Comedy Songs - The Pop Years. Copyright: Shine / BBC.

Comedy Songs - The Pop Years

Press Clippings

TV Review: Comedy Songs - The Pop Years

I love a comedy song - a much maligned genre that in fact takes a hell of lot of talent to get right - but could this documentary really offer enough interesting material to fill a marathon ninety minutes?

Anna Lowman, TV Scoop, 18th June 2009

BBC4 Comedy Songs serenade 606,000

BBC4's feature-length Comedy Songs: The Pop Years was something of a surprise hit last night at 9pm with 606,000 viewers (3.2% share), the channel's third biggest hit so far this year.

Jon Rogers, Broadcast, 17th June 2009

As proven by this amiable documentary, hallowed practitioners of the musical spoof include acts as diverse as Bill Bailey, The Two Ronnies, Tom Lehrer, Monty Python and Victoria Wood, who's breathlessly funny Let's Do It is one of the greatest comedy songs ever written, and I'll mud-wrestle anyone who says otherwise.

All of which poses the question: why can't all channels be as good as this?

Paul Whitelaw, The Scotsman, 23rd December 2008

Tribute is paid to a very different form of entertainment in Comedy Songs: The Pop Years. But what exactly, one of the first questions asks, is a comedy song?

"A song that makes you laugh," suggests Victoria Wood. She should know, having sung dozens in her breakthrough TV gig on consumer show, That's Life.

She's an original whose song, Let's Do It Again, is described as a mix of George Gershwin and Alan Bennett, as she celebrates "the absurdity of the mundane".

Who cannot warm to a song whose lyrics include the lines "Bend me over backwards on me Hostess trolley" and "Beat me on the bottom with a Woman's Weekly"? Eat your heart out, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The history of comedy songs reflects the changing voice of comedy in general, from music hall songs, to Peter Kay's recent number one, as Geraldine with The Winner's Song.

Writer David Quantick traces the origins of the comedy song back to "some pillock in a jester's hat with a lute, singing about his genitals to the king, making it up as he went along".

One thing about comedy songs is that they may be irritating, but you can't stop singing them. The skiffle era gave birth to such memorable ditties as Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour On The Bedpost Overnight? What sort of mind comes up with a lyric like that?

The birth of the singles chart in the early 1950s meant that comedy songs could make money. The Barron Knights and The Goons had hits. There were topical songs at the start of TV's That Was The Week That Was, and Benny Hill sang about Ernie, who drove the fastest milkcart in the west.

Many songs came from TV shows like The Two Ronnies, The Goodies (doing the funky gibbon) and It Ain't Half Hot Mum duo Don Estelle and Windsor Davies duetting on Whispering Grass.

Comedy songs gave hits to people who wouldn't normally expect to make the charts. Barry Cryer recalls having a number one in Finland 50 years ago with a cover version of Purple People Eater - which, on reflection, sounds like something you might find in Crooked House.

Steve Pratt, The Northern Echo, 22nd December 2008