Before the next programme, over to Gordon Baker in the BBC newsroom for a newsflash.
We’ve just heard from Scotland Yard that a very dangerous pantomime has escaped from the Victoria Palace Maximum Bygraves Wing. The public are advised not to try to approach this pantomime, or do anything silly, like bathing their feet in warm treacle and going ‘Blbrblrbrlblrblblbl’. The show in question is described as having a pale, caucasian Wishy Washy, with prominent Twankeys and a six-foot Dandini. Police fear that it may by now have false Abanazers, rendering it virtually undetectable in heavy traffic. The public are asked to phone this number immediately if they are offered a glass slipper to try on under suspicious circumstances. And that is the end of this newsflash.
Radio Four jingle (listen to it)
This is Radio Four.
Oh no, it isn’t!
Oh yes, it is!
Oh no, it isn’t!
Burkiss Way opening signature tune
Do you find life is just a pantomime, do you yearn for that moral uplift to give meaning to your existence, do you crave that inspirational theism that will kindle the embers of your soul, do you quite like Malcom Muggeridge? Well, with the help of Jo Kendall, Nigel Rees, Chris Emmett and Fred Harris the Burkiss Way to Dynamic Living will solve all your problems. Stay tuned now for Lesson 9 in our incredible series of correspondence courses, Gain Spiritual Fulfilment The Burkiss Way.
Hello again, hello. Well, before we begin this week’s course of the Burkiss Way to Dynamic Living, here is an important announcement:
Because of a rule laid down in the government charter, the BBC is severely limited in the amount of comedy it is allowed to broadcast. A maximum of six laughs is in fact permitted on the air each evening. Normally of course, the BBC is able to keep well below that figure. But tonight, with the Prime Minister’s broadcast to the nation coming up, we’ve been allowed only one slightly suppressed chortle for this entire programme.
slightly suppressed chortle
And that was it.
Now for the remainder of tonight’s show we shall, I’m afraid, have to be entirely serious. We’ve even cut out the reference to Nicholas Parsons’ brain transplant – and how the monkey is struggling for recovery. Because we’re determined not to get any cheap laughs at his expense.
In addition, we’ve engaged a highly skilled BBC audience, who have been specially trained not to laugh, cheer, giggle, simper, smile, or in any way enjoy themselves. If you’ve ever watched the Nine O’Clock News on television, you’ll know just how inconspicuous they can be.
Well all this sobriety is in fact especially appropriate tonight, because this programme is all about religious beliefs. How To Gain Spiritual Fulfilment The Burkiss Way. In primeval days, many people believed life stemmed from the enormous red object that rose in the east and set in the west. Others believed it stemmed from the sun. Well, we’re not going to tell which god we worship, because as Professor Emil Burkiss—
choir singing ‘Hallelujah!’ (from Hallelujah Chorus by Händel)
—says, your faith is a very private thing. It certainly isn’t something to be banded about for personal gain, as I think this next item clearly demonstrates.
knocking on door
Er, good morning, is this the insurance office, my [love ?]?
Yes, that’s correct.
Ah, I’ve, I’ve come about the policy, I want to insure myself.
I want to insure myself against becoming Jewish.
That’s [fine, yes alright ?] … I, I’m sorry?
I want to insure myself against becoming Jewish. Maximum cover, not too high a premium, with an investment and endowment scheme if possible.
Ye.. er look, er perhaps you’d better take a seat.
Oh thank you, thank you.
he sits down
Er, you’re comfortable?
I get by, I get by…
Ahem, now look, er what you suggest is of course a reasonable idea, yes, but we, well we would want to be satisfied that the, the risk of your becoming Jewish was as it were minimised as far as possible.
You mean, you think I’m already Jewish?
Oh no no, no no, no.
Oh, you think I’m Jewish already?
N.. no no no.
If you think I’m Jewish just come right out and say it.
I think you’re Jewish. Oh, no! No, no no no, really, no, I I, I don’t, I don’t think that. Look, look, perhaps we’d better just take your name, Mist..Mister erm…?
A – bra – ham. That— that’s a, er, that’s a nice name. And the address?
35 Bar Mitzvah Gardens, NW11.
Yees. Now, now look, Mister Abraham—
Oh please, please, call me Ruben.
Ruben, Ruben look, I, I don’t personally doubt your sincerity, of course no but, but I can’t answer for my superiors—
Superior, schmuperiors, look, can’t they take a man’s word he’s not Jewish?
