Tuesday 22 January 2019

Frankie's Two Elephants

I finally caught up with the brilliant Comedy Legends series on Sky Arts the other evening. Hosted by Barry Cryer, the edition I caught focussed on one of my very favourite comedy performers, the great Frankie Howerd. 

The programme took us through Frankie's back catalogue, his rise and fall and rise again. Howerd was a star of stage and screen but made his name on radio and that's where the clip below comes in. In the days before we all gathered round the goggle box each night, families up and down the land gathered round the wireless. I am and always have been a big fan of the radio and radio comedy in particular. And Frankie was the master.

Howerd's breakthrough came thanks to several spots on the BBC's Variety Bandbox in the late 1940s. Variety Bandbox launched in 1941 and featured a mix of comedy performances and music. It helped launch the careers of many big names, Frankie chief amongst them. Frankie became a regular on the show, appearing from 1946 until the early 1950s. And cutting his teeth as a writer on the show was a certain gentleman called Eric Sykes. Never appearing as a performer on the show, Sykes definitely made his mark as a writer and it set him on the path to stardom too.

The following excerpt comes from an addition of Variety Bandbox and was the surreal sketch which pretty much launched Frankie's career. No small coincidence that it was written by Eric. This bizarre tale of Frankie transporting two elephants across London and down onto the Underground is so unbelievable but in his comedic hands it just works. He milks it for all it's worth and to be honest, it could only really work on radio. I love it, even after all these years and you can listen to it below. It's pure Frank.

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