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28 October 2014

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Beyond Our Ken

Beyond Our Ken

Beyond Our Ken was a sketch vehicle for radio entertainer (and former RAF Wing Commander) Kenneth Horne, devised by his co-writer Eric Merriman at the request of the BBC.

Its title, both referring to Horne's name and punning on the word 'ken', meaning knowledge, aptly demonstrates the joy of wordplay that was at the heart of the humour in this long-running and influential series, bridging the 1950s and 1960s.

With Horne at its centre, each show featured a wide variety of sketches written by Merriman (and Barry Took, in earlier series) and acted out by a strong supporting cast including Kenneth Williams and Bill Pertwee. 

Beyond Our Ken

Jokes were aimed both at the vagaries of everyday life and at contemporary celebrities, with recurring characters including cook Fanny Haddock (played by Betty Marsden and parodying Fanny Craddock), and Bill Pertwee's finely observed impersonation of Frankie Howerd (as Hankie Flowered). 

Williams particularly delighted in the opportunities for jokes based on innuendo and double entendre (foreshadowing his work in the Carry On films) and although the show was placed in early jeopardy when Horne suffered a stroke after the pilot recording in 1957, his recovery cleared the path for seven highly successful seasons.

Beyond Our Ken

Beyond Our Ken ended in 1964, after an apparent falling out between Merriman and BBC producers, but after only a year's hiatus the format was resuscitated by Barry Took and Marty Feldman, as Round the Horne.

Using the same cast, the revamped show became an even bigger hit and grew into one of the BBC's true classic radio comedy series.

It ran until 1968, Horne dying a year later.

While Beyond Our Ken might have been outshone by its successor, it shared much of the same DNA that made Round the Horne one of the greats.

Cast

Kenneth Williams
performer
Kenneth Horne
performer
Hugh Paddick
performer
Betty Marsden
performer
Ron Moody
performer
Stanley Unwin
performer
Bill Pertwee
performer
Douglas Smith
performer
Patricia Lancaster
performer
Janet Waters
performer

Crew

Barry Took
writer
Eric Merriman
writer
Jacques Brown
producer
Charles Maxwell
producer
John Simmonds
producer

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