With his eyes bulging and the waxed tips of his moustache quivering like radio antennae, Battery Sergeant Major Bryn ‘Shut Up’ Williams dominates the parade ground.
‘Right, lovely boys, move yourselves, move yourselves, left-right-left-right! Shoulders back! SHUT UP!’
Windsor Davies, the star of hit Seventies sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, died last week, aged 88 — but don’t hold your breath waiting for the Beeb to screen any of the classic episodes in celebration of his life.
Though the series ran for seven years on prime-time BBC1, drawing audiences of up to 17 million, the Corporation prefers to pretend it never existed.
The show, set in the tropics of India and Burma, followed the adventures of a Royal Artillery Concert Party during the Second World War. It was written by Jimmy Perry with David Croft, and was loosely based on Perry’s wartime experiences — as was the pair’s other huge TV success, Dad’s Army, which is still repeated weekly on BBC2. qbandar
It Ain’t Half Hot Mum laughed at everything: the corniest gags, class, the Army and the war. But most of all it laughed at the things we are no longer permitted to joke about — especially race and homosexuality.
It was not ‘politically incorrect’: it simply refused to accept that there was anything out-of-bounds when it came to laughter.
Most Britons under 40, born after the show’s heyday (it first aired in 1974), will not understand this. Chattering millennials will never grasp what was so rib-achingly funny about It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.
Today’s comedy is all about saying the right thing, mocking people who think differently — especially in politics. Rigid rules are enforced about what we are allowed to find amusing. To chuckle at a foreign accent or a fey walk would be regarded as a hate crime at New Broadcasting House.
Watch BBC2’s current affairs panel game Mock The Week and you’ll notice its teams are carefully selected to represent a balance of ethnic and sexual diversity, regardless of whether the contestants are actually talented comics. And the one thing they agree on is that the Tories are fair game to have as much ordure heaped on them as possible.