Ah now, now there you are, you see, now that’s the sort of thing that would arouse their suspicions, that Jewish expression.
I can’t help my face.
Anyway, believe me, I’m not Jewish. See how miserable I am? Jewish people, they’re funny, they’ve got great sense of humour – look at Max Bygraves!
Er… er now, well now er, Max Bygraves isn’t Jewish.
Exactly. Believe me, I am a Gentile, I’m as Goy as they come. You consider—
Mister Abraham, it strikes me that you don’t fully understand the principles of insurance.
Now look, per— perhaps I’d better explain.
Oh go on then.
Insurance: Insurance is where the client pays out vast sums of money each month to a company like ours…
Yeah. Well that’s the principle of insurance, is it. Well look, [??], it would be utterly impractical for us to insure you against something when there was the, the vaguest likelihood of it happening. Now if you wanted us to insure you against becoming a Catholic—
Oh do me a favour, you think I’m stupid? What would I want with a policy against conversion to catholicism, I mean—
The premium only one pound a month.
I’ll take it.
Thank you, Sir, and if you just sign here…
There we are.
Fine, good day, Sir, pleasure to have done business with you.
Good day, good day.
(changing to Irish accent) Oh dear, ahh, ah, well that, that worked a treat, Murphy, come on, where’s the next one? Come on.
Well, in accordance with BBC courtesy regulations, we’d like to apologise for any offence that sketch may have caused to people of a Jewish disposition.
Yes. We’d also like to apologise to all snotty little pasty-faced insurance clerks, who just want to con you for the commission, all people by the name of Max Bygraves and all Irish confidence tricksters. And we’d also like to apologise to all chubby Chancellors of the Exchequer with big eyebrows for the next item.
Hello. It’s very difficult trying to save in these troubled times, isn’t it? That’s why more and more people are putting their money in the Healey Building Society. You see, we at Healey know what we’re doing. With your money, we can build up sound investments in top money-spinning companies, companies like the Tel Aviv Pork Pie Company, the Mary Celeste Shipping Lines, and of course the Krakatoa Noise-Abatement Society. Simply write now for further details to the Healey Building Society, brackets I must be going batty, Stepney. You know it makes sense.
Mister Healey – who is of course nothing short of a brilliant Chancellor. Er sorry, I read that wrong. Erm, Mister Healey, who is of course nothing – short of a brilliant Chancellor Britain has now had. Well, the government’s economic strategy brings us to prayers, which brings us back to religion.
The church can of course be the scene of great joy or great sadness. We all know there’s nothing quite so sad as that tragic moment when they carry your poor old uncle Silas slowly down the aisle – and you think to yourself ‘The old fool couldn’t even stay sober for his own wedding.’
Being in church is not a time to sit and stare at the knees of the girl in the adjoining pew – it’s time to think of higher things. Above all, it’s a time for honouring the church collection. Don’t put in a measly little pound note, be more generous. Put in a milk bottle top, or a couple of buttons.
(from the back of the audience) Couple of what?
sound of feet running
Er, ahem, erm ha, I’m not quite sure what’s going here, I, I, I think we’d better get straight on with our next item.
Afternoon. I’m the plumber, madam.
Yes, I’ve come to install the new pope in your bathroom.
I beg your pardon?
I’ve come to install a new pope, in your bathroom.
(nervous laugh) Ha, you mean pipe.
No, pope. Look, it’s written down there.
(nervous laugh) No no, that’s a mistake.
Ohh, I see. I thought it was a bit funny, haha. Pope in the bathroom.
Where would you like your pope then?
I beg your pardon? Erm, er look, I, I don’t want it anywhere. I don’t want a pope in my house at all.
Oh, you’ll never regret it, madam. More and more people are going over to papal heating nowadays, you know.
Oh yes, a couple of pontiffs in each room and a cardinal on the landing, just the thing for the winter! Right, shall I make a start?
Er ha, the whole thing’s obviously a typing error.
You try telling the thirty-five gallon inquisitor I’ve got in the van he’s a typing error! See where it gets you.
But I don’t understand. Do you mean to say, people actually have major Roman Catholics instead of radiators?
That’s right, madam, that’s right. As seen in the Sunday supplements. Now, for here, here, let’s see: You’d need a Benedict Fourteenth under the window, then say two Pius Ninths along this wall, [couple two ?] of Monseigneur over the sink, and maybe a small Primate stove on the landing. Would you er like a demonstration?
