Comedy

Classic Comedy … you’ll need headphones or speakers …

Enjoy a laugh at some of the funniest sketches in comedic history

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Rowen Atkinson

Rowan Sebastian Atkinson, CBE is an English actor, comedian, and screenwriter best known for his work on the sitcoms Mr. Bean and Blackadder. Atkinson first came to prominence in the sketch comedy show Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979–82), and via his participation in The Secret Policeman's Balls from 1979. His other work includes the sitcom The Thin Blue Line (1995–96). He has been listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest actors in British comedy and amongst the top 50 comedians ever, in a 2005 poll of fellow comedians. He has also had cinematic success with his performances in the Mr. Bean movie adaptations Bean and Mr. Bean's Holiday and in Johnny English (2003) and its sequel Johnny English Reborn (2011). In 1975, completed an M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering at The Queen's College, Oxford. First winning national attention in the Oxford Revue at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 1976, he had already written and performed early sketches for shows in Oxford.

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Ronnie Barker

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Ronald William George "Ronnie" Barker, OBE was an English actor, comedian and writer. He was known for roles in British comedy television series such as Porridge, The Two Ronnies and Open All Hours. He began acting in repertory theatre and decided he was best suited to comic roles. He had his first success at the Oxford Playhouse and in roles in the West End including Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound. During this period, he was in the cast of BBC radio and television comedies such as The Navy Lark. He got his television break with the satirical sketch series The Frost Report in 1966, where he met future collaborator, Ronnie Corbett. He joined David Frost's production company and starred in ITV shows including a short film. After rejoining the BBC, Barker found fame with the sketch show The Two Ronnies (1971–1987), with Ronnie Corbett. He starred in the sitcoms Porridge, its sequel Going Straight and Open All Hours. He wrote comedy under his own name and the pseudonym Gerald Wiley, which Barker adopted to avoid pre-judgements of his talent. He won a BAFTA for best light entertainment performance four times, among other awards, and received an OBE in 1978. Later television sitcoms such as The Magnificent Evans and Clarence were less successful and he retired in 1987. He opened an antiques shop with his wife, Joy. After 1999, he appeared in smaller, non-comic roles in films. He died of heart failure on 3 October 2005, aged 76.

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Les Dawson

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Leslie "Les" Dawson was an English comedian and writer remembered for his deadpan style, curmudgeonly persona and jokes about his mother-in-law and wife. Dawson claimed that he began his entertainment career as a pianist in a Parisian brothel – in his entertaining but factually unreliable autobiography His efforts at making a living as a pianist evolved into comedy as he found he got laughs by playing wrong notes and complaining to the audience. He made his television debut on the talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1967 and became a prominent comic on British television for the rest of his life.His most characteristic routines featured Roy Barraclough and Dawson as two elderly women, Cissie Braithwaite and Ada Shufflebotham. Cissie had pretensions of refinement and often corrected Ada's malapropisms or vulgar expressions. As authentic characters of their day, they spoke some words aloud but only mouthed others, particularly those pertaining to bodily functions and sex. These female characters were based on those Les Dawson knew in real life. Les Dawson was of portly build and often dressed in the traditional John Bull of England costume. He introduced to his BBC television shows a dancing group of very fat ladies called the Roly Polys. Dawson's style as a comic performer was world-weary, lugubrious and earthy. He was as popular with female as with male audiences, and loved by the British public. Having broken his jaw in a boxing match, Dawson was able to pull grotesque faces by pulling his jaw over his upper lip. 

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John Cleese

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John Cleese is an English actor, comedian, writer and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s, he co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus and the four Monty Python films: And Now for Something Completely Different, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. In the mid-1970s, Cleese and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote and starred in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers. Later, he co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. He also starred in Clockwise, and has appeared in many other films, including two James Bond films, two Harry Potter films, and the last three Shrek films. With Yes Minister writer Antony Jay he co-founded Video Arts, a production company making entertaining training films.

