until Sunday, 3rd January 2021. You can ‘phone the Box Ofﬁce on: 02380 711811, or visit: www.mayﬂower.org.uk Theatre Clwyd, in Mold, is staging The Panto That Nearly Never Was, from Thursday, 17th December until Sunday, 3rd January 2021. The premise is simple: the Wicked Witch has won! What’ll we do for festive fun? Well, this brisk rock ’n’ roll Christmas entertainment, written by Christian Patterson, is guaranteed to cheer you up. Call: 01352 344101, or email box.ofﬁce@theatrclwyd.com, for further information. As with the Mayﬂower production, there’ll be no interval so do grab your drinks on a stick before taking your seats.
Cinderella is bringing a touch of starry magic to the Theatre Royal, Windsor, with the most magical ball of them all! Variety royalty Debbie McGee is waving her magic wand as the Fairy Godmother, with charming support from that wily telly great Basil Brush, and comedy favourites Kevin Cruise and Steven Blakeley, in their 11th Windsor Panto together. Cinderella runs from Thursday, 3rd December until Sunday, 10th January 2021. Tickets are selling fast, so book online: www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk Valiant comedy heroes are getting their titters out across the country: Les Dennis is Dame Crusoe in Plymouth, while Paul Chuckle is giving his Baron in Nottingham, and Tom Binns stars in Buttons - The One-Man Panto, at the Chorley Theatre. This is our pick of the best on offer, but please do check your local newspapers and radio stations for a show that may be nearer to you.
And, don’t fret, if there isn’t a production close by or you’d simply rather not go out to a public performance, actor and presenter Peter Duncan has come up with a wonderful wheeze. Utilising his own back garden in South London, he has written and directed a ﬁlmed production of Jack and the Beanstalk, which will be streaming from Friday, 4th December. A vastly experienced Dame, Peter Duncan will be playing the role of Dame Trott, with Sam Ebeneezer as her son, Jack, and Joe Vantyler as the villainous Fleshcreep. Tickets are on sale at www.pantoonline.co.uk, and you’ll be able to watch the show as many times as you want up until Sunday, 10th January 2021. Thrillingly, the show will also be screening in selected cinemas. All proﬁts will go towards supporting various charities and youth projects. Very well done, Peter! So, laugh, cheer, boo, and hiss. That’s Pantomime. Boy, do we need it now! This information is subject to change, but was correct at the time of going to press - please contact the venue for updates
Jeeper Creeper First it was a book. Then it was a stage play. Now it’s an audio production! Jessica Martin and Wink Taylor *are* Lauretta and Marty Feldman, in a three-act riff on a partnership in comedy that reminiscences, remonstrates, and resolves. Marty Feldman was the comic genius actor, writer, and director of his own Hollywood films. A favourite of Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks. A slapstick guru with funny bones, and a spiritual hotline to the pratfall holy trinity of Harpo Marx, Stan Laurel, and ‘Buster’ Keaton. Marty was the co-writer of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, and the ‘I Look Down On Him…’ Class sketch. In short. A comedy colossus! Lauretta Feldman was Marty’s long-suffering, chain-smoking, powerbehind-the-throne champion, who pushed him in to corners of celebrity far beyond his East London beginnings. Ambitious. Sparky. Unflappable. Now, in a brand new recording for 2020, Spiteful Puppet presents Jeepers Creepers: Through the Eyes of Marty Feldman, produced and directed by Barnaby Eaton-Jones, from the play by Robert Ross. Very special guest stars include Jon Culshaw as Michael Parkinson, Nigel Planer as a reporter on location with Yellowbeard - how meta! - and Jim Dale as an enthused talk show host. Sir Michael Palin recorded anew his poignant newsreader cameo from the original West End production, while Marty’s harem of fantasy lovers boasts such ageless beauties as Britt Ekland, Valerie Leon, and the lovely Aimi MacDonald, with a few more surprises along the way. You can purchase the play as a collectible compact disc, or as a download, exclusively from Spiteful Puppet.
“Rober R ha writte tw -hander tha pay tribut t Mr . Feldma ’ enormou driv whic enable Mart Feldma ’ geniu talen t receiv worl -wid recognitio i hi shor lif . I’ reall cite t b takin par i thi , an audience ar i for trea wit Win Taylor’ uncann invocatio of th legendar Mart !”
