Beyond a Joke

1972 | United Kingdom

Sketch show featuring Eleanor Bron, John Bird (both of whom were credited as writers alongside Michael Frayn) and Barrie Ingham. 

Each show began with the trio sitting round a piano singing out of tune while Bron tinkled very badly with the ivories. The series ran for just six episodes on BBC2. It was very much built around what writer Mark Lewisohn describes as Bron's "indefinable talent." Bron had begun her career in the Cambridge Footlights review of 1959 (an amateur theatrical club run by the students of Cambridge University), until then a bastion of male talent where the only females characters that appeared were men in drag. The tour show that year, The Last Laugh, also featured Peter Cook and John Bird. 

Bron's film appearances include the role of Ahme in the Beatles film Help!; the character's name allegedly inspired Paul McCartney when he composed "Eleanor Rigby". Bronhad also appeared in other TV shows of the time including appearances on David Frost's Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life, a satire produced by Ned Sherrin. John Bird appeared in this show, too. A satirist, actor and comedian Bird was intended by Ned Sherrin for David Frost's role in That Was The Week That Was, but was unable to take up the offer due to prior commitments. Barrie Ingham is better known for his straight roles rather than comedy and has featured in over 200 British and American films and TV productions. 

Although only a short series, Beyond A Joke is still regarded as a prime example of the 1970s sketch-show genre and recently featured in a BBC one-off special called The Comedy Vaults: BBC2's Hidden Treasure - where one of the few surviving sketches were shown. 

Published on November 29th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.