Episode 5 My Favourite Joke


Episode 5

An insight into what influenced some of the nation's best-loved comedians, and what made them belly laugh. With Lenny Henry, Andi Osho, Ronni Ancona, Jon Culshaw and Julian Clary.


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Transcript


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This programme contains some strong language.

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Coming up, Britain's best-loved comedians reveal

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who gets their chuckle muscles working overtime.

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I remember my mum almost wetting her pants watching this.

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You ever write your name in the snow?

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Richard Pryor, couldn't touch him.

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From stand-up routines to favourite scenes.

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They're letting us in on their all-time favourite jokes, and their love, envy

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and sheer admiration for the star performers behind them!

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Someone must have died watching that, laughing.

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I shot a moose once.

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I'd never seen a man like that before!

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What a gay day! Do you know? The muck on here...

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So dust off your laughing gear, hold onto your armchairs

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and buckle up for a ride into the land of comedy!

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It's just comedy gold, really.

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I think Richard Pryor is one of the funniest people who ever breathed air.

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We talk in the comedy industry about people having funny bones.

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Every single piece of Richard Pryor was funny.

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Not many black people get bitten by snakes,

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because black people stroll too cool in the woods.

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Richard Pryor is probably the greatest comedian

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that we've seen in modern comedy.

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They'll be walking...

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A guy whose own personal life might have been out of control

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but on stage was the moment where he truly held sway

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and knew exactly what he was doing.

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White people get bit all the time cos they have a different rhythm. They be in the woods like...

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Richard Pryor, couldn't touch him, nobody could touch him,

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nobody could touch him.

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He was on another field, he was on another plane,

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he was an actor, it wasn't even jokes.

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Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

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I mean, you would just look at him, and you'd go, why bother?

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Why bother? Why bother to go out on stage?

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Brave and uncompromising, Richard Pryor had a finely tuned nose

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for life's funny moments.

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Anything was game, including his own dark past.

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Brought up in a whorehouse, his mother was a madam,

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he was mainly brought up by his grandparents,

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his father was a lorry driver/pimp! He had an ability to document his life

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in a way that some comedians flinch away from,

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cos "I'm not sure I can make that funny." Well, Pryor made it funny.

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First time I heard Richard Pryor was in 1978 in a record shop

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called Tapes Galore on the Edgware Road,

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and I use to go in there and buy soul records and R'n'B records

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and they were very hip, they were quite a hip record shop.

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All vinyl and cassettes. I went in there,

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and there was this guy wearing headphones, doubled up on the floor.

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He was sort of leaning like this and he was doing this laugh,

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where he was kind of like a cat with a fur ball.

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CHOKING LAUGHTER

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He was laughing like that!

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And I thought, as a young comedian, I need to know what's THAT funny.

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My father taught me about the great outdoors,

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you know, he loved like the woods and shit and nature.

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I still dig it today. You know, I use to love to go.

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My father'd take me fishing and hunting.

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I liked to go hunting with him but I hated being the dog.

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No, because my father didn't have no patience, you know,

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he'd just lose his temper. "Goddamn it, chase the rabbit this way!

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"What the fuck you chasing the rabbit back that way for?! Get your ass in the car! Shit!"

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Richard Pryor Live in Concert, this was the peak of his comedic powers.

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He was talking about doing drugs in front of his gran,

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he talks about being beaten by both his parents,

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he talks about boxing, he talks about having a heart attack.

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The honesty that came off him in waves is what puts him above

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a lot of the comedians that are around, I think.

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When you'd be hunting deer and shit, you'd be in the woods

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and you'd hear all... crshk, crshk, crshk...

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The hunting in the woods is like a cathedral of comedy,

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the way he paints the picture of the sound of the woods

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and being out in nature and, of course, he sets it up

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and there's a moment where he imitates a deer.

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The deer will be drinking water, right?

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LAUGHTER

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And he does the...

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and it takes quite a long time to show you the deer, sort of...

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And I don't know how deer ever drink water, scared as they are, right?

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He has a great ability, he emphasises almost everyone

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and everything in his life. So, he can start talking through...

