I’m a bit late to the party with this, but a week or so back I watched a biographical tribute to late comedian/writer Les Dawson. This show aired as a tribute to mark the 25th anniversary of the Manchester-born funny man’s passing.
Included within the broadcast, was a pastiche of his erudite wordy monologues, stand-up routines, intentionally off key piano playing, comment on his accomplished gurning and trademark diatribes of an oft fraught relationship with his mother-in-law.
His fictional disdain for his wife’s mater in his performances leading to gags such as:-
“My mother-in-law has come round to our house at Christmas seven years running. This year we’re having a change. We’re going to let her in.”
“I’m often accused of saying some pretty rotten things about my mother-in-law. But quite honestly, she’s only got one major fault – it’s called breathing.”
As a man with a genuinely less than fragrant mother-in-law, if that was my day job I wouldn’t need to pen fictional observations about her odiousness. They’d write themselves.
Akin to most elements of the man’s art, I am a huge admirer of Mr Dawson’s long, drawn-out wordy monologues which conclude with a comedic sting in the tail. His deadpan, cynical and sometimes self-depreciating delivery adding greatly to the narrative – A lexilogical meander he bequeathed to his audience with tongue very firmly lodged in cheek.
Les’ skilfully crafted ramblings, utilised his extensive vocabulary intentionally taken to the cusp of pretentiousness. Cleverly crafted narratives that decades on still raise a chuckle; ensuring he still maintains a fond place in the public’s hearts and minds.
Perhaps my favourite of these rambling monologues was his erudite speech where he waxed lyrical about the night sky. This articulate narrative went as follows:-
“I was sat at the bottom of the garden a week ago, smoking a reflective cheroot, thinking about this and that – mostly that – and I just happened to glance at the night sky, and I marvelled at the millions of stars glistening like little pieces of quicksilver thrown carelessly onto black velvet. In awe, I watched the waxen moon ride across the zenith of the heavens like an amber chariot towards the void of infinite space wherein the tethered bolts of Jupiter and Mars hang forever festooned in all their orbital majesty, and as I looked at all this, I thought to myself, ‘I must put a roof on this lavatory.’”
Many years ago I read one of Les Dawson’s books on summer vacation in Tenerife. I recall spending many hours perched on a sun lounger laughing out loud at these fictional ramblings. His acerbic insights about Blackpool Bed & Breakfast establishments a synergy of numerous hilarious observations.
One of the days a guy on the next lounger seemed quite unsettled at my behaviour. I’m not sure if it was because I was spoiling his peace with my laughter, or whether he was getting sick of me reading the book over his shoulder!
I’ve heard it said by more sensitive souls, that segments of Les Dawson’s performance was overly confrontational – An opinion which I utterly dispute. Instead proffering his more cynical diatribes, where playfully ridiculing his audience or his wife’s mother, were merely part of the act.
Like the self-depreciating humour in his performance, a self-defence strategy used by comedians from the era. A tactic born from learning their trade as t’ turn in northern working men’s clubs. Situations where comics were exposed to tough and discerning audiences who, Dawson once joked, let you live if they liked your act.
Not only was Les Dawson a funny writer and skilled at his delivery, he could also raise a laugh with his visual humour. Sometimes vocabulary wasn’t required to achieve a giggle; ordinarily one of his trademark gurns would be suffice.
These contortions made possible after breaking his jaw as a junior boxer. Consequently, he had the malleability of visage to produce a gurn of truly unfathomable extremes. If he’d have had that ability at birth, he’d probably have been born inside out.
Right, time to bring my hero worship of the late Mancunian short-arse to a conclusion. Until next time, as someone once said ……….. And if they didn’t, they should have!