Sunday, 16 April 2017
661 The Laughter Show
First viewed ; Spring 1984
While ITV had Spitting Image, BBC1 had The Laughter Show. Yes, quite. The Laughter Show was a starring vehicle for comedy duo Dustin Gee and Les Dennis who had honed their act on Russ Abbot's Madhouse on ITV. The show mixed sketches, impressions and variety guests.
They were an unlikely duo . Gee was more than a decade older than Dennis and a popular cabaret act for two decades. Dennis had won New Faces in 1974 bur was soon eclipsed by Jim Davidson and had been toiling some way down the bill on variety shows ever since. Their signature act was doing Vera Duckworth ( Gee) and Mavis Riley ( Dennis ) and although it has to be said that Liz Dawn's limited range made Vera an easy mark, it was very obvious Gee was more accomplished than his partner. It's still impossible to sit still while watching Dennis do Mavis. If Gee's private life had been better known, there would have been press speculation that blonde pretty boy Dennis ( actually married and straight ) wasn't in the act for his talent.
Around the same time the show first aired, the pair were involved in one of the most macabre examples of "the show must go on" in the history of light entertainment. The duo were booked to appear on the ITV variety show Live from Her Majesty's just after Tommy Cooper ( not the greatest of slots ). Cooper's slot ended prematurely when he collapsed on stage and lay half in and half out of the curtains. The duo went on and did their act with Cooper's lower legs between them while attempts were made to revive the dying comedian in the limited space behind the curtains.
In a further macabre twist , less than two years later, Gee himself suffered a heart attack during a pantomime performance .In his case he managed to stagger off and died two days later in hospital aged 43 . The third series of The Laughter Show had already been filmed and after a short break, Gee's family encouraged the BBC to air it. Dennis continued as the sole host until 1991