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He can bring voices into absolutely everything.

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He does a lot of stuff where he kind of,

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I think the word is, anthropomorphises animals

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giving them kind of human voices and human emotions.

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Which, not only is really charming and an absolute pleasure to watch,

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but it's just so spot-on and funny.

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Get off my goddamn foot!

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And then the key moment is, "Pass me the rifle," and his stupid mate.

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"Give me the rifle."

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"What rifle?"

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LAUGHTER

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"What rifle?"

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"The one I gave you at the car."

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"The rifle I gave you back at the car."

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"Oh, shit, I didn't know you wanted ME to carry the rifle."

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"If you ain't got the rifle we're in trouble!"

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How you figure that? Ain't nothing but a deer.

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"I know that but there's a bear behind you."

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He talks about being the woods with his girlfriend

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and his girlfriend wanting to have a pee but not wanting to pee

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because she's in the woods.

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"OK, I'm going to pull my panties down just a little bit, OK?

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"Now, don't you do nothing. Don't you be funny.

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"Now, if you see something, you let me know."

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He mimes a woman taking her knickers down, having a pee in the woods...

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-It's perfect.

-It's so brilliantly done because...

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in that moment, you're not thinking,

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"Oh, that's Richard Pryor

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"pretending to be a woman." It's like, "That's a woman!"

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I like to wait till they get into it and go, "SOMEBODY'S COMING!"

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That's it. That's as good as it gets. That style,

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that slickness, that genuine sense of fun.

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Cool as well - he just had it all!

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You watch Richard Pryor perform, it's just effortless.

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There's no feeling of stress or strain or pressure on him.

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It's just a joy to watch him.

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What I really liked about Jack Dee back then

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and still now is just that sarcasm

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and that sort of put-on misery.

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I met Jack very early on when I started doing stand-up,

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so that would have been in the mid '80s.

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And he doesn't really look like he does now.

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He was the worst scruffbag student you've ever seen.

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In fact, I think the first gig I ever did with him,

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he actually had a duffle coat on.

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People come up to me in the street now.

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They say, "You're not as big as you are on telly, are ya?

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"You're not as big as you are on telly, are ya?"

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I don't know, how big's your fucking television?

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I feel like Jack Dee occupies a little bit of all our psyches

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that just wakes up in the morning and just thinks, "Am I still alive?"

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I was very pleased with the West-End-run suit.

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£600, this thing cost me and I was really chuffed with it.

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For the whole run, I'd worn it for six weeks

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and then, about two minutes before I came on stage just now,

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I looked in a full-length mirror and I suddenly clicked.

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I thought, "Oh...Sainsbury's manager."

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Jack Dee, famous for his deadpan delivery and sardonic wit

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has turned grumpiness into an art form in a career spanning 20 years.

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It's all delivered in quite a world-weary fashion,

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as if the world is just too much for him to take, and people love that.

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I have got a bit of a headache, I have to say

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cos I was out celebrating my wife's birthday, last night.

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I didn't get in until 3am...

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Christ, she was livid! Oh, my God!

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One of my favourite routines of his

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is the one that he talks about where he goes to a craft fair.

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It felt like just perfect stand-up.

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The sign said, "Craft Fayre - 20p."

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I thought, "That's bound to be good.

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"Look round the best shops in the world for nothing,

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"20p - this is going to be..."

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So I walk in...

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What I liked about Jack's craft fair routine

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was it just took the piss out of those events that you go to,

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like church fetes

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but you arrive and you realise that every single stall

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is attended by some saddo who's made something that's a bit rubbish.

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This guy had a wicker stall, this bastard...

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Oh, he'd been busy. He had everything you could ever want in wicker.

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Everything in your house, he had a container for it.

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A container for your washing machine, a big wicker thing like that.

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He was standing there. He had a wicker jumper on,

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standing like that.

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He had wicker contact lenses.

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Frightening all the kids and everything.

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Oh, and the seashell wizard was there.

