Robert Alan Monkhouse OBE
(1 June 1928 – 29 December 2003) was an English entertainer
. He was a successful comedy
and was also well known on British television
as a presenter
and game show
host. Monkhouse was famous for his quick ad-lib
and one-liner jokes
Monkhouse was born in Beckenham
, the son of a prosperous Methodist
businessman who owned Monk and Glass, which made custard. Whilst still a schoolboy at Dulwich College
, from which he was later expelled, Monkhouse wrote for the comics The Beano
and The Dandy
and subsequently drew for Hotspur
comics. Amongst other writing, he penned over 100 Harlem Hotspots
Monkhouse completed his national service with the RAF in 1948. He won a contract with the BBC after his unwitting Group Captain signed a letter Monkhouse had written informing the BBC he was a war hero and that they should give him an audition.
Writing and acting success
Monkhouse's adult career began as a scriptwriter for radio
comedy in partnership with Denis Goodwin
, a fellow Old Alleynian
with whom he also compéred Smash Hits on Radio Luxembourg
. Alongside performing as a double act, Monkhouse and Goodwin wrote for comedians such as Arthur Askey
, Jimmy Edwards
, Ted Ray
and Max Miller
. In addition, Monkhouse was a gag-writer for American comedians including Bob Hope
when they wanted jokes for British tours.
In 1956, Monkhouse was cast as the host of Do You Trust Your Wife?, the British version of an American gameshow. He would go on to host more than 30 different quiz shows on British television. His public profile growing, Monkhouse also began appearing in comedy films, including the first of the Carry On film series, Carry On Sergeant in 1958. He appeared in films and television programmes throughout his career, making guest appearances particularly in later years. Other presenting jobs in the 1960s included hosting Candid Camera and compering Sunday Night at the London Palladium. In 1979 he starred in a sketch comedy television series called Bonkers! with the Hudson Brothers.
In the early 1970s he appeared on BBC Radio in Mostly Monkhouse with Josephine Tewson and David Jason.
Monkhouse was well known for hosting television quiz shows. One of his biggest successes was The Golden Shot
during the late 1960s. This was broadcast live for 52 weeks a year and drew in up to 17 million viewers. The dozens of other shows Monkhouse presented included Celebrity Squares
, Bob's Full House
and Family Fortunes
. Audiences regularly topped 15 million. In the late 1980s he hosted two series of the revival of the talent show Opportunity Knocks
which aired as Bob Says Opportunity Knocks.
In 1996, Monkhouse presented the National Lottery show on Saturday evenings on BBC One. The opening to each show would see him deliver several minutes of topical jokes, and on one occasion where his Autocue failed, he improvised a new and still topical routine. This talent was used in Bob Monkhouse On The Spot, a return to pure television comedy, in which audience members suggested topics and Monkhouse came up with a routine. Monkhouse returned to quizzes in 1998 when he took over hosting duties on Wipeout from Paul Daniels.
Other professional interests
An expert on the history of silent cinema
and a movie
collector, he presented Mad Movies
in 1966, in which he presented clips from comic silent movies, some of which he had helped to recover and restore. His film collection was the cause of a court case at the Old Bailey
in 1979 after he was charged with attempting to defraud film distributors, but he was acquitted.
A genius at ad-lib, Monkhouse became a sought-after speaker for dinners and similar events. In 1976 he was the speaker at the Mars Ltd (Mars confectionery) sales conference held at what was then the Excelsior Hotel on Bath Road opposite Heathrow airport. He had been appearing in a television advert for Polaroid cameras, and he told the joke, 'I am the only man ever allowed to say on television "you take it out and hold it in your hand, and in only 20 seconds it develops - or a minute if you want it in colour."'
Awards and influence
Monkhouse became a favourite with impressionists
, and, as his style fell out of favour in the 1980s, he was mocked for his slickness and accused of insincerity. He came back into fashion during the 1990s, and appearances on Have I Got News For You
restored his popularity. The British Comedy Awards
handed him the Lifetime Achievement for Comedy
honour in 1995. The Television and Radio Industries Club
awarded him a Special Award - for outstanding contribution to broadcasting
in 2003. In a 2005 poll of fellow comedians and comedy insiders to find The Comedians' Comedian
, Monkhouse was voted among the best 50 comedy acts ever.
