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29 October 2014
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Tony Hancock tops BBC7 poll to find greatest comedian ever

Tony Hancock has been voted number one by radio listeners in a BBC 7 "top seven" poll to find the greatest comedian ever.

Approximately 5,000 listeners cast their votes, with Hancock claiming 13% of the total nominations.

The poll marks the launch on Sunday 15 December of the new BBC digital radio station BBC 7.

A pure entertainment network, BBC 7 features the best of BBC comedy, drama and books from the archive, together with a daily live kids' programme.

The programme that established Tony Hancock's reputation, the radio classic Hancock's Half Hour, is one of the highlights of the BBC 7 schedules from launch week, as are more recent radio comedy gems such as Dead Ringers, Alan Partridge and The League of Gentlemen.

Comedians from the golden age of radio comedy – Hancock (number 1), The Goons (number 2), Kenneth Horne (number 3), Kenneth Williams (number 6) – dominate the top seven list.

BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue team (Humphrey Lyttelton, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Barry Cryer) are at number 4 and are the only current day comedians featured.

TV favourites Morecambe and Wise claim position number 5, and the late, great Spike Milligan appears twice – once, at number 2, as a member of The Goons, and again, at number 7, as a solo talent.

BBC 7’s top seven -

1 Tony Hancock
2 The Goons
(Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers)
3 Kenneth Horne
4 I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue
(Humphrey Lyttelton, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Barry Cryer)
5 Morecambe and Wise (Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise)
6 Kenneth Williams
7 Spike Milligan

Mary Kalemkerian, Head of Programmes, BBC 7 said: "Classic comedians such as Tony Hancock and The Goons are obviously still firm favourites with BBC radio listeners. Age doesn't seem to matter – if it's funny, it's funny.

"Being in charge of programming at BBC 7 gives me a terrific opportunity to bring these great comic talents to a new generation of listeners, as well as playing top contemporary comedy acts from the best archive in the world."

Comedy legends Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, writers of the original BBC Radio Hancock's Half Hour series, draw parallels between Hancock's comedy character and modern day comedy anti-heroes Alan Partridge and David Brent (The Office).

"The thing they've all got in common is self delusion," says Alan.

"They all think they're more intelligent than everyone else, more cultured – that people don't recognise their true greatness. Self delusion in every case.

"And there's nothing people like better than failure."

Ray adds: "There's nothing intrinsically funny in success.

"It's very gratifying that these [Hancock] shows have lasted. I suppose it's because we were writing things that were permanent, indestructible facets of all our collective natures."

Hancock's Half Hour, The Goons, Round The Horne, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, Spike Milligan, Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Horne can all be heard on BBC 7 in the classic comedy slot, daily from noon to 1.00pm, repeated 7.00 to 8.00pm.

BBC 7 is available across the UK on DAB digital radio, digital television (cable, satellite, Freeview digital terrestrial) and online.

Broadcasting 18 hours a day, from 7.00am to 1.00am, the BBC 7 schedule is "stripped" across the week, with regular programme zones at the same time each day.

Archive material is drawn from BBC Radio 4, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 1 and Radio 5 (the forerunner of Radio Five Live), with other acquired material not previously heard on radio.

Launch day, Sunday 15 December, comprises a two-hour simulcast with BBC Radio 4 (8.00-10.00pm), presented by Paul Merton, showcasing BBC 7.

Featured shows include: Knowing Me, Knowing You; Dr Who; Hancock's Happy Christmas; The Goons; The Woman In White; Fatherland and I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

BBC 7's poll to find the greatest comedian was launched on Wednesday 13 November 2002 and voting closed on Wednesday 11 December.

Votes were cast on the BBC internet site, by email and by telephone voting.

And if seven isn't enough, you're a purist and you really need a top ten, the final three are: Tommy Cooper at number 8, The Two Ronnies at number 9 and Billy Connolly at number 10.

Tony Hancock

Tony Hancock is best remembered for his bombastic and self-deluding alter ego Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock, resident of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, and star of Hancock's Half Hour.

Written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, Hancock's Half Hour went out on BBC Radio from 1954 to 1959 and on BBC Television from 1956.

The Goons

One of the most influential of radio comedies, The Goon Show first aired on BBC Radio in 1951 as Crazy People and featured Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine.

It became The Goon Show in June 1952, with Bentine leaving the team five months later. After over 200 episodes, the last Goon Show went out in 1960.

Spike Milligan wrote most of the show and created almost all of the characters, including Bluebottle, Eccles and Ned Seagoon.

Kenneth Horne

The straight man of Beyond Our Ken and Round The Horne, Kenneth Horne's speciality was delivering outrageous double entendres in a very up-market voice.

Round The Horne ran on BBC Radio from 1965 to 1969.

Barry Took and Marty Feldman were the main writers and performers included Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick, voicing such memorable characters as Rambling Syd Rumpo and the exceptionally camp Julian and Sandy.

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue

Thirty years old, multi-award winning and still running on Radio 4, this famous "antidote to panel games" features regulars Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Barry Cryer playing party games – including the nonsensical Mornington Crescent – under the droll chairmanship of Humphrey Lyttelton.

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue first started life as I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again in 1964, morphing into I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue in April 1972.

On Saturday 21 December 2002 BBC 7 features the first ever episode, recently restored to the BBC archives after a nationwide "treasure hunt".

Morecambe and Wise

Most closely associated with the BBC and arguably the best-loved comedy double act ever to grace the tv screen, Morecambe and Wise's 1977 Christmas special was watched by over 27 million people, more than half the UK population at the time.

Their first tv show, Running Wild, appeared on the BBC in 1954, was roundly panned by the critics, and lasted only six episodes.

The Morecambe and Wise Show first aired on ITV in 1961 before moving to the BBC in 1968 where the duo enjoyed a 10 year run before returning to ITV in 1978.

Kenneth Williams

A comedy performer with one of the most instantly recognisable voices in broadcasting, Kenneth Williams starred in the radio comedy classics Round The Horne, Just A Minute and Hancock's Half Hour.

His famous catch phrase "Ere, stop messin' about" was first coined in Hancock's Half Hour.

Spike Milligan

The creative genius behind The Goon Show and master of the surreal, Spike Milligan's later career took in TV, films and novel writing, poetry, children's books, volumes of autobiography and even songs.

He also wrote and performed on television, including the Q series for the BBC.

Notes to Editors

BBC 7 press kit (26.11.02)

BBC 7 launches 15 December with the best of BBC comedy, drama and books - and a search for the greatest comic ever (12.11.02)

New digital station from BBC Radio (30.09.02)



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