An Audience With Bob Monkhouse

An Audience With Bob Monkhouse

1994 - United Kingdom

Review by Brian Slade

Bob Monkhouse had a plethora of game and quiz shows that helped him remain on British television screens for many years. However, in amongst the success of those programmes was a belief in some quarters that in doing so many of them, Bob Monkhouse the comedian was lost. In 1994, viewers got to see Monkhouse excel in a format that he was best at – holding court with anecdotes and wisecracks in front of a live audience. If ever the format of the procession of An Audience with… programmes that aired over the years on ITV was made for a performer, it was when the title was completed as An Audience with Bob Monkhouse.

Monkhouse had far more strings to his bow than standing in front of an audience or starting questions with, ‘top five answers on the board.’ He had an acting career which included the inaugural Carry On… film, Carry On Sargeant, but his showbusiness career had started as a double act with Dennis Goodwin, with whom he also wrote gags for some of the finest comedians of the day.

During the 50s and 60s, Bob drifted into hosting as opposed to an out and out performer. He fronted Candid Camera in its earliest days and eventually became a huge success hosting The Golden Shot, and from there his career seemed to focus on game shows.

The Golden Shot

In the 70s and 80s in particular, audiences saw as many people performing impressions of Bob as they did programmes with Bob in them. With such flattery comes exaggeration, and so the British public had come to believe that he was an expert game show host who carried as much smarm as charm, meaning his story-spinning gag-filled stand-up routines were largely forgotten.

The questions fired at him during An Audience With… played somewhat on the reputation his persona had somehow gathered. Bob’s stand-up routine was somewhat on the risqué side, even though he was from a generation where such shows seemed more appropriate for the new batch of comics dominating the airwaves. Questions included why his routines seemed to include so much sex, and one asked about the breadth of his talent, with the ending quip, ‘Someone tells me you do game shows as well.’

That line was confirmation that Monkhouse wasn’t afraid to send himself up. One of the planted questions was indeed, ‘why have you spent the last 20 years doing gameshows?’ Bob’s gag-ridden response eventually led to him declaring that it was easier to ask questions than to answer them.

An Audience With Bob Monkhouse

Most of An Audience With… is a testament to how Bob, and comedians like him, were navigating the changing face of comedy. His audience were representative of an era of entertainment perhaps coming to an end, with established comedy figures and soap opera cast members of a certain age firing the questions. The jokes included the standard ‘my wife…’ jokes typical of an older generation, but included the acceptance of political correctness, a trend that he acknowledged was quite right to a degree but bemoaned that you couldn’t even criticise France!

There are some very funny extended routines, including one particularly good story of a man called to partake in the live transmission of The Golden Shot, despite the fact that his television set had been repossessed by Rumbelows, so he was only able to see pictures through a shop window when telling Bernie the Bolt to go left or right. Bob concludes the show with a remarkably planned routine remembering the acronym of the show’s name courtesy of the attributes and names of the members of his celebrity audience.

An Audience With Bob Monkhouse

Monkhouse’s standing in the comedy world certainly benefitted from his appearance on the An Audience With… cannon. A newfound respect seemed to be forthcoming from the comedians starting their careers, despite Bob continuing to host game shows through to his passing. Evidence of this was in an evening at the Albany Comedy Club in 2003, the last time he would perform stand-up before his death and well after his terminal cancer diagnosis. The small but select audience consisted of a new batch of comedy stars, there to pay their respects to a master at work, and Monkhouse clearly felt the love of his peers that evening in a relaxed intimate setting.

Bob Monkhouse

That final show was evidence of what a great comedian Bob Monkhouse was. An Audience With Bob Monkhouse came a year before he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Comedy at the British Comedy Awards, and clearly and justly proved that there was far more to Bob than just a quick-witted game show host.

Published on July 9th, 2024. Written by Brian Slade for Television Heaven.

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