Forgotten Heroes of Comedy

By Robert Ross

A Celebration of the Comedy underdog

History | Humour
132% funded
518 supporters

Publication date: October 2021

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A Celebration of the Comedy Underdog
Foreword by Terry Jones

Do you remember growing up in the 1970s? Dick Emery was the most famous comedian on British television. His shows would attract millions of viewers. His outrageous gallery of grotesques were played out in a thousand school playgrounds. "Ooh, you are awful!" we would say. Now, where are his shows? Never repeated. Rarely discussed in all those clip-stuffed nostalgia fests on television. A forgotten hero of comedy.

What about Larry Semon? You've never even heard of him, have you? In the Hollywood of the 1920s he was one of the kings of comedy. Both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy *supported* Larry on film. He directed, produced and starred as the Scarecrow in the original film version of 'The Wizard of Oz'. Dead before he was forty, today he hardly gets a footnote in comedy history.

How about little Jimmy Clitheroe? The Clitheroe Kid. He was one of the most popular characters on radio and television. He even appeared as General Tom Thumb opposite Burl Ives and Terry-Thomas in 'Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon'. Really! He was still playing a schoolboy well in to his forties. Jimmy's catchphrase was: "Don't some Mothers have 'em!" Now that sounds familiar! But who gives Jimmy the nod of recognition. No~one.

Until now…

In this long over-due and affectionate salute, celebrated comedy historian Robert Ross pays tribute to some of the finest, funniest and most fascinating names in comedy – from both sides of the Atlantic. With the passionate input of such favourite comics as Tim Brooke-Taylor, Hattie Hayridge, Roy Hudd, Michael Palin, Ross Noble, Chris Addison and Bernard Cribbins..., Ross will pay long over-due tribute to legends of humour who, for a variety of reasons, didn't quite reach the heady heights of stardom or, once they had, couldn't cope with the pressures. Whether it be personal demons, changing trends in comedy or a rival act undermining their fame, the ups and downs of the Forgotten Heroes of Comedy will make for fascinating reading.

Presented in alphabetical order for ease of reference and to give a scattered through the ages feel it will be illustrated throughout with a lavish collection of rare film stills and original theatre posters. The book will be the ultimate talking point in pubs and offices and living rooms across the country. I bet he hasn't included the forgotten member of The Three Stooges. That Shemp Howard who reluctantly gave up a profitable career as Hollywood's busiest character actor to join his brother Moe in the team. Oh. Yes. Yes, he has! So whether it is a favourite from the distant smoke and ale-stained world of the Music Hall like the great George Robey – the man dubbed The Prime Minster of Mirth decades before John Major – or the down-beat poetry of Hovis Presley who dropped disenchanted bombs on the late 1990s, the Forgotten Heroes of Comedy will finally elevate them to the Hall of Fame where they belong. Forgotten, no longer.

With an introductory piece by that very much remembered and influential comedy hero, Monty Python pioneer Terry Jones, this book will enthral and enlighten the most die-hard of comedy admirers.

The book will profile such comedians as...

Ronald Frankau, Arthur Haynes, Wee Georgie Wood, Charlie Drake, Dustin Gee, Sonnie Hale, Ray Martine, Richard Hearne: 'Mr Pastry', Wheeler & Woolsey, Jewel & Warris, Bernie Winters, Dickie Henderson, Hal Walters, John Junkin, Frank Randle, Sir George Robey: 'The Prime Minister of Mirth', Danny Ross, Robert Moreton, Nat Jackley, Ted Lune, Florence Desmond, Eric Barker, Alfie Bass, Bill Fraser, David Battley, Peter Butterworth, Charley Chase, Mel Blanc, Billy Danvers, Jerry Colonna, Leslie Fuller, Tommy Handley, Bobby Howes, Claude Hulbert, Ernie Kovacs, Lupino Lane, Bunny Doyle: 'The Minister for Idiotic Affairs', Tom Walls, Roy Kinnear, Spike Jones, Zeppo Marx, Una Merkel, George Williams, Derek Royle, Wilson, Keppel & Betty, Richard 'Stinker' Murdoch, Tommy Godfrey, Jack Norton, Jack Train, Michael Bates, The Western Brothers, Billy Dainty, Jake Thackray, Gladys Morgan, 'Monsewer' Eddie Gray, Arthur Houseman, Olsen & Johnson, Ted Ray, The Ritz Brothers, Peter Glaze, Claude Dampier: 'The Professional Idiot', Ronald Shiner, Billy Russell, Leslie Sarony, Thelma Todd, Albert Whelan, Tommy Trinder, Al Read, Larry Noble, Doug Fisher, G.H. Elliott: 'the Chocolate Coloured Coon', Harold Berens, Douglas Byng, Chic Murray, Mario Fabrizi, Michael Bentine…


