June 12, 1971 on UK TV: ‘The Comedians’

The Comedians is a British television show of the 1970s (later reprised in the mid-1980s and early 1990s) produced by Johnnie Hamp of Granada Television. The show gave a stage to nightclub and working men’s club comedians of the era, including Russ Abbot, Lennie Bennett, Stan Boardman, Jim Bowen, Jimmy Bright, Duggie Brown, Mike Burton, Dave Butler, Brian Carroll, Frank Carson, Mike Coyne, Jimmy Cricket, Colin Crompton, Pauline Daniels, Charlie Daze, Vince Earl, Steve Faye, Eddie Flanagan, Stu Francis, Ken Goodwin, Jackie Hamilton, Jerry Harris, George King, Bobby Knutt, Bernard Manning, Mike McCabe, Paul Melba, Mick Miller, Hal Nolan, Tom O’Connor, Tom Pepper, Bryn Phillips, Mike Reid, George Roper, Harry Scott, Sammy Thomas, Johnny Wager, Roy Walker, Charlie Williams, Lee Wilson and Lenny Windsor.

TV-UK-06-12-1971

Also featured on the TV show, were Shep’s Banjo Boys, a 7-piece band comprising (for the first 5 series) Charlie Bentley (tenor banjo), John Drury (sousaphone), Andy Holdorf (trombone), John Orchard (piano), John Rollings (drums), Graham Shepherd (banjo) and Howard Shepherd (lead banjo). In 1973, the line up was Mike Dexter (banjo), Tony “Tosh” Kennedy (sousaphone), Ged Martin (drums), Tony Pritchard (trombone), Graham Shepherd (banjo) and Howard “Shep” Shepherd (lead banjo).

The Comedians began as an experiment for Granada TV. Filmed before a live audience in Manchester, comics each performed 20-minute sets, which were then edited together into half-hour shows. Each edition featured up to ten stand-up comics.

Working men’s clubs are numerous in Britain, especially in North East England and have been a useful training ground for artists, especially comedians. Most of these clubs are affiliated to the CIU (Working Men’s Club and Institute Union) founded in 1862 by the Rev. Henry Solly. There are also political clubs, as well as Servicemen’s Clubs affiliated to the Royal British Legion.

It was remarkably popular during the earlier series. An LP recording of the show reached the best-seller charts, several sell-out national tours followed, including a season at the London Palladium, and the programme won the Critics’ circle Award.

The comedy frequently took the form of anecdotes or jokes and often involved racist or sexist stereotypes. Like other British comedy successes of the day, notably, Love Thy Neighbour, this kind of entertainment was acceptable on British television during this period but would not be so today. Viewing the series in retrospect it stands as a major social document of the times. [Wikipedia]

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