“More information about the Goodies than anyone should need, want, or be allowed access to.” Graeme Garden
The Complete Goodies (B.T. Batsford, 2000) An exhaustive encyclopaedic gallop through the lives and work of Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie - both together and apart covering everything from Bananaman to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
CELEBRATE 50 YEARS OF THE GOODIES …with these two - very different - publications written by Robert Ross!
“I hope the reader is as interested as I am.” Tim Brooke-Taylor
The Goodies Rule OK (Carlton Books, 2006) A lavish archive of rare production stills, publicity material, and exclusive commentary from Goodies themselves, this is
essential guide to the internationally-renown trio who created a wacky world of Ecky Thump, a Giant Kitten, and the Funky Gibbon.
“Publish and I will sue.” Bill Oddie
A 50th Anniversary Celebration of Seasonal Silliness
It’s no secret that I have loved The Goodies for as long as I have loved comedy - and that’s a very long time! 2020 marks fifty years since the programme was first broadcast on BBC Television. It was a year that started with Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie, gleefully reuniting on stage for an anniversary interview at the Bristol Slapstick Festival in January. All three were on top form, but by April our Talented Timbo had succumb to this dreaded lurgy. The actual 50th anniversary, on 8th November, was a reflective one. Having been making each other, and audiences, laugh since their Cambridge Footlights days, it had been the radio series I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again that gave them nationwide popularity. The anarchic silliness of that show bled into television programmes Twice A Fortnight, and Broaden Your Mind. The Goodies was where everything clicked into place.
In snatched moments from making their own television series, Tim, Graeme, and Bill happily filmed inventive inserts for Engelbert with The Young Generation, for broadcast over thirteen weeks in 1972. At the end of the year, the Goodies also managed to squeeze in some seasonal slapstick for Christmas Night with the Stars. A pretty much annual treat from 1958 (with years off in 1961, ’65, and ’66, because they had been good), the 1972 edition was the last in the original run, although the tradition was resurrected with hosts Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in 1994. The 1972 show was hosted by Ronnies Barker and Corbett with tongues only slightly less in cheek. Broadcast on Christmas Day, special guests included Cilla Black, Lulu, and, yes, The Young Generation, with specially filmed interludes from such BBC favourites as Dad’s Army, The Liver Birds, and, yes, The Goodies.
"I've now come to the irrevocable conclusion that some of us here are not dwarfs" Their jolly segment saw the Goodies Travelling Instant Five Minute Christmas descend on a Dickensian winter wonderland, with the trio promising a tattered urchin the Christmas of a lifetime. Typically of the musical interludes of The Goodies, this was a slapstick cavalcade of double quick sight gags. Not a word is uttered, as the turkey is devoured by Christmas fairies, Bill plays a girl-chasing Father Christmas, and Tim delivers the Queen’s speech! Ultimately our merry pranksters whack the ungrateful lad on the head with a huge mallet. The following year, they were back for a full-blown Christmas special. The fourth series of The Goodies had kicked-off at the start of December 1973. Three Saturdays in, the bumper length 45 minute episode ‘The Goodies and the Beanstalk’ was held back for a centrepiece premiere from 5.15pm on Christmas Eve. Alfie Bass, who had guest starred as the devious Town Planner in the opening episode of the series earlier that month, was back - in a different guise - as the littlest giant in the Kingdom. It’s a Knockout was mercilessly sent-up, complete with self-mocking cameos from presenters Stuart Hall and Eddie Waring; while the damn-busting golden egg laying geese remain iconic in Goody folklore. The bright and breezy special also afforded a salute to Hollywood’s greatest triple threat, the Marx Brothers, with Tim as Harpo, Bill as Chico, and Graeme a cigar-waggling Groucho. The performance of Cole Porter’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire, on the set of the giant’s parlour, is a classic. The final treat, of course, was Monty Python’s John Cleese popping up at the very end as the Genie of the Lamp. The legendary “Kids programme!” comment haunted the Goodies ever since but as Graeme has repeatedly explained: “Who do you think wrote that line? We did!”
