Bad jokes and a bonkers umpire? It's just not cricket

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The Independent Online

I have had many letters from people who wish to add to the memory of the late Bob Monkhouse, and I think it is only right to print some of them today.

From Sir George "Gubby" Trotter

Sir, In all the obituaries and tributes to the late Bob Monkhouse, I have seen no mention of his deep and abiding love of cricket.

I first encountered him in the late 1950s, when were both members of a travelling showbiz cricket XI called the Royal Variety Command Performance Rejects. He was always making us laugh in the field, but his turnover of jokes was very high, and if you weren't quick on the uptake you might miss them altogether. I remember once I was fielding with him in the slips, and he said to me: "Do you know the one abut the umpire who was in bed with his wife?"

"No," I said.

"Well, this cricket umpire was in bed with his wife, and they made love, and afterwards the umpire said to his wife, 'How was that?' and she said..."

Just then the umpire called over and we separated. The next time we met in the field I said: "So what did the umpire's wife say?" and he said: "What umpire's wife?" and I said: "The one that was in bed with the umpire!" and he said: "Oh, I can't remember - I've given up doing that gag..."

Yours etc

From Mr Owen Flitcroft (no relation)

Sir, I can vouch for the foregoing. With Bob, you never knew where cricket ended and comedy began. And although people said that he always depended on his great database of jokes, I think he was capable of spontaneous humour, too.

I remember once playing with him in a showbiz XI called A Showbiz XI (we played anonymously for tax reasons) and it got very dark towards the end of the match. We fully expected the match to be curtailed because of the light, but the officials said they thought it was all right to continue.

"Blimey," said Bob to me. "And they used to say that the sun never sets on the British umpire!"

Yours etc

From Sir Reginald Needles

Sir, May I endorse all the foregoing? Bob may have had a gag for every occasion, but he could react swiftly as well. I remember once when he was umpiring a match in which I was playing for a touring showbiz team called the Tax Evaders. Our captain thought it was getting a bit dark to play.

"I'm appealing against the light," he said to Monkhouse.

"Well, aren't you the lucky one!" said Bob. "I'm so ugly I'm only appealing in the dark! That's why I only go out on blind dates. I mean, with girls who are blind and don't know what I look like..."

Soon we learnt never to appeal to Bob Monkhouse, because it meant triggering off five minutes of terrible gags and then he couldn't remember what the appeal was for.

Yours etc

From Mr Gary Boulting

Sir, For a couple of seasons I played with Bob in a showbiz XI called The Undismissables. You didn't always associate Bob Monkhouse with physical humour, but when we had an umpire who had never met us before, he used to like to give the umpire a jersey to hold when he was bowling, along with all the other garments. What the umpire didn't know was that there was a mobile phone concealed in the pocket of the jersey, and Bob would then ring the phone at crucial moments in the game, which would drive the umpire bonkers. Happy days!

Yours etc

From Mr Simon Pantile

Sir, The only time I ever saw Bob upset about cricket was when a local-government act threatened to do away with half the counties involved in county cricket. "You can shout for Yorkshire," he said, but how can you honestly cheer for the East Midlands? How can you get up on your feet and shout 'Come on, Bath and North-east Somerset'? It's ludicrous!"

"Maybe," I said, "but does anyone ever shout a county name anyway? Have you ever heard anyone shout 'Come on, Kent"?'

"Yes, I have," said Bob. "The Duchess of Kent."

Yours etc

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