A Conversation for Gerard Hoffnung - Cartoonist, Humorist and Musician

The Bricklayer

Post 1

Asteroid Lil - Offstage Presence

I still have a copy of the Bricklayer (with English by Tyrolean landlords on the B side), even though I no longer own the means to play it.

I have in fact heard several American comics deliver the Bricklayer's letter almost word for word -- but without Hoffnung's extraordinary timing. When I would introduce it to my friends here in the US, they would invariably be reduced to tearful hypoxia by the line you quote.

Thank you for reminding us about Hoffnung.


The Bricklayer

Post 2

Cheerful Dragon

My parents had a similar record, which I assume my mum still has. It's an excellent introduction to Hoffnung's style of humour. Bits still spring to mind like 'There are French widows in every bedroom' and 'I have recently given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.' I can't remember the context of the second quotation, but I think it was a sick note from some one to their employer.

The Bricklayer

Post 3

Just zis Guy, you know? † Cyclist [A690572] :: At the 51st centile of ursine intelligence

Yes, my parents have a lovely record of Hoffnung monologues which, along with Flanders and Swann, shaped my taste in comedy from an early age. They also have the Hoffnung Music Festival and the Hoffnung Interplanetary Music Festival, both feasts for the ears.

The Bricklayer

Post 4

Dan Streetmentioner

The BBC released a double tape a few years ago of the best of Hoffnung, including the Bricklayer and his classic "interviews" with gems like the penknife (he bought a penknife to clean out his pipe but the blade was stiff so he bought a smaller penknife to open it with, but the blade was stiff on that, so he bought a smaller one still, but.... etc) and the magic pipe (which he was convinced produced invisible smoke until it was pointed out to him that it wasn't lit). Thankfully, I bought the tape. It is probably still available, so get it if you can, it may be one of the last chances to catch the work of a genius.

The Bricklayer

Post 5

I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!

Glad to see that Hoffnung's humour is still appreciated! I've a set of LPs (vinyl!) of the music festivals and some of his after dinner speeches, and have heard a song based on "The Bricklayer". It must have been nearly 10 years ago. Can anyone identify it, by chance?
I have also enjoyed the gentle humour of Flanders and Swann - I'm a GNU (before the software was invented), Tried by the Centre Court, Stonehenge ... Why is today's humour so aggressively "in your face"?

The Bricklayer

Post 6

Asteroid Lil - Offstage Presence

Excellent point. You can't find a single obscene word in Hoffnung, Flanders & Swann, or the Goon Shows for that matter. And now that I think about it, although there were plenty of disconcerting visuals, there wasn't any obscenity in Monty P either.

The Bricklayer

Post 7

Just zis Guy, you know? † Cyclist [A690572] :: At the 51st centile of ursine intelligence

I think it's partly down to The Lord Chamberlain (The public may leave at the end of each performance / By all the exit doors / The public may leave at the end of each performance / By all the exit doors / All gangways passages and staircases / Must be kept entirely free / Of chairs, or any other obstruction / The public may leave at the end of each performance / By all the exit doors / And all such doors must at that time be open ....)

This official could ban any performance which contained obscenity.

The Bricklayer

Post 8

Mens Sana In Thingummy Gosho

Something at the back of my mind suggests that it might have been by a couple of blokes who called themselves Cosmotheka (sp?). I heard them a few times on Radio 2 probably 8 or 9 years ago when they had their own show. I also remember them doing their own version of Right Said Fred.

The Bricklayer

Post 9

Pugwash et al

The Corries - a Scottish Folk Duo - included 'The Bricklayer' song on one of their albums (I can't remember which one, at the moment). Although one of the duo is now dead, their albums are still cery popular & still available in most music shops in Scotland. The song, with 'The Bricklayer' in rhyming verse is very funny. I have not heard the original monologue although, I do have the Hoffnung Festival of Music on double CD. Are any of his other musical extravaganzas available on CD?

The Bricklayer

Post 10

Just zis Guy, you know? † Cyclist [A690572] :: At the 51st centile of ursine intelligence

I believe that the Hoffnung Interplanetary Music Festival is also available. If not, you could always buy some Flanders & Swann instead smiley - smiley

The Bricklayer

Post 11


I bought a CD of a recent Interplanetary Music Festival . . . not at all the same without GH. His dialogue on "Punkt Contra Punkt" was simply inspired. And so on. Without him, it's all horribly stilted. He was a tightrope walker of subversive humour. The new ones are stilt walkers I suppose. Sorry, it's late.

I was delighted to find through Alibris.com a second-hand copy of his (non-musical) cartoon book, or rather his illustrations for, "The Right Playmate" recently.

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