TELEVISION / More `ooh, ah, missus' than hits

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The Independent Culture
"Oooh, noooh...listen...ah, no, oh...please yourselves." It doesn't quite work on paper, does it? And yet, it transpires in Heroes of Comedy (9pm C4), the majority of Frankie Howerd's interpolations were heavily scripted. The titter master would t irelessly recite his pieces until he reached the point where he would exercise such control over his oohs and aahs as to make them appear utterly shambolic.

Not that he was ever a slave to the page. Barry Cryer remembers the ongoing "ooh, no, missus" dilemma experienced by Howerd's scriptwriters: "If you didn't put them in, he'd say: `Where are they?', and if you did, he'd say `I do that'." An early "ooh" from 1949's Variety Bandbox illustrates just how little Howerd's trademark exclamations changed down the years. Not so his rug, which transformed itself from a neat boyish quiff (reminiscent of early Jonathan Ross) to an alarmingly precarious orange thatchcomplete with stick-on eyebrows.

His durability as a performer was unmatched by any other comic, as students wearing "Get Yer Titters Out" T-shirts at the time of his death would testify. Perhaps his greatest achievement was to survive nigh on half a century of comedy without ever once attempting what might be traditionally thought of as "a joke". If ever proof were needed that delivery is all, look no further than old camel face himself, Frankie Howerd.

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