Thursday, September 25, 2008

Les Dawson: A Prophet Unhonoured

Recent scribblings on this blog and others have touched upon Les Dawson - though not in a “bad” way - and made me realise how much I miss the man. If you don’t know, Les was a very fat comedian from the North of England. Lugubrious (a word which may almost mean “very fat and from the North”) was a common description of him. When they could get him sober enough he stood on a stage and told jokes. (Though he also wrote novels, apparently, and was a fine connoisseur of language). He wasn’t considered exactly a modern comedian but I had a secret regard for him, based mainly on the fact that the worse his jokes were – and oh they could be bad – the funnier he was. I thought: anyone who can make me laugh by standing still on a stage telling crap jokes must be a genius. I think it was something to do with the pauses. But, and here’s the important issue now, I paid scant attention to the content of his humour, the staple of which was The Mother-In-Law Joke. Examples:

I wouldn’t say my mother-in-law was fat, but when she got run over the driver said although he had enough time to drive around her he didn't know if he had enough petrol.
I took my mother-in-law to Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors, and one of the attendants said, “Keep her moving sir, we're stock-taking”.
My mother-in-law said “When you die I’m going to dance on your grave!”. “Good”, I said, “I’m being buried at sea!”


Is it coming back to you?? It’s relevant as I’ve had a bit of friction with my own mother-in-law, a fine woman with whom I usually get along famously. It’s all my fault. After all, she survived and kept a family clothed and fed through 30 years of Nicolae “The Genius of the Carpathians” Ceauşescu & co. And I’m just a ponce. I may technically be in the right - “blah..blah..blah” - but in all other respects... I’m still (comparatively) a ponce. I pledged not to wash my dirty laundry in public, but maybe I’d have been better prepared if I’d listened to Les. When I peered at him on the TV screen back in the 70s from under my Brian Connolly fringe his wisdom was wasted on me. In fact, I was the teenager that mothers of girlfriends warm to: nervous, vulnerable, but, crucially, giving off the slight suggestion that in another life I’d have found them as attractive as their spotty, specky daughters. The naivety of youth - I must have thought I could handle women. My mother-in-law and I have more than made up now, and our bond is all the stronger. As it turns out, Les was as inaccurate about my mother-in-law as he was, apparently, about his own. But in his stumbling way he felt burdened with a truth that he knew must be told - may his name be honoured!

19 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

Les once said:

"I've not had so much fun since the mother-in-law got sent off against Wakefield Trinity."

That was funny.

He was also pretty good in drag.

Mrs Pouncer said...

Darling Gadji, I AM a mother-in-law. I have 3 sons/i/law: the Australian, the Argentian and the Alcoholic. The Oz is a theatre director of repute. He grasps me in extravagant embraces by way of greeting and calls me darling. That is the theatrical way. The alcoholic and I get along famously for obvious reasons. But my favourite is the Argentian. I will never forget the first time I met him. Taking my outstretched hand ("How do you do, Alejo") he pressed it to his lips, never once breaking eye contact, and breathed "Hable mas despacio, por favor, mi madre". I have no daughters in law yet.

The Dotterel said...

Good God, man - what did you do to her? (There are multiple clues between the lines in this post - I think you should come clean!) Anyway, I remember watching Les weekly, when he used to be on telly (and alive, of course) although I don't think I was ever allowed to grow a Brian Connolly fringe. I did, though, once witness Tommy Cooper reduce an entire theatre audience to helpless laughing morons by merely clearing his throat (into the microsphone) before coming on stage. That's genius!

scarlet-blue said...

Yep, it was Dawson's malleable face and perfect comic timing. He was pretty hot on the joanna as well.
Sx

M C Ward said...

Was it Les that said, "My mother-in-law is so ugly we have to tie a pork chop around her neck to get the dog to play with her"? I like to think so.

He also brought Blankety Blank back from the brink, let's remember.

Mrs Pouncer said...

So sorry, I got so carried away with the graceful old Castilian formula that I couldn't spell Argentinian. And that doesn't look right either.

Gadjo Dilo said...

It's a good 'un, Bananas; as a joke it's a veritable Lancashire hotpot of glee, viciousness, revenge and fine fine rugby.