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The seashell section, I particularly like

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because he points out - which is absolutely true -

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that some people think if you just get a normal object

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and stick a load of seashells on, that makes it attractive.

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Well, it doesn't.

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It makes it look like something your four-year-old child made at nursery

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that you go, "Oh, isn't that lovely,"

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and when they're not looking, you put it in the bin.

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No-one yet has been kind enough to say, "You know what, Alf, Alf, Alf,

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"these are crap, OK? Just stop doing it, OK?

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"You're a grown man now..."

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Jack's stand-up is quite silly as well, in a way,

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even though he's got that morose persona, he's actually really...

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-Some really silly things in what he says.

-When I was a kid,

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I had an aunt who used to knit jumpers for me, right?

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Every Christmas we'd get that squidgy packet.

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It would arrive and I'd be thinking, "Oh, I wonder what that can be."

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He goes on to talk about the fact that, one Christmas,

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all he wanted was a Sweep toy.

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I happened to like Sweep very, very much.

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I wasn't so keen on Sooty. I didn't like Sooty so much.

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In fact, I hated Sooty if you want to know.

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I don't like people who whisper all the time, you know what I mean?

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And then he says he wants this Sweep toy and there's this lovely bit

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where his aunt goes to his mum, "Oh, no, don't BUY one for him."

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And my aunt finds out.

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I don't know how she found out. She had little antennae on her head or something.

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And she's talking to my mum and she goes, "Oh, no, don't BUY one for him.

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No, no, no, no.

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No, don't BUY it.

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I'll make it for him!

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He was so new and so fresh.

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He was in a sense the descendant of Hancock.

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I think the way Hancock

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had this view of the world of, you know, why me?

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"Why is it me that suffers?"

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Jack was the stand-up version of that.

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He was very much an everyman figure. A smart everyman figure but...

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"Yeah, why is that and why do they do that?

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-"It's ridiculous! Why? Why? Why?"

-The old wizard with those needles.

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Maybe, I'll get you enough wool, you can knit me a train set next year!

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He just somehow sums up the dark, fed up-ness of the British, really.

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We're not all cheery like the Americans

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going, "What a great day it is. We love everyone," and,

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"I've known you for two minutes, come and stay at my house for a month."

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Jack is the polar opposite to that. "Don't come near me,

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"I don't want to talk to you. I've had a bad day. Piss off, everyone."

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And I love that.

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I liked Woody Allen's style

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because it was unusually relaxed, really. He could just ramble on

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but I think to a great extent that influenced a lot of comics that came after him

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because it gave them licence to be that relaxed too

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and to actually not feel the pressure to do one-liner after one-liner.

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Woody Allen hit the stand-up scene in 1961 at the age of 26

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and soon became the undisputed master of the comedy monologue.

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I shot a moose once!

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The moose sketch is a classic.

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I think it's quite perfect in so many ways.

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"I shot a moose once!"

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That alone is one of those lines that every comic knows.

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"I shot a moose once!"

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In his early years as a stand-up comic,

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he'd paint these visual imageries with such clarity and precision.

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I tied the moose onto the fender of my car

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and I drove back home.

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He drives off but the bullet hasn't killed the moose.

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I'm going through a tunnel... the moose woke up.

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So I'm driving with a live moose on my fender.

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The moose is signalling for a turn.

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He tells it so slowly

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and he draws you in and one of the things I love about Woody Allen

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is that he credits his audience with a lot of intelligence.

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We're all going on this ridiculous trip with him.

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The moose routine just has everything.

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It's a brilliant piece of storytelling, which is rare.

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Not many stand-ups can do that well.

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And there's a law in New York State

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against driving with a conscious moose, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

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So, this story goes on and gets more ridiculous

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and he ends up going to a fancy dress party with this moose.

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We go in.

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The moose starts to mingle.

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He goes to the buffet table. Some guy tries to sell him insurance.

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He takes the moose to the fancy dress party and the moose comes in second.

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That in itself - you could end it right there.

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They judge who's got the best costume of the night.

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First prize goes to the Berkowitzes...

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..a married couple dressed in a moose suit.

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The moose comes in second.

