Radio 2 Comedy Greats

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Benny Hill: The Untold Story20091006

Ben Miller investigates Benny Hill: The Untold Story as we delve beyond his TV shows, to look at some of the ground-breaking and innovative comedy techniques used by the comic in his very early years.

Benny Hill is most famous for being chased by scantily-clad young women at the end of his TV shows but there's much more to the Benny Hill story than that.

When the comic visited Charlie Chaplin's house in the 1980s, he was shocked to find shelves full of Benny Hill videos, and was told by his guide that Chaplin rated him as the best".

He was the first British comic to be made by TV rather than radio, shooting to fame with the Benny Hill Show on BBC Television in 1965.

Much of his work was about the use of visual comedy rather than words.

He was totally obsessed by his craft, to the exclusion of all else, and he pushed the boundaries of comedy technically and structurally.

Ben Miller explores his comedy further, with the help of producer/director Harold Snoad and Don Taffner, the US TV mogul who introduced Benny to US audiences.

And there was more to Benny than comedy.

He also played the straight man admirably, starring in legendary films such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Italian Job, and he scored the Christmas number one in 1971 with Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West).

At their peak, his TV shows were attracting in excess of 16 million viewers.

They were shown in more than 140 different countries and he was one of the few British comics to make it big in America.

But this programme also covers Hill's fall from favour, as tastes changed and his show was axed.

Contributers include former Benny Hill Show child star Joanna Kirkland, US TV Executive Don Taffner (the man who launched Benny in America), Michael Grade, Tom O'Connor, Nicholas Parsons, Bella Emberg, Coronation Street star Betty Driver, Tony Blackburn, and Radio 2's Stuart Maconie.

Ben Miller pays tribute to one of the most successful British comics of the 20th Century."

Dick Emery: The Comedy Of Errors?2009092920110326

For more than twenty years, Dick Emery dominated the TV schedules.

The Dick Emery Show regularly pulled in audiences of 17 million, making him one of the giants of British character comedy, until his death in 1983.

His catchphrases were legendary - the most memorable being '"Ooh you are awful, but I like you" - and his influence can be seen in Little Britain, as well as the work of Catherine Tate, and Harry Enfield.

Fan David Walliams investigates Dick Emery's legacy and asks why the comic has been largely forgotten.

Dick Emery's characters included grotesque female figures like Mandy the peroxide blonde and the man-eating Hetty.

He also gave us the outrageously camp Clarence, Bovver Boy and the "toothy" vicar.

Despite being larger than life stereotypes, the British public took them to their hearts, recognising characteristics not far removed from people they knew in everyday life.

But while Dick was hiding himself behind the wigs and costumes, he was disguising a bumpy personal life.

This programme includes a rare interview with the comic's only daughter Eliza Emery - herself now a singer and entertainer - who recalls what it felt like to grow up with a famous father who was rarely around for her as a child.

David also hears from producer/director Harold Snoad and Dick Emery Show writer David Nobbs about the uniqueness of his comedy creations.

Co-stars and contemporaries who pop up over the hour include Helen Fraser, Jacki Piper, Robert Gillespie and Vicki Michelle, while TV mogul Michael Grade assesses Emery's contribution to the golden age of British television.

This documentary first broadcast on Radio 2 in September 2009.

David Walliams presents a tribute to one of the long forgotten giants of British comedy.

His catchphrases were legendary - the most memorable being 'Ooh you are awful, but I like you" - and his influence can be seen in Little Britain, as well as the work of Catherine Tate, and Harry Enfield.

He also gave us the outrageously camp Clarence, Bovver Boy and the "toothy" vicar.

David Walliams explores the career, comic legacy and private life of Dick Emery."

The Stanley Baxter Story2009092220120705

Eddie Izzard presents a rare profile of comedy actor, Stanley Baxter.

