Simon Fanshawe.

Open That Door: Gay Comedy In The Last 30 Years

BBC Radio 4 documentary. 1 episode in 2010. Features Simon Fanshawe, Julian Clary, Barry Cryer, Graham Norton, Rhona Cameron and Paul Sinha.

Press Clippings

We do love a bit of camp, we Brits. Frankie Howerd, Larry Grayson, Dick Emery, Mr Humphries aka John Inman all perpetuated the non-threatening camp stereotype in the sixties and seventies - unlimited innuendo but no sex please, we're British.

That all changed in the eighties with the coming of alternative comedy and the black leather-clad Julian Clary. Camp's hidden agenda was well and truly outed, paving the way for Rhona Cameron, Graham Norton, Simon Fanshawe and others to do full-frontal gay comedy, warts and all.

In The Archive Hour, Simon Fanshawe traced the history of gay comedy over the past 30 years, from the double standards of Howerd and Grayson, always fearful of alienating the audience by appearing openly homosexual, through the overtly gay material of Clary and Cameron to today's more androgynous approach, where the quality of the material counts for more than any concerns about sexuality.

You got the impression Julian Clary quite missed the shock and awe days of the eighties - "I enjoyed the sharp intake of breath when I crossed the line" - though Fanshawe was in no doubt that today's open-minded audiences were much to be preferred.

Graham Norton said he soon got bored with doing gay jokes, having traded on his gayness at first, and consciously started to introduce other subjects. "I was lucky in that I could do Irish jokes as well as gay jokes," he said.

I'd never heard of the Australian Brendan Burns, a straight stand-up who does a funny line in anti-homophobic material, nor the Anglo-Bengali gay stand-up Paul Sinha, but their contributions sent me scurrying off to YouTube to see further exposure.

Nick Smurthwaite, The Stage, 28th September 2010