Monkhouse was married twice, to Elizabeth in 1949 (divorced in 1972), and then to Jacqueline in 1973, for the rest of his life. He had three children from his first marriage, but only his daughter Abigail survived him. His son Gary, who had cerebral palsy
, died in 1992, his son Simon, from whom he had been estranged for almost a decade, died of a heroin overdose in a Bangkok
hotel in 2001.
In July 1995, Monkhouse appealed for the return of a ring binder that constituted one of his 'joke books', offering a £10,000 reward. The book, which contained notes on sketches and one-liners, for which Monkhouse was most famous, was returned after 18 months.
Monkhouse was appointed an OBE in 1993. He succumbed to prostate cancer on 29 December 2003.
On 12 June 2007, Monkhouse appeared posthumously on a British
TV advert promoting awareness of prostate cancer
for Male Cancer Awareness Week. Monkhouse was seen in a graveyard next to his own gravestone talking about the disease seriously, combined with a humorous side to the advert which included trademark one-liners, like "What killed me kills one man per hour in Britain. That's even more than my wife's cooking"
. He ended by saying "As a comedian, I've died many deaths. Prostate cancer, I don't recommend. I'd have paid good money to stay out of here. What's it worth to you?"
before walking away from his grave and disappearing. The advert was created by computer technology, by using archive of Monkhouse, combined with a body-double looking at the grave and walking around the graveyard, and an actor who imitated his voice. The advert was made with the support of Monkhouse's family and supported by poster campaigns.
Partial Career Summary
As a performer
As a writer
- Fast And Loose UK 1954
- Cyril's Saga UK 1957
- Early To Braden UK 1957
- My Pal Bob UK 1957
- The Bob Monkhouse Hour UK 1958
- The Big Noise UK 1964
- The Bob Monkhouse Comedy Hour UK 1972
- I'm Bob, He's Dickie UK 1977
- Marti UK 1977
- Bonkers! UK 1979
- An Audience With Bob Monkhouse UK 1994
- Bob Monkhouse On The Spot UK 1995
- Bob Monkhouse - Over The Limit UK 1998
As an author
- Book of Days, 1981, ISBN 0099271508
- Crying with Laughter: My Life Story 1994 ISBN 0099255812
- Over the Limit: My Secret Diaries 1993-98, 1999 ISBN 0099799812
- The World of Jonathan Creek with Steve Clark, 1999, ISBN 0563551356
- Just Say a Few Words 2004 ISBN 0753509083
As a singer
As a voice actor
Famous Bob Monkhouse one-liners include:
- "Dulwich College takes me back after seventy years: My Mum must have written one hell of a sick note!"
- "They laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian. They're not laughing now."
- "Personally, I don't think there's intelligent life on other planets. Why should other planets be any different from this one?"
- "Silence is not only golden, it is seldom misquoted."
- "Marriage is an investment which pays dividends if you pay interest."
- "I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my father. Not screaming and terrified like his passengers."
- "Growing old is compulsory - growing up is optional."
- "As a comic, you need every wrinkle. Having a facelift would be like asking a tap dancer to have his feet lopped off."
- "I came home and found that my son was taking drugs - my very best ones too!" (on Have I Got News For You)
- "I'm rather relaxed about death. From quite an early age I've regarded it as part of the deal, the unwritten guarantee that comes with your birth certificate."
- "So you are half Welsh and half Hungarian, that means you are well-hung!" (on V Graham Norton)
- (on stage as a veteran comic)"You'll be glad to hear, I can still enjoy sex at 74 which is great because I live at 75.
- "I can remember when safe sex meant a padded headboard."
- "It got up to 94 degrees today - that's pretty good at my age."
- "People often think I'm from Kent. I hear them whisper it as I walk past."
- On his visits to Princess Grace Hospital for treatment after being diagnosed with prostate cancer--"I've been in and out of Princess Grace more often than Prince Rainier."
- "Should you wish to piss...." (an infamous blooper when presenting The $64,000 Question in which he mispronounced the word "pass")
Game show catchphrases
- "Bernie.... the bolt!" - catchphrase on The Golden Shot.
- "In Bingo lingo clickety-clicks, it's time to take your pick of the six"- catchphrase on Bob's Full House.