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Episode 2

Episode 2 of 4

57 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 12 March 2013

David Mitchell traces the history of British humour from World War 2 to the dawn of the 1960s. From the cosy world of ITMA to the new wave represented by The Goons - here more than anywhere else, the path of modern British comedy changed.

This episode looks at how the Variety Theatres were briefly closed - and then opened again to boost morale - and how Radio became a nation's lifeline.

This was also the age of the catchphrase - and David asks how and why these devices came about, as well as tracing the lineage of "I don't believe it" and "You can't see the join" to those early catchphrases that were on everyone's lips!

The programme also looks at the venue that gave many performers their first post-war start as well - the 'Windmill Theatre' - where the comic's job was to give the bill some respectability in-between the nude tableaus that the entirely male audience had come to see! Tough yes - but it enabled performers to learn their trade in a way that wasn't available again until the arrival of comedy clubs in the 1980s

This is the era when The Goon Show changed everything - but also when ITMA, Take It from Here, Variety Bandbox and the various forces programmes became a vital part of everyone's lives - and those changes ushered in the first signs of comedy that only appealed to certain generations.

David also looks at a series which started on the 'Light Programme'. ran for half an hour a week and changed how we consumed our narrative comedy forever.

Amongst those you'll hear from in part two are: Michael Grade, Denis Norden, Producers Johnnie Hamp, Beryl Vertue, Writers David Nobbs, and Barry Cryer, Show Biz agent Laurie Mansfield, Eric Morecambe, Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, Social historian Eric Merryweather, Media lecturer CP Lee, Film Historian Steve Ellison, Jimmy Cricket and Dr Jonathan Miller.


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