Above: Snow White 2 (1981)
Below: Treating Paul Ellison to an instant Chirstmas, in 1972
The programme enjoyed such lasting popularity that ‘The Goodies and the Beanstalk’ was selected as the first release on BBC Video, in 1983. The episode spearheaded a Goodies revival on BBC home video release, in 1994. Clearly Christmas was a good time for The Goodies. Not surprisingly, in the immediate wake of ‘The Goodies and the Beanstalk’, singer-songwriter William Edgar Oddie rustled up a novelty number for the charts. The team’s debut album, The Goodies Sing Songs From The Goodies, was released on Decca in January 1974. Having moved to Bradley’s Records, that October saw the release of the single The Inbetweenies, with Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me on the B-Side. The following month the disc was re-issued, with the Christmas track as the A-Side. It entered the singles chart on 7th December 1974, hitting the Top Ten and peaking at number 7. Bill Oddie remembers: “it was based on an old rugby song. It was just a bit of fun for Christmas. Something for kids and drunks to chant along to!” As with most things, Mary Whitehouse failed to see the funny side of it though, distressed at the dubious connotations! It made no difference. The Goodies were in the zone. 1975 was their year. The television series hit an all-time high. The Goodies Book of Criminal Records was a bestseller, and The New Goodies L.P., released in the November, was their most commercially successful. That month they also released another Bill Oddie composition as a single. Make A Daft Noise For Christmas, coupled with it’s flip side Last Chance Dance, scrapped the Top Twenty just before Christmas 1975. The song did exactly what it said on the label. It’s as if Marc Bolan has donned a paper hat to lead a grunt, and yell, and shout-a-long party number. No Christmas bash is complete without it!
The seventies rolled on, and there were more books and records and guest spots and, of course, more television series. Silly and satirical, at all times, ‘Punky Business’, broadcast at the end of November 1977, relates the trials and tribulations of Punk Rock stardom in terms of pantomime. Naturally, it’s Talented Timbo who wants to go to the ball! The very last episode of the seventies was broadcast on the 22nd December 1977. 'Earthanasia" was just the three of them. An anarchic half an hour, set on Christmas Eve, in real-time. With the world in a mess, the United Nations has decided to blow it up at midnight. The Goodies spend their last moments together going slightly mad. It would have been the perfect end. Still, when the series did eventually return, in January 1980, it really was the end. Of sorts. Having been a mainstay of BBC comedy for a decade, the trio felt the corporation were stringing them along in terms of contracts, and budgets. London Weekend Television made them an offer they couldn't refuse, and they didn't refuse it. Their first episode for the commercial channel was a Christmas special, broadcast on the 27th December 1981. The benign narration of Richard Briers set the scene perfectly. Snow White 2 starts as it means to go on, happily back to sticking the knife in to pantomime conventions. These are so terrifying that they are presented as a horror film trailer. Meanwhile, our hapless heroes, out-of-work and desperate, sneak in as over-sized dwarfs, under the suspicious eye of David Rappaport. The diminutive actor proved so popular he returned for a couple of episodes in the 1982 series…as a mischievous robot! Alas, that first series of The Goodies on ITV was also the last. Still, the humour, inspired as it was by the slapstick artistry of such comic geniuses as ‘Buster’ Keaton and Tom & Jerry, is timelessly funny.
"Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Pantomime..."
As a team, the Goodies never broke up and never fell out, so reunions were rife. The final one for BBC television was, suitably enough, a special event for the Christmas fortnight of 2005. Return of the Goodies was part fresh episode, part loving retrospective, part deserving hagiography. It remains a splendid summing up of everything that makes them such a national treasure. With the Network DVD The Goodies - The Complete Collection safely nestled on the shelf of any selfrespecting comedy connoisseur, the legacy of the Goodies is assured to grow and grow. As Tim Brooke-Taylor told the Radio Times in 1973: “ideally The Goodies will be great in 70 years time!” It’s an ambitious that looks set to be prophetic. Now, make a daft noise for Christmas!
Opposite: Too many Buttons in Snow White 2. Above: A Punk Pantomime Punkarella, in 1977.