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The moose is furious.

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He and the Berkowitzes lock antlers in the living room.

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Being able to give you the visual imagery

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of the moose who he had stunned locking horns with the Berkowitzes.

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They knock each other unconscious.

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Now, I figure, I'll get rid of him for good. I pile him on the fender and speed up to the woods

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but I got the Berkowitzes!

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I'm driving along with two Jewish people on my fender!

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There's a law in New York State...

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Basically, Mr Berkowitz is shot and mounted.

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At the end, with the punchline and the satire within this...

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It's three minutes of utter brilliance.

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Mr Berkowitz is shot,

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stuffed and mounted at the New York City Golf Club.

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And the joke is on them cos they don't allow Jews.

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I'd be surprised if there isn't one comic in the country

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who would know this routine and not say, "Yeah, that really is as good as it gets."

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All I wanted to do was be a funny person in a Woody Allen film

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and, if he continued to make films like he did in the '70s,

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I might have been in with a chance cos I'm a genuinely awkward and clumsy-looking girl.

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Sadly, it all changed and he uses people like Scarlett Johansson now.

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I haven't got a chance in hell, have I?

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My favourite performance is Larry Grayson -

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his last ever performance at the Royal Variety Show in 1994.

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It's very funny but it's also very poignant

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and it's a great farewell performance.

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I sleep in a hammock, you know.

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Well, I always wanted to be in the Navy but I never quite made it.

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The nearest I got was an all-male revue called Come Peep Through My Porthole.

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Anyway...

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The forefather of camp comedy Larry Grayson

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launched his career at the age of 14 in working men's clubs.

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His popularity peaked in the late '70s when, as host of the Generation Game,

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he attracted audiences of 24 million each week.

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I had quite a formal upbringing

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and we would always have to have dinner at the table but on a Saturday

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we were allowed to have tea on our laps

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and that would be the highlight of the week, watching the Generation Game.

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You first attracted your wife's attention

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by making noises at her all day. What sort of noises?

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At school, I sat behind her and went... HE CLEARS THROAT

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-Oh, did you?

-All day.

-Do it again.

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-HE CLEARS THROAT

-I find it rather attractive.

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What I remember about Larry Grayson on Generation Game

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is I'd never seen a man like that before in my life.

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It's camp. It was very different to Bruce Forsyth, as well,

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who's got that sort of hustling comic thing.

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Whereas with Larry Grayson, it was sort of warm and open

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and absurd and a raised eyebrow

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and finding the whole thing all a bit ridiculous, isn't it?

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That kind of, "I'm watching this with YOU,"

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is the thing that you got from Larry Grayson, rather than

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the Brucie thing of, "Here it is. Come on, enjoy it!"

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You once took a party of 19 friends and a cat

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into a cave and disturbed a bat

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-because anything that moves, they fly to.

-You'd be disturbed

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if 19 people came through your window and out your front door

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whilst you're watching telly.

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I've got news for you - they'd be very welcome!

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When you see him, you just want to laugh.

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He has got something. I don't know what it is

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but as soon as he comes out, he just makes you laugh.

0:20:030:20:06

He's just got that quality.

0:20:060:20:08

I felt very happy for Larry, watching that. As last performances go,

0:20:100:20:15

he wasn't at the end of the pier, somewhere grubby.

0:20:150:20:18

He was at the Royal Variety Show and he hadn't been around for a while

0:20:180:20:22

so people were pleased to see him and he was pleased to be there.

0:20:220:20:25

And I think his first words are rather poignant.

0:20:250:20:29

They thought I was dead.

0:20:290:20:31

What a gay day! Do you know...? Look at the muck on here.

0:20:330:20:36

He talked always about himself and his health

0:20:360:20:39

and how he wasn't feeling right and his leg was giving him hell.

0:20:390:20:43

When I was lying in bed... Listen, don't laugh at me or else I can't do it.

0:20:430:20:47

My leg's giving me hell. Anyway...

