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Monty Python and Carry On stars among comedians living in Kent

It's sometimes easy to underestimate the power of making us laugh.

After all, the adulation enjoyed by pop stars or film stars is far more frenzied.

But over the years Kent has proved to be fertile ground for some of the most influential and downright hilarious talents who will comfortably live longer in the memory than fleeting musicians or actors.

Both Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer have long called Ken home Picture: BBC
Both Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer have long called Ken home Picture: BBC

From Whitstable's Harry Hill to Ramsgate's Will Hay, the comedy spans generations and keeps coming.

Vic Reeves' irreverent humour has tickled many a funny bone. He has lived for many years near Ashford and now Deal - while comedy partner Bob Mortimer resides on the other side of the county in Tunbridge Wells.

Aldington, near Folkestone, is home to both Paul O'Grady, the man behind the mouthy Lily Savage, and Julian Clary who has gone from his days as the Joan Collins Fan Club and master of the smutty double entendre in the 1980s to mainstream entertainer.

For those with good memories, 1980s comedy hit Just Good Friends made Jan Francis a household name - and she's lived in Woodchurch, near Ashford, for decades.

Here are just some of the other big names who have called the county home in between making us hold our sides.

John Lloyd

King of comedy John Lloyd - the man behind a host of huge hit shows Picture: Amnesty International (13435488)
King of comedy John Lloyd - the man behind a host of huge hit shows Picture: Amnesty International (13435488)

It could be argued, pretty convincingly, that John Lloyd has something of the Midas touch when it comes to the creation and presentation of comedy.

While so often to be found behind the camera, he was the man who created Not The Nine O'Clock News - thus catapulting the likes of Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones into the mainstream; was producer of the satirical Spitting Image; co-wrote episodes of Douglas Adams' original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series; produced all four series of Blackadder and was even going to be the original host of Have I Got News for You (which was to be called John Lloyd's Newsround).

Add to that, he created QI and Radio 4's long-running The News Quiz. Quite the CV, it's fair to say.

Born in Dover, he attended King's School in Canterbury before heading to Cambridge where he joined the famous Footlights theatrical group - striking up a friendship there with Adams, whom he would go on to share a flat with.

Now 67, he appeared four years ago at the University of Kent to introduce a special live version of QI featuring the likes of Jo Brand, Harry Hill and, for the first time ever as host, Sandi Toksvig.

He remains a regular on TV and radio.

Graham Chapman

The Monty Python team during filming of 1979's Life Of Brian - Graham Chapman centre front Picture: Python (Monty) Pictures Ltd
The Monty Python team during filming of 1979's Life Of Brian - Graham Chapman centre front Picture: Python (Monty) Pictures Ltd

The Life of Brian is one of those films which delivers on all comedy levels - sharply scripted, strong story and heavy on controversy. In short, it is perhaps Monty Python's finest moment.

And the star of the film was Graham Chapman as the hapless Brian, a man mistaken for the Messiah.

For fans, this year represents the 50th anniversary of the comedy team's creation - but it also marks the 30th of Graham's death.

He passed away in Maidstone Hospital from cancer in 1989 after moving to the town several years before with his partner. He was just 49.

An integral part of the Python line-up, he and John Cleese wrote many of the most famous sketches, among them the oft-quoted Dead Parrott skit. He is also credited with 'discovering' Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide after spotting him perform. The pair would go on to briefly write together.

When the group reunited for a series of concerts at London's O2 Arena, it was named One Down, Five To Go.

Carry On

Hattie Jacques and Charles Hawtrey - stars of the Carry On films Picture courtesy of the Cinema Television and Benevolent Fund
Hattie Jacques and Charles Hawtrey - stars of the Carry On films Picture courtesy of the Cinema Television and Benevolent Fund

The county was quite a popular destination for stars of the Carry On franchise with both Hattie Jacques and Charles Hawtrey calling Kent home for many years.

Hattie, who was born in Sandgate, near Folkestone, lived for many years in Ramsgate with her then-husband, the Dad's Army star John Le Mesurier - himself now considered one of the nation's finest comedy performers for his role as Sgt Wilson in the series.

Aside from appearing in 14 Carry On films alongside the likes of Kenneth Williams and Sid James, she also proved a hit in TV comedy Sykes, alongside co-star Eric Sykes. At its peak, it was pulling in 17 million viewers.

She died of a heart attack at her home in London in 1980 aged 58.

While few had a harsh word for Hattie, the same could not be said of Charles Hawtrey. Beloved as the scrawny bespectacled characters he portrayed in the Carry On flicks, his off-stage persona was far less palatable and he was shunned by many - including in Deal, which he made his home in later life, where he was barred from a number of pubs for his drunken behaviour.

He died in 1984 at the age of 73 at a nursing home in Walmer.

Rod Hull

Rod Hull and Emu meet fans at the height of their fame
Rod Hull and Emu meet fans at the height of their fame

It's easy to forget the star status of Rod Hull during the 1970s and 80s.

But with Emu permanently attached to him, he became one of the most bankable stars in the UK with his own TV shows and various appearances on stage and screen. He even created one of the most memorable scenes when Emu misbehaved during an interview with Michael Parkinson. But after the highs came the dramatic lows.

Granted, he was something of a one trick pony, but even to this day, Emu's sneering face never fails to amuse.

Having grown up on a council estate on Sheppey, he found fame first in Australia then the UK with Emu. But after making millions, he bought Elizabethan mansion Restoration House in Rochester in 1986. But after pumping some £750,000 into buying and restoring it, he was hit by a triple whammy of losing his TV show, a property slump with soaring interest rates and a huge unpaid tax bill. He lost the lot.

The house was repossessed, his fortune disappeared, he was declared bankrupt and even his wife left him. He ended up moving to a run-down cottage near Rye. In 1999, while fixing the aerial on the roof so he could watch the football, he fell and died. He was 63.

Michael Crawford

Michael Crawford, supplied by Cambridge Live. (13435341)
Michael Crawford, supplied by Cambridge Live. (13435341)

Between 1973 and 1978, Some Mothers Do Ave' Em was TV comedy gold.

Featuring the bumbling Frank Spencer, it spawned a thousand impersonators and catapulted its Sheppey-born star to superstardom.

Michael Crawford performed some gloriously dicey and well choreographed stunt set pieces (several scenes from the three series were shot in Sheerness and Herne Bay) and millions tuned into his antics.

The show, and cast, were united for a one-off Comic Relief special in 2016.

Crawford went on to have a hugely successful stage musical career with lead roles in the likes of Barnum and the Phantom of the Opera.

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