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  

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