Harry Secombe. Copyright: BBC.

Harry Secombe: Unsung Comedian

BBC Radio Wales documentary celebrating Harry Secombe. 1 episode in 2021. Features Gareth Gwynn, Paul Merton, Barry Cryer, Ruth Madoc and others.

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Harry Secombe: Unsung Comedian

A profile of the comedian, singer and religious programming host, in the month of his 100th birthday

BBC Radio Wales
Gareth Gwynn, Paul Merton, Barry Cryer, Ruth Madoc, Gemma Arrowsmith, Andrew Secombe, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and others
Gareth Gwynn

September 2021 marks 100 years since the birth of Sir Harry Secombe. Despite being a remarkable singer and the face of tea-time religious programming, comedy writer Gareth Gwynn wishes to put all that to one side and concentrate solely on Sir Harry's incredible comedic legacy.

Ignoring Sir Harry's musical output sounds sacrilegious (literally, given how many of them were hymns), but Gareth believes Sir Harry's comedy career marks him out as one of the most important comedians Wales has ever produced - and fears his contribution and influence is in serious danger of being overlooked.

Gareth traces Secombe's career from World War II, where he entertained the troops by shaving on-stage, to the radio shows which made his name - Variety Bandbox, Welsh Rarebit, Educating Archie and, of course, The Goon Show.

Standing in the middle of Spike Milligan's flights of fancy and Peter Sellers' dizzying array of voices, Harry Secombe guided the listener through The Goon Show's surreal landscape - holding things together on-stage, as Neddie Seagoon, and off-stage, where he acted as the trio's affable peacemaker.

Archive recordings featuring The Goons, Ray Ellington, Archie Andrews and Shirley Bassey are accompanied by Sir Harry's appearances on Parkinson, Wogan, Desert Island Discs, Meet For Lunch, Songs Of Praise and The Harry Secombe Show, as Gareth attempts to untangle Secombe the comic from Secombe the singer.

Gareth also speaks to writers and comedians who knew or were influenced by Sir Harry including Paul Merton, Barry Cryer, Ruth Madoc and Gemma Arrowsmith, as well as his son, Andy Secombe, in this look back at the life of an undoubtedly much loved public figure - but also an exceptionally important one in the history of Welsh comedy.

Production Details

Production company
Laugh track

Broadcast details

First broadcast
Friday 3rd September 2021 on BBC Radio Wales at 6:30pm
Episode length
30 minutes
Last repeat
Monday 6th September 2021 at 5:30am