Erm, well, alright then.
Right. Er, ’arry erm, bring us in that Clement and a small adjustable Gregory, will you?
[Hang on, Guv’, hang on… ?]
metallic clanking/rumbling noises, continuing in the background
(starts chanting Latin-sounding incantations, continues in the background)
Oh er Betty, er pass me that er s-bend [??]. Ta. Now, there we are, madam. That’s just a small Clement the Third. For a proper system, you’d need a new Cold Water Sisteen.
Erm, er look, it, it’s all very nice, of course, but erm—
Yes, yes, yes?
Well with no disrespect—
Oh what, madam, what?
—well, i..i..it doesn’t seem to be very hot.
Weell, neither would you be if you’d been buried in the vatican since fifteen forty-three.
(fades into foreground) Te sub extrema clausis, telluris—
—savantris oditur. Prima manus sabelli terras… (continues in background)
Er, excuse me?
I think this pope’s leaking.
Ah, er, well hang on, I’ll just tighten him ’ere with me spanner.
he does so
… de fustibus non est g— (stops)
dripping noises stop
There we are, madam, I think that’s worked alright.
a strong wind starts blowing
… what’s happening? I’m being swept off my feet. I’m being picked up by great swirling winds and lifted high into the air, oh help! Get me down! I’m being whisked away, I’m floating in the air with my skirts billowing and my limbs flailing around me and ohhh, if only I was on television!
I wouldn’t have to keep giving this ridiculous running commentary on everything! Ahhhh, I’m being blown awaay (she fades into the distance), faaar, faaar awaaaay…
Muaaahhh haa ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaa! Huah ha ha ha ha haa!
Eh, what do I do now?
Ahem, well I’m sorry there appears to be another slight hitch there in our programme. Er, in the meantime, we’ll—
Oh, excuse me.
phone handset being taken off cradle
This is your Fairy Godmother here. I am speaking on behalf of the escaped pantomime, which has now taken refuge in your programme. As from now, you must not be surprised if some of our characters start popping up in your sketches.
Er what have you done with the woman in the last item?
The housewife in the pope sketch has been whisked off by Aladdin’s wicked uncle to his magic castle, and is at this moment being laid in the dungeon – lucky girl! And I, I must now ask you for the ransom: Can you put your hands on a huge pumpkin?
Er not without being taken off the air. Look, look… look I’m not paying you a penny!
Very well. In that case, I must hand you over to the Pantomime Gang’s strong-arm man. Prince Charming, they’re being awkward!
Alright, leave it to me! Now listen, chief, that’s a nice show you got there!
But it’d be a pity if something happened to it, like do you follow my meaning John?
What are you getting at?
Well, me and the Ugly Sisters were thinking, it’d be a real shame if it got like panto’d up a bit! Understand me, squire?
Enough, we’re not having any of your cheap pantomime comedy on this show; it’s supposed to be a serious discourse on spiritual enlightenment. This is the BBC you know, not a vehicle for entertainment!
Is that your last word?
It probably will be.
Very well, but you’ll be sorry!
phone handset being replaced on cradle
Ha! Well we’re very sorry about that, ladies and—
Told you so!
Get out! We shall endeavour to press [on how ??], with the more serious topic of moral awakening. Now, one of the guiding principles in religion is to try and keep your soul untainted for that time when you meet your maker. The time on this occasion being eleven fifteen pm.
[???] signature tune
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Michael Chatshow.
Hello. If my tongue er looks a bit darker than usual tonight, ladies and gentlemen, it’s because I’ve just been recording an interview with Orson Welles, who of course does wear very dark shoes. My first guest tonight however rarely has need of such footwear, Dean Martin once said of him ‘He’s hic burp hic, one of the burp hic hic hic nicest hic hic burp in the business.’ Ladies and gentlemen, will you welcome please, Almighty God.
[???] signature tune jingle
Well er, welcome to the show and just er take a seat there. Er, well Almighty, I’ve – call I, can I call you Al? – er, I’ve…, I’ve just been er reading your book er, actually, ahem, hrm excuse me, which I must say I enjoyed immensely, I think it was probably Jean Kelly who said er ‘When I were a lad in Barnsley’, I mean, er can you tell me, er, what was it like working with Cecil B. DeMille?
Well I’m sorry to cut you off there, but er, we’re running a little ahem, short of time, so let’s finish now if we may with a clip taken from one of your films, Almighty, er this is the scene where the Angels of Death have come to destroy the cities of the plain:
grand biblical film type music
ancient street atmosphere
Hear you, young woman. Can you tell us the way to Sodom?