0:20:470:20:49

But while talking about something quite trivial -

0:20:490:20:52

this is a comedy technique - he'd constantly distract himself

0:20:520:20:58

with there being a draft in here or the place is alive with fleas.

0:20:580:21:03

Cos I was in, I was in the very...

0:21:030:21:06

I... What's this on me?

0:21:090:21:12

Place is alive here.

0:21:120:21:13

-Anyway...

-What I love about Larry Grayson is...

0:21:130:21:18

his act, from when he first started

0:21:180:21:20

right up to the Royal Variety Performance

0:21:200:21:23

where he last appeared on stage, is exactly the same.

0:21:230:21:29

It's never changed but you still laugh out loud at it.

0:21:290:21:33

It was how he delivered it, how he did the looks,

0:21:330:21:36

"Look at the muck in here," you know, it's just lovely to watch.

0:21:360:21:41

I lay there and I thought, "I feel better this morning."

0:21:410:21:46

I thought, "My fairy godmother's waved her wand.

0:21:460:21:49

"Get out of bed, shave your legs and get out."

0:21:490:21:52

There was a thing he used to do on stage about,

0:21:520:21:56

"I've had it all down here today. I had it all down here yesterday.

0:21:560:22:01

"I can't wait for tomorrow."

0:22:010:22:03

And you didn't know what IT was. It could have been anything, really.

0:22:030:22:09

I mean, he was so near the mark - Slack Alice and Pop-It-In Pete.

0:22:090:22:15

I mean, it's like... But he'd get away with it.

0:22:150:22:19

Slack Alice came to the door... The draft in here.

0:22:190:22:22

The gay references dropped in to the performance about...

0:22:220:22:28

His last performance he was in was Robin Hood and his Merry Men

0:22:280:22:31

and he had a lot of trouble with Little John.

0:22:310:22:35

I was one of the Merry Men, you see, and it was terrible.

0:22:350:22:38

I had terrible trouble with Little John and that was a lie for a start and...

0:22:380:22:42

Let's have a change of scenery. So I thought, "Well, I'll come here tonight..."

0:22:420:22:46

That bit when he moves the chair to the other side.

0:22:460:22:49

"Let's have a scenery change." I mean...!

0:22:490:22:53

He, sort of, for old time's sake finishes with his catchphrase.

0:22:530:22:57

It's lovely being with you

0:22:570:22:59

and before I go, for all you people at home,

0:22:590:23:02

I must just say it once - shut that door!

0:23:020:23:05

APPLAUSE

0:23:050:23:07

I love you.

0:23:070:23:08

Under the applause you hear him saying, "I love you."

0:23:080:23:12

It's a lovely way to finish. And then he died a few weeks later...

0:23:120:23:18

so, it was very fitting, I was very pleased for him.

0:23:180:23:21

I love you.

0:23:210:23:23

Laurel and Hardy - I can't state how much I really, really do admire them and love them.

0:23:370:23:42

Genuine, genuine geniuses.

0:23:420:23:44

It's a word that's used a lot but it's really, really true.

0:23:440:23:48

I sort of liked the atmosphere which was created by

0:23:560:24:00

watching Laurel and Hardy in the house.

0:24:000:24:02

I'd be enjoying it myself and then I'd look over there

0:24:020:24:05

and there would be my brother sat laughing and my sister and my dad and my mum

0:24:050:24:09

everybody, sort of, laughing and I thought, "This is nice, this."

0:24:090:24:14

They came to Liverpool when I was a kid.

0:24:170:24:20

I don't think I've ever been more excited in a theatre anywhere in the world

0:24:200:24:25

-than when they went...

-HE HUMS LAUREL AND HARDY THEME SONG

0:24:250:24:28

and they walked on and I just couldn't believe they were on the stage in the Empire Liverpool.

0:24:280:24:35

My favourite joke? Well, it's more of a scene, I think,

0:24:350:24:38

that I've been very fond of for many years

0:24:380:24:41

for its mix of surreal and slapstick.

0:24:410:24:44

County Hospital.

0:24:440:24:46

Come in.

0:24:520:24:54

There was Ollie in hospital and he was happy to be there

0:24:540:24:58

cos it meant he would get some peace.

