Roger Holmes

Roger Holmes

Here’s a few more of those comedy pairs from times past, some from not so long ago. Hayes and Benny , for instance. A smart guy was up on stage, trying to sing. His partner entered the room from the back, dressed as a tramp, and began to disrupt proceedings. All very well, but sometimes he had to get into the club from the outside, past the doorman. There are tales of this proving difficult, even impossible sometimes. I can sympathise. There are clubs where, not being a regular, one felt it would be easier to enter the Kremlin than get past that door keeper. Only a month ago I turned up at a place where the chap on the door solemnly read every word on my C.I.U. Affiliation card before allowing me to pass. In similar vein Lester & Smart had the chap trying to sing on stage while being constantly interrupted by a waiter noisily going around the tables with a tray. These two, I believe, emigrated to Australia and did quite well for themselves there.

Babs & Spider used a similar format more recently. After some inspired idiocy, Spider, among the crowd, declared himself fed up and going off to Australia. “So what” Babs replied,”it’s not the other side of the world.” In 1999 folk were concerned with what was going on in Kosovo, and Monk Bretton Club was holding a Charity Concert in aid of refugees from there. Babs & Spider were among those taking part, but despite working hard they were hardly getting any laughs.. In the interval the Chairman came over to me and explained that most of the folk there were from Kosovo and didn’t understand English. The pair later left the business in favour of the licenced trade, a great loss to entertainment.

The formula of a smart vocalist and a mischievous crackpot worked well again for Funnybones, launched in 1993 by brothers Brian and Malcolm Cunningham. (If memory serves me right they were ex-miners from the Castleford area.) They had an immediate impact with some strong and fresh material, including a very funny Twenty Questions session which kept going off at a tangent. Though successful they decided to pursue other interests and left the scene. Briefly they returned in 2011 to take part in “A Tribute to Tony Wayne” in Crigglestone to mark Tony’s retirement from the stage. Their cameo spot added to the convivial mood of the proceedings despite us realising what we were missing in our clubs.

Elaine & Johnny Jackson were another very popular pair. Johnny, a master of deadpan humour, was both creative and original, quick off the mark with topical material. Rather blue though, particularly by the standards of the ’70s. So many different styles from so many artistes, surely there must be something for everybody. But then, after a truly clever, uproarious spot, the wife of a friend of mine, sitting at our table turned and said “Too daft to laugh at.”

Some of the musical duos worked in a light-hearted way. I always appreciated the Meers Brothers with their spirited offering on brass instruments. Similarly, although not a comedy duo, Miller & Wood’s lively musical offering was very popular. Once, I think it was at Birdwell, after their set a punter asked one of them if he would give him guitar lesions.. “No, I don’t do them,” was the reply, ”the chap you want is over there, he’s the one who taught me,” pointing to me. And I had one hell of a job to persuade this guy that I couldn’t even play the guitar. Even then I wasn’t sure he believed me.

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