For many of a certain generation, Stanley Baxter is a part of their childhood or their adolescence, a comic who would turn up on TV from time to time and then, as often as not, disappear for another year. Stanley became more painstaking with his shows as the years rolled by and by the mid 1970s he was only doing one show a year - at Christmas.

But what shows they were! Snappy one-liner sketches forming the comedy grout for great production number parodies of Hollywood movies, in which Stanley played all the parts. He was Mae West in an alternative Gone With The Wind; he was Katherine Hepburn in a version of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? where Sidney Poitier would have been welcomed with open arms; and he was Judy Garland in an Oz ruled by Ronald Reagan.

He began his career during wartime on the BBC Scottish Home Service, after making a local name for himself doing impressions in Glasgow church halls. After a spell in the army in National Service, Stanley joined the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre where he learnt his craft under the highly respected director Tyrone Guthrie. Another member of the Citizens' was Jimmy Gilbert, who moved to London and invited Stanley to take part in a television revue series he was putting together in 1959. On the Bright Side was a success and Stanley was on his way.

He did several sketch series for the BBC in the years that followed but by the mid 70s, he was down to one minutely crafted Christmas show a year, working with the same writer, Ken Hoare and the same director, David Bell, every time. His most recent outing was an archive Christmas special last year on ITV with one or two new sketches.

Stanley is a comedian who is an impressionist but whose impressions work in spirit rather than accuracy - he is first and foremost a comedy actor. He is also a perfectionist, something that may have worked against him in a world where television budgets have shrunk. But the shows are gems, polished jewels forever captured in the amber of comedy history.

Interviewees include Maureen Lipman; Julia McKenzie; Denise Coffey; TV director/producers Jimmy Gilbert, Tom Gutteridge, John Kaye Cooper and John Bishop; actor David Kernan; film director Ken Annakin; Barry Cryer; TV boss Jim Moir; Gordon Kennedy; Justin Edwards; and Stanley Baxter himself, along with many of his character creations. This documentary first broadcast in 2009.

For many of a certain generation, Stanley Baxter is a part of their childhood or their adolescence, a comic who would turn up on TV from time to time and then, as often as not, disappear for another year.

Stanley became more painstaking with his shows as the years rolled by and by the mid 1970s he was only doing one show a year - at Christmas.

But what shows they were! Snappy one-liner sketches forming the comedy grout for great production number parodies of Hollywood movies, in which Stanley played all the parts.

He was Mae West in an alternative Gone With The Wind; he was Katherine Hepburn in a version of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? where Sidney Poitier would have been welcomed with open arms; and he was Judy Garland in an Oz ruled by Ronald Reagan.

He began his career during wartime on the BBC Scottish Home Service, after making a local name for himself doing impressions in Glasgow church halls.

After a spell in the army in National Service, Stanley joined the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre where he learnt his craft under the highly respected director Tyrone Guthrie.

Another member of the Citizens' was Jimmy Gilbert, who moved to London and invited Stanley to take part in a television revue series he was putting together in 1959.

On the Bright Side was a success and Stanley was on his way.He did several sketch series for the BBC in the years that followed but by the mid 70s, he was down to one minutely crafted Christmas show a year, working with the same writer, Ken Hoare and the same director, David Bell, every time.

His most recent outing was an archive Christmas special last year on ITV with one or two new sketches.Stanley is a comedian who is an impressionist but whose impressions work in spirit rather than accuracy - he is first and foremost a comedy actor.

He is also a perfectionist, something that may have worked against him in a world where television budgets have shrunk.

But the shows are gems, polished jewels forever captured in the amber of comedy history.

Interviewees include Maureen Lipman; Julia Mckenzie; Denise Coffey; TV director/producers Jimmy Gilbert, Tom Gutteridge, John Kaye Cooper and John Bishop; actor David Kernan; film director Ken Annakin; Barry Cryer; TV boss Jim Moir; Gordon Kennedy; Justin Edwards; and Stanley Baxter himself, along with many of his character creations.