No. (short pause) This is the city of Gomorrah if that’s any use.
We hear tell these cities are dens of iniquity, that the people in this place think of nothing but vice, and promiscuity, (getting a bit excited) and wild orgies and sex and eroticism – and stop doing that while I’m talking to you!
Come, we must look into these houses to see if there be any whom we should spare.
knocking on door
door creaking and opening
Ah, good morrow, old woman.
We are the Angels of Death, withered old crone.
Yes, we have come to raise this city to the ground, ugly old scarecrow.
And we must find out whether you deserve to be spared, flea-ridden diseased old bat.
Not today, thank you.
What do you mean, not today, decrepit wormy disgustingly [poulsied??] old harpy?
You can’t come in.
Whose house is this, grisly disfigured cadaverous squalidly haggard old cow, who art no oil painting?
This is the house of Lot, nephew of Abraham.
(from the back of the house) Who’s that at the door, gruesomely [odious old harridan?]?
It’s er, it’s the Angels of Death come to destroy the city, dear.
(still from the back of the house) Tell ’em to come in, cancarously repellent old witch.
’e says ‘Come in’.
Now then, what do you want?
We have much work to carry out in this iniquitous land. We have orders to purge it of its misdeeds in a [maelstrom ?] of fire and brimstone, haven’t we?
(no reverb anymore on his voice) That’s correct, puss.
Exactly. But you and your family are to be saved. All you have to — puss? What do you mean?
You just called me ‘puss’.
Yes you did, you distinctly called me ‘puss’.
You said ‘That’s correct, puss.’
I don’t think I did.
Yes you did.
Oh no, I didn’t!
Yes you did!
Oh no, I didn’t!
(simultaneously) Oh no, he didn’t!
Oh yes, he d— (pause) Hang on, where did that audience come from, what’s going on here?
Er er, n..n.. nothing, nothing, nothing.
Mmm. Well, as I was saying, you and your family must flee the city, but whatever you do, you must not look behind you.
Mustn’t look where?
Behind you, behind you!
Look, hold everything. This has gone far enough, this is developing into a pantomime, isn’t it?
’course it isn’t, man.
Well if it’s not a pantomime, why are you wearing those fishnet tights?
I thought so. You’re all members of that escaped panto gang, aren’t you? Well that’s it, I’m leaving!
(booing & hissing)
Well, thank goodness he is gone, boys and girls. Now then, I think it’s time to massacre the town, don’t you?
No, wait, ouhh! Ah, oooh!
(various incomprehensible voices)
sound of the town being massacred (thuds, clanging noises, people shouting and screaming etc.)
ominous dramatic music
And so the ruthless Pantomime Gang’s reign of terror continued. All over the frightened BBC people were spared no mercy. The entire casts of the News and Yesterday in Parliament were forced to wear silly hats and join in with boring songs. Those who refused to cooperate were dragged off to the Sleeping Beauty, where they were subjected to excruciating jokes, like ‘What’s the difference between a famous nursery rhyme character and a sex-crazed father? Answer: One mother’s a goose.’ Even the most harmless programmes were infiltrated by the gang’s agents.
The Archers signature tune, then fades out
Hello Walter, we haven’t seen you round here much just lately.
Well, to be honest my [?? my beauty ??], I [don’t ?] been feeling too well on account of me poor old back.
Still, I understand you took Farmer Applecroft’s cow down to the market for him yesterday. Did you get a good price?
Well, now I didn’t want to boast, but I think I done rather well out of the thing. Look here what I managed to get for her.
Let me see that. A bag of beans? Is this all you got, Walter, one measly little bag of beans for a whole cow?
Well now don’t be getting on to me, Doris, he was a nice honest-looking chap what gave me that beans. He said they was magic beans.
Give me those. They’re going out of the window!
the beans being thrown out
Well, wait! They was magic beans, look!
Good lord, you’re right. They’re playing the vibes!
ominous dramatic music resumes
But even as the evil Panto Gang wrought havoc throughout the broadcasting industry, a new, more frightening gang were to threaten their superiority.
Hello, and in Nationwide tonight, we have a man from Brighton who picks his nose in front of television cameras, a couple in Norwich who raise bricks, and an old-age pensioner in Newcastle who thinks he’s a spoonful of salad dressing. But first, the story about the new gang who are posing a threat to the Pantomime hooligans: The so called Carol Singer Boys. Well, just when and where they’re likely to start…
car braking to a halt with tyres screeching
two car doors opening and closing
Ah, ahh, it’s them, it’s the Carol Singer Boys!
