Cabaret veteran Paul O'Grady continues his celebration of the most decadent, satirical and tawdry show in town, pushing back the curtain on its post-war history.
In America, the Beat generation discover alternative comedy in the coffee bars and cabarets of San Francisco and New York. Comedy icons from Mort Sahl to Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, and even Woody Allen, caught a break on the nightclub and cabaret circuit, as did international superstars such as Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand.
In swinging London, cabaret was the perfect venue as the satire boom took hold with Peter Cook's Establishment Club holding court to Hollywood stars, rock stars and even royalty. Just a few streets away, Motown's rising stars were bringing the house down at the Talk Of The Town; and Danny La Rue was turning drag into mainstream fare at Danny's.
And it wasn't just London that bore witness to the cabaret explosion. Bernard Manning's Embassy Club in Manchester was just one of the Northern working men's clubs serving up a healthy diet of pie, chips and a floor show and attracting stars from Lulu to Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones.
Cabaret suffered during the recession in the 70s but it came back fighting with the Comedy Store and the birth of alternative comedy at the end of the decade. Paul explores the comedy, cruise ships and gay scene that has played host to cabaret since then, twirls a tassel at the Burlesque revival, and encounters the contemporary performers following in his footsteps and enjoying the current cabaret resurgence.
Jim Bowen, Barry Cryer, Lionel Blair, Jane MacDonald, Alexei Sayle Julian Clary, Paloma Faith and Immodesty Blaize all pay tribute and explain why, despite the motorway service stations, rowdy audiences and toilet cubicle dressing rooms, it was all worth it. As Paul says: "It's not an easy life. From the minute you set foot out the door, it's hassle. Getting there, getting ready, getting on, getting home. I loved it. Some of the best nights ever.".