Mel & Kim: Rockin’as m Around the Christ Tr ee 45rpm single: 10 , R eco r d s Lt d TE N 2 1987
Treasures from the Comedy Co age Archive
The much-missed Mel Smith celebrated his birthday this month, being born in Chiswick on the 3rd December, 1952, to be precise. Delightfully enough Mel recorded not one but two Christmas singles and they are both essential additions to any comedy collection. Sister act Mel and Kim Appleby had burst upon the pop scene in 1986, with their number one single, Respectable, and album, F.L.M., released the following year. The true original Mel & Kim gleefully gave their blessing to Comic Relief, when Mel Smith teamed up with Kim Wilde for Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. A vibrant cover of Brenda Lee’s 1958 hit written by Johnny Marks, the Mel & Kim version was produced by Stuart Colman and released on the 23rd November 1987. At the start of December it peaked at number three in the charts. Griff Rhys-Jones, Mel’s usual comedy partner, was on-hand for a seasonal head-to-head at the start of the recording and the odd interjection thereafter. The B-side, “B for Boring!”, is credited to The Mel Smith Yuletide Choir, and allows a grumpy, egotistical Mel to re-imagine Morecambe and Wise’s Boom Oo Yata-Ta-Ta for a popular Christmas carol. It’s entitled Deck the Blooming Halls.
Mel Smith: Another Blooming Christmas 45rpm single: Epic 657687 7, 1991 The God of Pop Music was clearly taking notice, for just four Christmases came and went before Mel Smith was back with Another Blooming Christmas. This time he ditched the teddy boy gear in favour of the fat man’s red suit. The single was released ahead of the premiere of the animated film of Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas, on Channel 4, on Christmas Eve, 1991. Mel Smith provided the voice for Father Christmas and, coupled with the musical score by Mike Hewer, narrated an album release of the story.
A glorious curmudgeon, Mel’s Father Christmas is in a slightly jollier mood here. A jingle bell accompaniment and the cheerful children’s choir help, although typically it’s still blooming this and blooming that throughout. The flip side, Ho! Ho! Ho! Hoedown is a frantic instrumental jig before Mel’s relentless Phoenix Hoedowners Rap kicks in with throwaway comments about snow and sledge. Well, ’tis the season.
Hewer also arranged and, with Ian Llande, co-wrote the Another Blooming Christmas single.
as! m t is r h C g in m o lo B Merry How much?! As a charity single spear-heading the Red Nose Day of Friday, 5th February 1988 there were sleigh-loads of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree discs produced. You’ll find a copy, with both vinyl and cover in excellent condition, for just a pound or two. Another Blooming Christmas is a lot rarer and, naturally, at this time of year you can expect to pay a few quid more. Still, you can pick up a pristine copy, complete with good condition picture sleeve, for under a tenner.
Exclusive interview with Barry Cryer O.B.E. Barry Cryer is the God of Comedy. He is a one degree of separation to everyone from Max Miller to Ross Noble. He’s also contributed to some of the best-loved of all Christmas comedy. One of my favourites is hardly discussed, and that’s Kenny Everett’s Christmas Carol. I wondered who came up with the idea for that one: “Charles Dickens!” exclaims Baz, “but seriously folks! We were a threesome. I wrote that one with Neil Shand, although Ev. was always there when we were discussing the next show. It was just great fun. Hugely productive. We would be joking around, me and Kenny and Neil, just making each other laugh. I’m not quite sure which one of us thought of doing A Christmas Carol. I’d like to claim the credit but I really can’t! I suppose I’m the last man standing so I can, but it was always a team eﬀort.” Kenny Everett’s Christmas Carol featured an impressive line-up of comedy legend guest stars. Peter Cook, Spike Milligan, Willie Rushton, John Wells… “Everybody wanted to work with Everett. We had the big names queuing up to be on the show. Ev. was bowled over to have these heroes on his show, but there was mutual respect. They all reckoned Kenny.”
“Rod Stewart told me that when they were travelling around on the tour bus, they didn't listen to music, they listened to comedy. All the bands wanted to be on Everett’s show and it wasn’t just to plug their latest record. They all enjoyed being with Ev. because he was going to take the piss out of them! Cliﬀ Richard was the best. Talk about a Christmas Superstar. He did the show several times. Cliﬀ was great. He really got it, and he loved being sent up. We once put him in a wheelchair and a white wig and he wheeled himself passed Ev. who said: ‘Ah! There’s Cliﬀ on his way to make-up!’ At the end of part one, just before the commercial break, we hung him upside down and Everett pointed to him and said: ‘Oooh. That’s a cliﬀ-hanger!’”