Ah, so [??], you decided not to pay the protection, huh? Okay buddy, you asked for it. Mugsy?
Let’s let them have it.
(they clear their throats)
(singing, although not very musically, their money collection mug providing the rhythm) Things aren’t merrily and I, in heaven the bells are ringing…
Oh, ohhh! No! Noo!
Oh no! No!
ominous music resumes
Soon, gang warfare between the Pantomime characters and the Carol Singers was raging like a blitzkrieg throughout the cowering city. The police departement did everything they could, but it was hard to get people to come forward.
Good evening, and welcome to Police 5. Just a few little matters to clear up first of all, the warehouse robbery in Biggin Hill at the weekend. Look carefully at this picture. Were you in Biggin Hill on Saturday? Did you pass close to this warehouse? Did you perhaps go up to side door and force the lock open with a jemmy? Perhaps you remember putting on a stocking mask, breaking in and stealing goods worth over five hundred pounds, then making off with them in your getaway car. If you do, please contact the Biggin Hill Police Brutality Squad at this number. Your call could help solve the case.
But no amount of appealing by the authorities was to bring in the hoods. On the twenty-ninth of December nineteen seventy-six, the Panto Gang and the Carol Singer Boys each held a council of war, and decided there was only one way to thrash out their differences: It would have to be a football match to the death!
football stadium atmosphere
Good afternoon and welcome to Wembley for this afternoon’s Panto vs Carol Singers Cup Time. And there are the teams just coming out onto the pitch, first the Panto squad, the Pantomime horse had to drop out at the last minute I’m afraid owing to a buttock and nose injury. But skipper Baron Hardup’s put Humpty Dumpty in goal in his place. Also out is Dandini, who had to retire hurt with a limp, but they’re expecting his wrist to heal up by next Christmas. Er over to the Singers who’ve er made up their team entirely from Christmas carol characters, only a few changes there. Wenceslas is back in the side after a hip injury, but there’s no Poor Robin on the wing this afternoon. His place taken by Figgy Pudding at number six. Well, on with the game now, your commentator is half-drunk.
And it’s Mother Goose, Mother Goose now, Goose to Abanazer, Abanazer to Buttons, Buttons, and there’s the Speciality Juggling Act coming up on mark now, Buttons to Speciality Juggling Act, and Twankey! Twankey! Twankey now, Wenceslas trying with a tackle but—
Ohh no, —
—it’s a foul, a foul by Puss there who quite deliberately put the boot in.
Ah no, it won’t do him any good, —
—arguing with the referee like that, it was a very clear foul. In fact, the Pantomime coach is coming on now, but – oh dear, it’s turned back into a pumpkin. Er, tell me, what do you think, Jack Charlton?
Oh wey, oh y’ken a wooden thing but—
Oh thank you, Jack, thank you, Jack, and they play on, it’s Wenceslas to the Three Ships now, Three Ships now, they’ve got it, and the Three Ships are sailing by! And it’s a shot, oh! Well saved by Dumpty there. Er Jack Charlton?
Oh wey, ah y’ken a wouldn’t do it—
Thank you, Jack, thank you, Jack, and back out to the Riding Hood, Riding Hood and there’s Twankey, Twankey to Hubbard, Hubbard, and Winky, Winky, it’s yes it’s Wee Willy, I can see it from here, and Charming, Charming’s got it, and who’s this coming up to the ball now? It’s Cinderella! Cinderella, Cinderella is going to the ball now, yes she is going to the ball! And what a marvellous end to this game!
football stadium atmosphere stops
Burkiss Way closing signature tune
Well, that ends our course on How To Gain Spiritual Fulfilment The Burkiss Way. Moral guidance of sorts was given by Jo Kendall, Nigel Rees, Chris Emmett and Fred Harris, but remember: That he who is without sin stone the first cast. The scriptures were by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick and it was producer Simon Brett of Stepney who said ‘Let there be light entertainment.’ See you next year folks, and Happy Dynamic Living!
football stadium atmosphere
Yes, and the excitement’s mounting now, the excitement’s mounting, yes and the exci— ye.. here we come, here we come, and the ball! The ball has gone over the punchline, so that means we’re now into injury time!
light and not-so-light artillery being deployed