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ebook edition
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  • Robert Ross avatar

    Robert Ross

    Robert Ross is the leading authority on the history of British comedy. His sixteen books include The Monty Python Encyclopedia, The Carry On Story and Sid James – Cockney Rebel, The Complete Terry-Thomas and official BBC celebrations of such hit situation comedies as Fawlty Towers, Last of the Summer Wine and Steptoe and Son. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed biography of Marty Feldman. Robert has hosted sell-out National Film Theatre events with The Goodies and The League of Gentlemen, moderated over 50 DVD commentaries and written Doctor Who audio plays for sixth Doctor, Colin Baker. He is a frequent guest on radio and his many television credits include interviews forWhat's A Carry On?, Top Ten: Comedy Records, Will the Real Basil Fawlty Please Stand Up?, Legends: Hattie Jacques, Legends: Terry-Thomas, What the Pythons Did Next, Richard & Judy and the BBC News.
    He lives in Buckinghamshire.

    “...the top chronicler of British comedy.” – Howard Maxford, Film Review

    “... I learned more about the Pythons from reading the Monty Python Encyclopaedia than from being one.” – Terry Jones

    “Robert is a one-man encyclopaedia of the very best of British comedy. The mother lode of show business information!” – Jim Dale

    “Robert’s knowledge of English comedy is formidable.” – Phil Collins

  • An extract from Robert's latest publication, the definitive tribute to Marty Feldman, 'The Biography of a Comedy Legend'. one of those unfairly forgotten heroes of comedy, forgotten no more...

  • Robert Ross has written 19 private updates. You can pledge to get access to them all.

    23rd April 2021 Cover Reveal Update

    Check out the latest YouTube trailer celebrating the cover reveal of Forgotten Heroes of Comedy

    19th April 2021 COVER REVEAL

    Hello Chums,

    I'm thrilled to be sharing with you, the book cover for Forgotten Heroes of Comedy. Designed by Dan Mogford.

    It's evocative, clever and just perfect! You can still pre-order the book before its publication in September 2021.

    Much love,

    Robert xx


    5th November 2018 I've not forgotten you!

    Hello folks! Calling folks!

    This is just a quick note to thank all you glorious subscribers for your never-ending patience. 

    The Forgotten Heroes of Comedy book is currently cooking on a slow flame for maximum taste. Seriously, it's coming together deliciously and I'm very proud of it.

    I want the end result to be perfect, so that means a wait of a little longer than we originally intended…

    19th July 2017 Taking Over the Asylum

    First of all I have to say you are all bloody amazing. In just three days since I alerted you all to the fact that this beloved heart project of mine was under threat, you have rallied round to support it even more. I am genuinely touched and grateful. Still, we aren't there yet. We need to get the book 100% funded by 1st September; so although the current state of play of 78% is thrilling, please…

    14th July 2017 The Last Laugh

    Hello, folks. You know, I've been banging on about this passion project of mine for so long that the original proposal was printed by William Caxton. Boom-Tisch.

    But seriously, folks. And this *is* serious.