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Harry Enfield

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Henry Enfield is a BAFTA award-winning English comedian, actor, writer and director. Enfield first came to public attention when appearing on Channel 4's Saturday Live as several different characters created with Paul Whitehouse. These quickly entered the national consciousness. Among these characters were Stavros, a Greek restaurant owner with fractured English; and Loadsamoney, an obnoxious, Cockney plasterer who constantly boasted about how much money he earned. The Loadsamoney character took on a life of its own and sampled the song "Money, Money" from the musical Cabaret to spawn a hit single in 1988 and a sell-out live tour. In May 1988, Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock used the term loadsamoney to criticise the policies of the Conservative government of the day and journalists began to refer to the "loadsamoney mentality" and the "loadsamoney economy". As a foil to Loadsamoney, Enfield and Whitehouse created the Geordie "Bugger-All-Money" and in 1988 Enfield appeared as both characters during the Nelson Mandela Birthday Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium. In time Whitehouse and Enfield became disturbed that Loadsamoney was being seen in a positive light, rather than as a satirical figure, and they had him run over during a Comic Relief Red Nose Day show while leaving the studio after presenting host Lenny Henry with "the biggest cheque of the night"—a physically huge cheque for ten pence. Enfield created "Tory Boy", a character which portrayed a young male Conservative MP. In 1989, Enfield realised a personal project, Norbert Smith - a Life, a spoof on British theatrical knights slumming in the film industry. He also provided voices for the British satirical puppet show Spitting Image, and starred as Dirk Gently in the BBC Radio adaptations of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.

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Victor Borge

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Victor Borge (born as Børge Rosenbaum) was a Danish comedian, conductor and pianist who achieved great popularity in radio and television in the United States and Europe. His blend of music and comedy earned him the nickname "The Clown Prince of Denmark", "The Unmelancholy Dane", and "The Great Dane". Borge began piano lessons at the age of two, and it was soon apparent that he was a prodigy. He gave his first piano recital when he was eight years old, and in 1918 was awarded a full scholarship at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. After a few years as a classical concert pianist, he started his now famous "stand up" act, with the signature blend of piano music and jokes. He developed many of his trademarks, including repeatedly announcing his intent to play a piece but getting "distracted" by something or other, making comments about the audience, or discussing the usefulness of Chopin's "Minute Waltz" as an egg timer. He would also start out with some well-known classical piece like Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" and suddenly move into a harmonically suitable pop or jazz tune like Cole Porter's "Night and Day" or "Happy Birthday to You". Among Borge's other famous routines is the "Phonetic Punctuation" routine, in which he recites a story, with full punctuation (comma, period, exclamation mark, etc.) as exaggerated onomatopoeic sounds. Another is his "Inflationary Language", where he incremented numbers embedded in words, whether they are visible or not ("once upon a time" becomes "twice upon a time", "wonderful" becomes "twoderful", "forehead" becomes "fivehead" and "tennis" becomes "elevennis". Borge used physical and visual elements in his live and televised performances. He would play a strange-sounding piano tune from sheet music, looking increasingly confused; turning the sheet upside down, he would then play the actual tune, flashing a joyful smile of accomplishment to the audience (he had, at first, been literally playing the actual tune upside down). When his energetic playing of another song would cause him to fall off the piano bench, he would open the seat lid, take out the two ends of an automotive seat belt, and buckle himself onto the bench, "for safety." 

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Billy Connolly

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William "Billy" Connolly, CBE is a Scottish comedian, musician, presenter and actor. He is sometimes known, especially in his native Scotland, by the nickname "The Big Yin" ("The Big One"). His first trade, in the early 1960s, was as a welder (specifically a boilermaker) in the Glasgow shipyards, but he gave it up towards the end of the decade to pursue a career as a folk singer in The Humblebums and subsequently as a soloist. In the early 1970s, he made the transition from folk-singer with a comedic persona to full-fledged comedian. Connolly is also an actor. Connolly was born in Anderston, Glasgow. In 1946, when he was barely four years old, Connolly's mother abandoned her children when his father was still away in the army. At age 12, Connolly decided he wanted to become a comedian but did not think that he fit the mould, feeling he needed to become more "windswept and interesting".

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Robin Williams

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Robin McLaurin Williams was an American actor and comedian. Starting as a stand-up comedian in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, he is credited with leading San Francisco's comedy renaissance. After rising to fame as Mork in the TV series Mork & Mindy (1978–82), Williams went on to establish a career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting. He was known for his improvisational skills. Williams won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as therapist Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. He also received two Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards throughout his career. On August 11, 2014, Williams committed suicide at his home in Paradise Cay, California.

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Other

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Other outstanding comedy

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