The Cor! Interview
Barry re-visited A Christmas Carol for a special edition of I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again: “it’s the perfect Christmas story, really, and so ripe to parody. It’s such a familiar plot that there’s no need for any boring exposition. The audience know exactly what to expect, so the comedian can muck about with those expectations immediately. I feel I owe old Dickens an apology for that particular Clue show. Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, and myself played the Ghosts of Christmas Future, Present, and Pissed. Actually, I bet Charlie would have approved. He liked a drink!” Barry’s illustrious career in comedy stretches back nearly seventy years, and in that time he has worked with some of the proper old timers of variety. Hosting the Yorkshire Television panel game Jokers Wild aﬀorded Baz the opportunity of worshipping at the feet of two of the real greats: rival team captains Arthur Askey and Ted Ray. “Oh, I’m so glad you mentioned Arthur Askey. People don’t talk about Arthur Askey much these days. I do, and you do, and that’s about it! He was brilliant. A fantastic pantomime dame. He didn’t wear a speck of make-up. He once said to me: ‘the children know it’s a silly man dressed up!’ He once went on in full drag in one pantomime and his opening line was: ‘Where’s my son Aladdin? Oh, wrong bloody pantomime!’ Only Arthur could get away with that.” “Ted Ray was another craftsman. The quickest comedy mind I think I’ve ever worked with. David Frost really reckoned Ted Ray too. He had him on his show more than once. I remember he introduced Ted on one of the shows that I was working on. Only Frostie would try and do a joke when introducing Ted Ray. The master! Frostie said: ‘My ﬁrst guest has just been appearing as Buttons in Lord of the Flies, and before the audience even had a chance to laugh Ted said: ‘Always looking for an opening, David!’ You didn’t mess with Ted Ray. He was terriﬁc.”
Talking of pantomime, Barry was a writer on Cinderella - The Shoe Must Go On!: “Christ! Your dredging the archive now. Yes! I wrote that with Dick Vosburgh, and that was deﬁnitely Dick’s joke. He loved a wordplay pun did Dick, and that title was sheer brilliance. The show was a two-hour special. It was in two parts. ITV’s big show for that Christmas. They pulled out all the stops, and what a cast. Cheryl Baker was Cinderella. Jimmy Cricket was Buttons. Roy Kinnear was the Baron, and my dear old mate Danny La Rue was the Stepmother. Wonderful!”
"They all reckoned Kenny Everett"
Above: Kenny Everett's Christmas Carol (1985), with guest genius Spike Milligan, as Marley's Ghost.
Left: Baz, Humph, Graeme, and Tim promoting I'm Sorry I Haven't a Christmas Carol, in 2003.
"It's the perfect Christmas Story" Perhaps it was the star comedian who felt the real pressure to present a great Christmas show. After all, it was their name selling it. In his time, Barry Cryer has worked with the best: Stanley Baxter, Tommy Cooper, The Two Ronnies… “I can tell you the one who didn’t feel the pressure or, at least, never ever showed it if he did, and that was Harry Secombe. He was a total joy. A good man was Harry. I wrote him a show called Have a Harry Christmas. Harry absolutely loved Christmas, which helped, and he was one of the nicest, most relaxed blokes in the business. You just had a good time with Harry. No stress or upsets at all. Spike Milligan said of The Goon Show: “Peter and I were mad, Harry was pretending!” Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Morecambe and Wise, and Baz was a frequent writer for the sunshine boys: “Well, there you are. There’s your man. Eric was the one who really felt the pressure, especially at Christmas. Their show was the centrepiece of the seasonal schedule. I remember Eric saying at the ﬁrst script meeting: ‘Oh oh, we’ve got to follow the last one!’. It got particularly bad when he’d had his heart problems and they had been forced to cut down the number of shows each year. The Christmas special was even bigger news than it had been, and Eric would worry about that one show as much as he had worried when they were churning out thirteen a year. The Morecambe and Wise Show was huge, of course, but the expectation for that Christmas special was monumental. That success achieving ratings of twenty eight million viewers had created a rod for their own backs.”
“I remember ﬁlming one Christmas show. Eric was cornered by a rather dull man deliberating on what did and did not work in show business. This to Eric. The Emperor of Light Entertainment. This chap said: ‘I always think to be in show business you need three things…’, at which point Eric cut in with ‘if you’ve got three things, my friend, you should be in a circus!’” “Eric was the shrewd one. He knew exactly what he was doing with that show. The ﬁrst year I worked on their Christmas show he said: ‘I don’t want any Christmas trees. No reindeers. No holly. No cotton wool beards on two Father Christmases!’ I said: ‘Why is that, Eric?’. He looked at me, deadly serious, and said: ‘We won’t get a repeat!’ Sure enough, the show got a repeat that Easter!”