    Those wonderful people at Unbound have, quite understandably, called time on the Forgotten Heroes of Comedy. So, why people pledge? Well, this book celebrates some of the most inventive and…

    16th July 2015 BAZ AT THE MUSEUM OF COMEDY

    Friday the 11th July 2015 marked the anniversary of the birth of Terry-Thomas. The dear old boy would have been 104 years old. Alas, he died a quarter of a century ago. Hard Cheese, indeed, but he is still a valuable part of what defines being English. For me, at least. And, it seems, for many. When I tweeted a photograph of the great man ~ as is my wont in celebration of a particularly beloved…

    21st May 2015 Fantasy Telly in a League of its Own


    My passion for television has been a lifelong one. Literally my earliest memories, of any kind, are Tom Baker & Lis Sladen taking on those pesky Cybermen, and the Goodies ~ probably doing something outrageous and hilarious with a black pudding. Way back in those foggy, now somewhat murky, seventies I also remember entering a telly competition. It was probably…

    18th May 2015 One of the Queens of England!

    May is a rather merrie month in the world of great comedy. It's packed with anniversaries of the births of great, celebrated, comedy talent. Sid James would have been 102 a week or so back. Phil Silvers would have turned 104 on 11th May, and 12th May would have been Tony Hancock's 91st. Stone me! 

    As for me, I've been happily wallowing in humour as usual. The Museum of Comedy continues to pay…

    12th January 2015 A Brand New World

    Well, a brand new year in any case. Two thousand and fifteen may not have got off to the best of starts. When humour is attacked, we lose our humanity. The news notwithstanding, ‘Forgotten Heroes of Comedy’ still simmers on the hob awaiting more funding. To that end I’m heightening my profile. Oh yes, I am! I’ll be hosting several live events promoting the book throughout the year. First up is the…

    7th November 2014 Chortle Comedy Book Festival

    Today sees the launch of the Chortle Comedy Book Festival at the London Irish Centre, Camden Town. Over the next week, such comedy favourites as Rebecca Front, Omid Djalili and Jenny Éclair will be plying their trade and plugging their books. On the evening of Monday the 10th November, I’m hosting a double bill of Monty Python. First, at 7.30pm, I’m in conversation with Carol Cleveland with regards…

    28th October 2014 What happens when Forgotten Heroes are re-remembered?

    The short answer is, I’m delighted! Although Marty Feldman had long been relegated from the book by very virtue of my biography of the great man, the scale of reaction to the discovery of missing ‘At Last the 1948 Show’ material being found last Thursday, really warmed my cockles. Tim Brooke-Taylor was even on the BBC News watching his twenty-something year old self being silly and subversive and…

    21st October 2014 It's Monsteriffic!

    Those lovely people at Warner Archive have just released the fourth and final collection of Bowery Boys comedies onto DVD. This is a joyous occasion, meaning all 48 – yes, 48! – films in the series are now available to buy. Their relentless wheeling and dealing, crap-shooting and dame-chasing antics ran for well over a decade and benefited from a great ensemble cast and witty, fast-paced dialogue…

    9th October 2014 'The Wednesday Play'

    Well, I'm blowing away the cobwebs on my shed and ploughing on with 'Forgotten Heroes of Comedy'. It's all too easy to neglect a book, even one as important to me as this one. One Tuesday, of all days, I introduced a screening of 'The Wednesday Play' at the National Film Theatre. It was 'Double Bill', a brilliantly disturbing production written by Johnny Speight and starring Marty Feldman. Marty is…

    2nd August 2013 Comedy Tonight, this afternoon, this morning. Anytime, really!

    “Something appalling, something appealing. Something for everyone…” That pretty much sums up the essence of comedy, thanks to Stephen Sondheim and his wise and wacky vaudevillian vision of ancient Rome. I don’t want anyone to think my old shed has rusted up simply because I haven’t posted anything on here for a while. Far from it. In fact, like Arthur 'Two Sheds' Jackson, I’ve even been considering…

    9th January 2013 Interview with Comedy Blogedy's Sara Shulman

    I spoke to the lovely Sara Shulman from UCL Sound's Humour Me podcasts, who is very knowledgable about comedy, despite her tender age. Listen again here and don't forget to check out her fantastic comedy blog. 

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