One of my photos

Amused to death

September 2nd, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 2 Comments · Life

British comedy has had a bad week with the death of Ken Campbell following very soon after that of Geoffrey Perkins.  If it was possible to measure such things objectively I think you would find the world is now several percentage points less funny than it was last week.

Neither Perkins nor Campbell were really big household names but being in the mainstream spotlight is not everything.  Geoffrey Perkins’ work behind the scenes brought us such varied delights as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Father Ted, Mornington Crescent and Drop The Dead Donkey.  He was a dedicated comedy professional. Ken Campbell, on the other hand, was one of those maverick, genius, eccentrics that crop up from time to time – like Malcolm Hardee or Spike Milligan.

I was most familiar with Ken Campbell for his odd guest appearances as Alf Garnett’s neighbour and a few TV appearances with his science fiction theatre, but he did so much more.  For me he was one of those people who, like Tommy Cooper, could make me laugh without necessarily doing anything.

Just have a look at Campbell’s obituary in the Guardian, or his Wikipedia entry. What a life story!  You know that bit in Austin Powers where Dr. Evil gives his abbreviated life story?

My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a 15-year-old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would drink; he would womanize. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes, he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy…

…and so on.  Ken Campbell’s life story reads like that, except that nobody could invent something so weird.  My favourite detail is that he was for a time a professor of ventriloquism at Rada.  As for influence, just look at some of the people he worked with and in some cases gave a first job to: Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Chris Langham, Sylvester McCoy…

Interestingly, he auditioned for the role of Doctor Who in 1987 when the part eventually went to McCoy.  How different things would have been if he had got that part.  For a start, I wouldn’t have stopped watching it then.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Gordon Seekings

    The link you provided on Ken Campbell didn’t mention that he was also the Police Sergeant in the film “Saving Grace” (a modern “Ealing Comedy” of a few years ago also starring Gillian Blethin). What amused me most about him in that film was not only his eyebrows entering a scene before he did but for some unacountable reason the outlandishy large OTT seargent’s stripes on his uniform….

  • Skuds

    His eyebrows alone should have been declared a national treasure!