'Arry and Edna

Two comedy features in national newspapers, both of them a joy to write: the first is an interview with Susannah Corbett about her biography of her father, the Steptoe actor Harry H Corbett. The book is called The Front End Of The Cow and it’s published by the History Press. This piece appeared in the Observer on Sunday 18 March.

The second feature had a marvellous spread on the Daily Mail’s op-ed page, on Tuesday 20 March. It’s a valediction for Dame Edna Everage, who is being retired by her creator Barry Humphries. She will be missed.

You can read more about the writing of the Dame Edna feature here.

The raspberry war

During my interview with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson in Stratford upon Avon on Wednesday 23 November, Ray told the tale of a raspberry-blowing war with Spike Milligan that very nearly ended in the death of Harry Secombe.

We had a great time at the Civic Hall, with a wonderful audience who were queueing up to ask questions at the end. Thanks to the organiser, Tim Raistrick, whose energy and tireless optimism made it all possible.


Kenneth Williams, Joe Orton and the debacle of Felicity's 21st birthday

This is the talk I gave about Kenneth Williams and the playwright Joe Orton, at the Islington Museum in St John Street, London, on Thursday 16 November. The lecture, which was free, was well attended, and there were plenty of interesting questions from the audience. The talk was recorded in the exhibition room, where the walls were hung with the library book covers that Orton and his partner, Kenneth Halliwell, had defaced (they were both jailed for six months in 1962 for the crime). The exhibition, Malicious Damage, runs until February.

Masters of Sitcom reviewed

Elaine Schollar of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society has sent this review of Masters Of Sitcom to subscribers. That’s a tough audience for a book like this... most of the members can recite entire episodes! I’m delighted that Elaine rates it as a “must have”!

Writers' Forum

Kate Pain from Writer’s Forum magazine interviewed me about the process of submitting a book proposal to publishers. I told her how I had constructed the proposal for Masters Of Sitcom, and explained the key points that any book submission must include if it’s to convince an editor.

Click below to read the article.

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Ray and Alan at Cheltenham Literary Festival

This is the tape of my conversation with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson at the Cheltenham Literary Festival on Wednesday, 12 October 2011. It sounds like it was recorded in an echo chamber, underwater, with all the microphones set to maximum reverb. And the first 30 seconds are missing. Apart from that, it’s a masterful recording.

Ray and Alan were on great form, and the audience were marvellous, so if you’re a G&S fan it’s worth a listen, despite the poor sound quality.


Sunday Express review

Simon Brett reviews Masters Of Sitcom in the Sunday Express, 25 September 2011.

Kenneth Williams: hero or villain?

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Kenneth Williams, 1949


The challenge at the Hampstead and Highgate literary festival was to define how I saw Kenneth Williams – was he a hero or a villain? In the chair was Melissa Katsoulis; around the table were Daisy Waugh (talking about Rudolph Valentino), Anna Sebba (Wallis Simpson) and Justine Picardie (Coco Chanel).

As I don’t have the permission of the other writers to broadcast their talks, this excerpt features only me, cramming as many anecdotes as possible into my quarter of an hour.



Listen to my Interview with Steve Gilmour on Talk Radio Europe, about Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, and Kenneth Williams too, broadcast on 6 September 2011.

National Theatre podcast

This is my recording of the book launch event at the Lyttelton Theatre, in the National Theatre on London’s South Bank, on Thursday 1 September 2011. It’s about 45 minutes long, and concludes with a deafening standing ovation.

The voice closer to the mike is Ray Galton’s. The slightly echoey voice, further away, is Alan Simpson’s.

Book launch at the National Theatre

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Ray Galton and Alan Simpson in their office at Associated London Scripts in the early sixties

A packed auditorium at the National’s Lyttelton Theatre gave Ray Galton and Alan Simpson a standing ovation on a memorable evening to launch their book Galton and Simpson: Masters of Sitcom, from Hancock to Steptoe.

During 45 minutes of conversation on stage, Ray and Alan reminisced about working with great comedians including Tony Hancock, Harry H Corbett, Sid James and Spike Milligan. “Spike used to do things like sticking his head round the bottom of the door and announcing, ‘Dere’s a midget here to see you!” Ray said.