Oh, Mrs Pouncer, you always bring us back to those esential family values and one day we really should be more voluble in our gratitude. But beware, The Argentian has a silver tongue but all that glisters is not gold.

She was a good looking woman in her prime, Dot. And yes, exactly, that's genius; I never saw much of Tommy Cooper as he was on ITV, but he had it in spades.

Young Scarlet, you're right, he was a whizz on the old Joanna, I'd forgotten that!

MC, that must be him, nobody else could have gotten away with saying that. Blankety F*****g Blank, I actually used to watch that when I could have been out having a life.

"...the graceful old Castilian formula", Mrs P? It doesn't even sound right, if I'm honest.

Mrs Pouncer said...

No, I know. Ignore me. I'm hammered. Bushmills & coke at the Green Man this lunchtime. x

No Good Boyo said...

The way Sir Les would subtly allow his piano to go bitonal at crucial moments was sublime.

I have an East European mother-in-law, Gadjo, and know what you mean. I've always managed to flirt with the mothers of British girlfriends for the reasons you cite, and realize this will never happen with any lady born the mental side of the Danube.

The sort of man who impresses them should have a horse, a full moustache within 48 hours of not shaving, medals won by killing Germans with his elbows, and the ability to down a litre of maize monkey juice while burning a village of [insert despised minority group].

I had a cat, some stubble, fond memories of holidays in the Harz Mountains, a tendency to get naked and cry when under the influence and no record of arson beyond the usual holiday homes.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Boyo that made me laugh out loud, and that's a notoriously difficult trick. I have had two mothers-in-law, the first was from the Atlas mountains, had a tattooed face and spoke no language known to man or beast. She was infinitely preferable to the second one, from Darlington, most memorable quote "I don't like comedy."

Les Dawson was the last of the real northern working men's club comics. It's a tragedy that he is dead and Roy "Chubby" Brown isn't.

Mrs P I'd like to meet your Argentinian son-in-law.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Mmmm Bushmills, Mrs Pouncer. This is an appallingly obvious thing to say, but why add the coke?

You're right Boyo, Les wasn't offkey at all, he was a keen student of Schoenberg. Romanians have been seduced by the EU into thinking that buying shiny consumer goods is preferable to those activities you mention. This may mean continued Peace in Our Time but, you know... babies... bathwater...

Daffers: ooooh, "I don't like comedy", and in a Darlington accent too. Re the Argentian: hey, Mrs P, tell them to "get a room" as only you can!

Kevin Musgrove said...

Les was by far the best exponent of Mancunian logorrhoea I've ever seen or heard. A story goes that he was late (yet again) for a radio recording at the old Hulme Hippodrome (until the eighties this was the venue for the BBC's north of England variety output). When he was asked why he was late again he explained that he'd been "waylaid by a virtuoso on the Bessarabian nose flute, late fallen on hard times in a bordello in Huddersfield."

Les was also notorious for trying to corpse co-workers. Towards the end of its run, "Run For Your Wife" came to the Palace, Manchester. Les starred with Eric Sykes, Peter Goodwright and Gabrielle Drake. By this stage of the game they knew the play inside-out and backwards and each other well enough to try and corpse each other with occasional moments of mischief. Eric Sykes could keep a straight face under very severe provocation and got his own back with a fabulous piece of improvised mime whereby he "accidentally" caught his thumb in the pocket of his raincoat, got it pulled over his head and turned it into an old-fashioned crank movie camera. Description cannot do it justice.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Ah, you're a mine of information Kevin, and a fan too. I hope there's a new generation taking over the comedy reins at the Hulme Hippodrome etc. Bessarabia is quite near here and I'm sure the shepherds there play flutes, so Les may be right on that point.

Barry Teeth, Beet Poet said...

Cheeky bugger.

Les gave us "Knickers, knackers, knockers"! Show some respect.

Gadjo Dilo said...

I have infinite respect for Our Les, and thanks for dropping by, Mr Teeth. I shall endeavour to have a look at your site soon - and to say "Knickers, knackers, knockers" when the appropriate occasion arises!

Autolycus said...

You forgot "Mussolini in knickers"

Gadjo Dilo said...

"Mussolini in knickers", sir?? I'd like to see a picture, if you've got one, just for research purposes.

Tenon_Saw said...

I still play the piano like he did!

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