Bob Monkhouse (1928-2003)

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A brief look at his life and work.

Robert (Bob) Alan Monkhouse was born on the 1st June 1928.
In the 1930s he started writing jokes. Among his early gags were

'My father was ruined by hard drink,he sat on an icicle.'
'Why does a cowboy bother to wear two spurs after all if one side of the horse goes,so will the other.'
'I offered the barber a piece of my birthday cake he took two inches of the top.'

But his first success was in having a cartoon printed in Mickey Mouse Weekly. At the age of 14 he sold his first jokes to the comedian Frankie Higgins by waiting for him at the stage door - a trick he repeated with Max Miller.

In 1941 he won second prize in a talent contest telling jokes and imitating Fred Gwyn.

In 1943 he started doing regular cartoons for Martin and Reid Ltd. This later led to writing about 30 novels for the troops.

In 1946 he was called up. He joined the RAF where he met his first wife, Elizabeth. He also met Dennis Goodwin, a writer and performer, who became his partner.

In 1948 he made his first apearence on television in a show called New to You but his best early work was on radio in Calling all Forces and The Forces Show.

But it was TV that was to make Bob Monkhouse a family name for the next 50 years. He became the first comedian to be under exclusive contract to the BBC so he made a lot of guest appearances in variety shows. In 1954, he and Dennis Goodwin made Fast and Loose, a sketch show with guests, until he shot Charlie Drake's ear - but in true show bizz style, the show went on until the curtain closed and Charlie passed out1.

He made two specials for ITV called The Bob Monkhouse Show

He also appeared in films. He acted in the first 'Carry On' film, Carry on Sergeant in 1958 and starred in two 'Dentist' films - Dentist in the Chair and Dentist on the Job.

The Bob Monkhouse Hour was a series of six programmes which saw the end of his partnership with Dennis Goodwin who moved to the states to write for Bob Hope.

In The Big Noise Bob played the part of a top DJ called 'Bob Mason' but, despite an impressive guest list, it only lasted one series.

This was followed by The Bob Monkhouse Comedy Hour a series of four one-off shows made for Thames Television.

'I'm Bob, He's Dickie saw Bob team up with Dickie Henderson for three shows.

Bonkers was made in England but only four episodes were shown before the big strike which blacked out TV from 13 August till 24 October. There were, however, 24 episodes made and sold for syndication in America.

The Bob Monkhouse show2 ran from 1983 to 1986. This was a stand-up show with guest artists.

In 1994 he performed An Audience with Bob Monkhouse. I will never forget when he turned to George Best and said:

'George when you were younger you had the greatest talent or all of us... tell me are you still seeing any of them.'

Then, in 1995, he did what was to be his last stand up series Bob Monkhouse on the Spot.

Bob Monkhouse was also a very good writer. His autobiography Crying with Laughter was published in 1993. It is a warts and all story of his life and loves and is a very good read.

But, I think, most people will remember him for his game shows which included Do You Trust Your Wife, For Love or Money, The Golden Shot, Quick on the Draw, Celebrity Squares, Family Fortunes, Bob's Full House, $64,000 Question, Bob's Your Uncle, Gagtag, Monkhouse's Memory Masters and Wipeout.

Now try the Bob Monkhouse Quiz Show Wordsearch


19.02.04 Front Page

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1Charlie later thought he had dreamed this until Bob reminded him of it on This is Your Life.2The second show using this title.

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