BBC Four is shortly to run a Curse Of Comedy season, with new dramas looking at the lives of Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd and Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell.
In The Times, legendary scriptwriters Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who wrote for Hancock and Howerd and created Steptoe, say that what they remember most was the laughter.
We are both very suspicious of the “laugh clown laugh” concept, the Pagliacci syndrome that underneath the motley all comedians are miserable bastards. In our experience the most miserable comics were the rotten ones and thus had plenty to be miserable about. For instance Frankie Howerd, off stage, providing he was talking about himself, was the happiest man you could meet. Wonderful company and a genuinely funny man, which is all that matters. His private life had nothing to do with you, us, or anybody else. His demise wasn't sad; he achieved more than his allotted three score years and ten and could have carried on carrying on for years. There wasn't a grey hair in his wig. As Frank would have said, the only tragedy was that it had to come to an end.