Vegas hopes to hit right notes as he prepares to play his comedy hero

When Les Dawson walked on to the set of Blankety Blank as the new host of the popular 1980s quiz show, he ruffled more than a few establishment feathers.

A portly Northern comedian with a penchant for gurning and dressing up as a woman, he was a far cry from the more demure figures who might have been lining up for the job on prime-time television. He soon made clear that he would be conducting matters differently by taking his predecessor Terry Wogan's trademark "wand" microphone and breaking it in half, before quipping: "Been wanting to do that for years".

Now, that tense moment of television quiz-show history is to be dramatised by one of Dawson's most ardent fans, the comedian Johnny Vegas, who is to star as his hero in a self-penned 45-minute radio play entitled Chequebook & Pen, which will be aired on BBC Radio 4 this autumn.

According to the comedian's spokeswoman, the play will explore the "fictional battle for the intellectual integrity of Blankety Blank", taking its inspiration from the idea that the BBC's stalwart presenter Nicholas Parsons had designs on the job.

"[Dawson] was an idol of mine. His stand-up was unlike anyone else – and the way he could hold a working men's club in his grasp with gags that went on for 10 minutes was incredible," Vegas told his local newspaper the St Helens Star.

The spokeswoman added: "Johnny Vegas will portray Les Dawson, who subverts the host's role by highlighting the naffness of winning a Blankety Blank chequebook and pen [the prize offered at the end of each quiz-show]. The play sets up the idea that posh Nicholas Parsons should have been the rightful heir to the throne because he represented the traditional BBC."

Parsons will play a version of himself as the "outraged straight man" who had long held an ambition to host the show, proud of its high standards and enviable prizes, before Dawson was enlisted to do the job instead.

Vegas, who hails from St Helens in Merseyside – not far from Dawson's home city of Manchester – is currently writing the play which, while being a far-fetched fictionalised account, does draw on archive material relating to Dawson, as well as Parsons' own "tongue in cheek reminiscences" about the show.

"The play will set up the idea that someone else should have got the job, that Les Dawson got it by mistake and that people might have thought he was compromising its intellectual integrity. He was a rumpled Northern comedian, but ultimately, he broke the mould," Vegas's spokeswoman added.

Vegas grew up watching Dawson on television and has spoken of his admiration for the comedian, putting in an appearance on the 15th anniversary of his death in 2008, when a bronze statue of the comic was unveiled by his widow Tracy and their daughter Charlotte. The statue stands in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, where Dawson had lived for many years.

"He is a massive Les Dawson fan," the spokeswoman said. "He was a Northern, working man who was ahead of his time, and whose comedy could be quite dark at times, like Vegas's work.

"There are lots of Les projects bubbling around at the moment and Johnny Vegas has been offered a few speculatively in the past, but none have gone all the way."

The comedian is working on the play with Andrew Lynch, whose past work for Radio 4 includes The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Mugsborough 1917 and Mugsborough 1926 – all of which featured appearances by Vegas.

Stars who played their idols on screen

Cate Blanchett

The actress was one of six people to play Bob Dylan in I'm Not There, and said she had always been a diehard fan. She said: "I have always loved his music... I watched the press conference he gave in San Francisco in 1965, or whenever it was, and just think, 'I love you'... the worst thing an actor can do is fall in love with someone they're about to portray, but I'm not playing him... It's a riff on who Bob Dylan could possibly be."

Christopher Eccleston

The actor jumped at the chance to play John Lennon in the new BBC film Lennon Naked, because he said he had always been "fascinated" by the former Beatle. In an interview, he said he had done very little research for the role because he had read so many books about his hero already. "Whenever anything came out I bought it, read it, even the shit stuff..."

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick