Comic with toothless grin takes his last gurn

A DOZEN clowns in full dress uniform provided one of the less dignified guards of honour in the history of Westminster Abbey. But, despite the painted lips, arched eyebrows and hastily stuck-on red noses, none had a face as instantly humorous as the man they were there to honour, writes Jim White.

Les Dawson's absurd toothless gurn - he described his face as resembling a bulldog's after it had just sucked piss off a nettle - was one of the great comic assets of the 20th century.

Yesterday, six months after his death at 60, the full-house notices were up once more as 2,000 guests, invited by his wife, Tracy, to celebrate rather than to mourn, were shoe-horned into the Abbey.

The congregation would have made an ideal panel for Dawson's television quiz Blankety Blank. Little and Large were there, so was Jim Davidson, Michael Aspel and, in tears, Paul Daniels.

As Edward Woodward, who gave an address, pointed out, the show's compere would have appreciated such a turnout in such surroundings, and would not have failed to make a gag.

'He would be saying 'Edward the Confessor, Bruce Forsyth, The Roly Polys and Rudyard Kipling. What a fantastic line-up,' Woodward said. 'And that's not to mention Bobby Davro.'

Woodward revealed himself a fine mimic of the great comic's style, recounting their first meeting in fluent Dawsonian. The actor had made it clear what an admirer of Dawson he was. 'And I'm a great admirer of yours,' came back the reply. 'As was my father and my grandfather before me.'

There are two types of comedian: men who tell funny stories and funny men who tell stories. There was no doubt to which category Dawson belonged. He seldom required a script to raise a laugh, preferring instead to revel in the fecund linguistic absurdities of northern dialect.

Indeed, Professor Anthony Clare, who interviewed him for BBC Radio 4's In The Psychiatrist's Chair just before he died, said in his address that he thought of recommending to patients tapes of the talk: his verbal tour de force would 'have done more for them than a ton of tranquillisers'.

Outside the Abbey afterwards, as the guests, mingling with Dawson fans and confused tourists, swapped Les stories and creaking mother-in-law jokes, you sensed Clare was absolutely right. Les Dawson vs prozac: no contest.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
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