The Cor! Interview
The Christmas special of any comedy is so eagerly awaited by the public one wonders if those involved feel pressure to make it extra funny. Not Baz: “I know it sounds a little bit smug but I was so enjoying what I was doing I didn’t feel pressure at all. I always wrote with someone else which certainly helped. I’ve mentioned Neil and Dick. There was Graham Chapman, and Ray Cameron, and lots of others. Every day when I arrived at the o ce or the studio I said to myself: ‘Oh, Boy! What are we going to do now?’ I was like a kid with the key to the sweet shop. I was loving it. If there was any pressure, maybe I was having such a great time it was me just not noticing it!”
John Junkin and Barry Cryer writing for The Morecambe and Wise Show, in 1978.
"Eric was the shrewd one" “One year we did a show that was almost entirely made up of sketches suggested by Eric himself. The great Eddie Braben wasn't available - he was working oﬀ his BBC contract before coming over to Thames - so me and John Junkin wrote the show: based on this list of suggestions from Eric. The show went out and it was quite good, but it wasn't up to their very high standard. So John and I decided to resign! We took Eric and Ernie to lunch at Berries restaurant in Regent Street. It was clear that they were intrigued. I mean, we were all friends but it was unusual for the writers to take the star comics out to lunch!” “We chatted away and laughed a lot, and then John looked at me and I thought well one of us has to say something. I said: ‘Well, that Christmas show. It wasn’t one of your best really, was it?’ Eric said: ‘That’s nice, that is! What do you mean?’. I said it was good but not really good enough, and certainly not as good as the shows Eddie had written. I explained that me and John would take the ﬂack: ‘We wrote it! You’ll be OKay, you’re Eric and Ernie!’ At which point Ernie looked up and said: ‘You mean we can be as bad as we like!’”
We need Eric and Ernie and all our comedy favourites even more this year. It’s been a horrendous 2020 for so many. I wonder if Barry Cryer has a message for the nation. A sort of alternative to the Queen’s speech: “Oh, God. You should have ‘phoned Stanley Baxter! Well, apart from keep laughing, I have a great way of taking your mind oﬀ of this bloody pandemic. What you need to do is sit down and try to think of something you really appreciate about Boris Johnson. A bit of political satire there!” And perhaps the human ﬁling cabinet of jokes has a favourite one for Christmas?: “Ha! Yes. Well, there’s no parrot in this one but I like it. You know I’ve bought my wife a lovely table for Christmas. She doesn’t play snooker, but I do hope she likes it!”
Dear Robert... I am so thrilled to see that Cor! is back, after all these years. It may be in a slightly new format, but I’m looking forward to reading the same exceptional quality of writing which you are now famous for. It makes me think back to when you ﬁrst had the idea of writing your own comedy magazine – in 1993 – and it was rather a family aﬀair! Mum, Dad and myself all had a part to play in the proof reading, printing, and stapling together of those original Cor! magazines – what lovely memories.
I’m certainly not in the same literary league as you, but I wrote my Max Miller article for your Cor! Magazine – which I really enjoyed researching. I gave my permission for the complete article to be reproduced by the Max Miller Appreciation Society magazine and even today, more than 20 years later, I still receive favourable comments.
With Honorary Members such as Rik Mayall, Kenneth Connor, Peter Rogers and the lovely Norman and Christopher Mitchell, your original Cor! Magazine went from strength to strength. Good luck with the 2020 re-launch (we all certainly need something to cheer us up at the moment).
Good Luck, Good Health, and Carry On Reading.
Your loving Sister (and number 1 fan), Fiona (Everett) xxx
Hello Sister, What a lovely first letter to receive. Yes, the old Cor! was very much a Ross family cottage industry. What fun we had! I do hope you enjoy this rebrand - all the old fun, but now online - and I look forward to receiving another brilliant article from you soon. Robert x
If you would like to send Robert a letter, you can do so by emailing us here: email@example.com
Hall of Fame
Peter Butterworth 1915-1979