0:24:580:25:01

And then Stan showed up to visit him.

0:25:010:25:04

What've you got there?

0:25:040:25:05

I brought you some hard boiled eggs and some nuts.

0:25:050:25:09

Now, you know I can't eat hard boiled eggs and nuts!

0:25:100:25:15

If you wanted to bring me something why didn't you bring me a box of candy?

0:25:150:25:18

-It cost too much.

-Well, what has that got to do with it?

0:25:200:25:23

You didn't pay me for the last box I brought you.

0:25:230:25:26

Have one?

0:25:300:25:31

No, I'd rather not!

0:25:310:25:33

Hard boiled eggs and nuts!

0:25:350:25:39

Hmm!

0:25:390:25:41

"Hard boiled eggs and nuts!"

0:25:410:25:43

From that moment onwards you know it's going to go wrong.

0:25:430:25:46

"Hard boiled eggs and nuts! Hmm!"

0:25:460:25:50

I remember cos we used to watch telly on a Sunday afternoon

0:25:500:25:54

and there'd be a double bill

0:25:540:25:56

and I remember my mum literally almost wetting her pants watching this.

0:25:560:26:01

It used to be on every morning in the school holidays on BBC Two

0:26:060:26:09

There'd be Flash Gordon and Laurel and Hardy.

0:26:090:26:11

So there's nostalgia in it, in that it's in black and white

0:26:110:26:14

but they are so funny. And Stan Laurel doesn't have to do anything,

0:26:140:26:18

he just has to, sort of, fidget and scratch and he's funny.

0:26:180:26:23

That, sort of, innocent, happy-go-lucky character,

0:26:230:26:26

able to create such carnage.

0:26:260:26:29

-How long do you think I'll be in here, doctor?

-Oh, at least a couple of months.

0:26:290:26:33

Gee, that's great.

0:26:330:26:35

This is the first time in my life I've had such a wonderful rest.

0:26:350:26:40

HARDY SCREAMS

0:26:400:26:43

I always think when I'm watching it - I'm laughing now -

0:26:530:26:56

someone must have died laughing watching that at the time

0:26:560:26:59

cos they would never have seen anything like it.

0:26:590:27:02

I can imagine a cameraman looking through the lens

0:27:020:27:05

and Hardy looking down and sort of giving a look

0:27:050:27:09

and the cameraman actually dying of laughter.

0:27:090:27:12

It's that funny NOW. THEN it must have just been mind-blowingly funny.

0:27:120:27:18

Ah! Let me down! Oh, my legs! Ah! Oh!

0:27:180:27:22

Didn't somebody die watching The Goodies in the '70s?

0:27:220:27:25

If someone died watching The Goodies,

0:27:250:27:27

someone definitely died watching Laurel and Hardy.

0:27:270:27:30

What's so great about Laurel and Hardy is they're two comedians.

0:27:380:27:42

There isn't a straight man. Usually, it's one comedian, one straight man.

0:27:420:27:46

They're two insane buffoons in such different ways and they work so well together

0:27:460:27:52

and they both get the chance to be the funny man.

0:27:520:27:55

They're just as funny now.

0:28:140:28:16

The test of time - there's no problem with that at all.

0:28:160:28:20

Time has not dimmed the humour of Laurel and Hardy at all,

0:28:200:28:24

it's just made them even more admired.

0:28:240:28:28

Hard boiled eggs and nuts!

0:28:280:28:31

Hmm!

0:28:310:28:32

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:350:28:38

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:380:28:41

A look at what makes the nation's best-loved comedians laugh the most. Contributors share the stories behind each joke, describe how it influenced them, and divulge why it is their favourite joke of all time. From stand-up routines and comedy sketches to classic sitcom moments, they go beyond the joke and provide an exclusive insight into their all-time favourite gags and the star performers who told them. The programme provides a rare chance to see some of the funniest classic comedy moments of all time. Contributors include Lenny Henry, Andi Osho, Ronni Ancona, Jon Culshaw and Julian Clary.


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