“The lad ‘imself…”

For Neil Clark, British comedy connoisseur…

This may or may not mean anything to the general reader; but it was on this day, exactly 50 years ago (25th June 1968), that Tony Hancock — ‘Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock’, as he wasn’t really called! — took his own life, more than 10,000 miles from home, and at the age of 44 (though he looked at least 64 by that time).

Myself, I’m not old enough to have seen or heard — or, at any rate, to remember having seen or heard — any original Hancock broadcast on TV or radio; but I do remember that my mum and dad always spoke about his sad, lonely, pills-and-alcohol death in a way that revealed a strangely undying sadness. And — at a time decades before the internet would tell everyone the story of how the smoggy streets of late 1950s Britain would be seen to empty as a Hancock show started on the TV — I would listen to them tell the tale of how the local streets would empty as a Hancock show started on the TV…

https://i.pinimg.com/564x/9a/2f/8e/9a2f8e4da009bf30002181549542d8a5.jpgNow, I’m sure everyone knows what it feels like to investigate something that was important to one’s parents … and discover that, from a modern perspective, it’s actually pretty poor: “I guess you had to be there at the time…” is a sentence many of us have thought or uttered as we turned away from something that doesn’t live up to the requirements of our sophisticated, self-aware, modern sensibility (if that’s what it is).

But the fact is that, when I eventually got to hear and see those Hancock broadcasts — by which I mean the ones the culturally cretinous BBC hadn’t thrown away in the meantime — I was amazed. To my ears and eyes, this output — as scripted by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, and co-starring some of the most terrific comic acting talent of the era — oscillated between magnificent mastery and outright genius, maintaining — series after series! — a level of sheer comedic excellence that the better portion of today’s ‘funny’ people with their ‘funny’ programmes seldom even approaches…

If you want me to — and, believe me, you don’t! — I can talk for hours about the wonder that was Tony Hancock and his character and his supporting cast in those black-and-white TV programmes and those vividly invisible radio shows. But, on this unavoidably sad but still celebratory occasion, I’m not even going to try. I’m just going to present four of the TV programmes — four favourites of mine! — and declare them to be four half-hours of TV comedy that, as far as I can see, have never been bettered. Yes, really.

Here they are, in chronological (broadcast) order…

… Oh, I was about to say that, for extra credit, you could try and identify some of the other actors and actresses — awarding yourself ten points for each of the following: Sid James, Hugh Lloyd, Patricia Hayes, Liz Frazer, Mario Fabrizi, Patrick Cargill, Arthur Mullard, June Whitfield, Frank Thornton, George Colouris… But there’s no point: Neil Clark’s already got the lot


And — if you feel like it — remember

25 September 1959:

26 February 1960:

11 March 1960:

23 June 1961:

Things just seemed to go too wrong too many times“, Hancock wrote in one of his suicide notes, fifty years ago tonight, Australia time.

Well, it’s not for you or I to disagree with the last thoughts of a man who’d taken himself to the very limits of desperation. But I will say this: when things went right, Tub, they went right forever


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2 thoughts on ““The lad ‘imself…”

  1. I was fortunate to hear, and see, Tony Hancock when I was growing up. I heard him a lot on the Radio and less so on the TV, which, thanks to my parents’ concern over my studies, was only rented during the Christmas holidays. I enjoyed him then as I do now, thanks to a collection of CDs whichI bought in an Op shop and installed on my phone. I love his expression of cynical disappointment of GovCos, bureaucrats and important people in general; not to mention his expression of frustration at being caught up in a tangle of Mundanity. So, I’m with you on Tony Hancock. He and those around him were excellent additions to Public Broadcasting.

    Liked by 1 person

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