Writing for Frankie
Frankie Howerd spent the very early part of his career writing his own material. Like other artists of his day, this was quite often adapted material from other comedy performers to fit his own unique style. His first appearance on BBC Radio’s Variety Bandbox on 1 December 1946 was incredibly successful, and his short-term guest spot almost immediately turned into a regular fortnightly role co-presenting the show, with additional multiple solo spots per episode. The regularity of his performances meant he started having to produce large quantities of new material on an ongoing basis, balancing his radio career with his existing touring commitments in the comedy show For the Fun of It. During 1947, having started to exhaust his own material and that provided by family members and friends such as Max Bygraves, Howerd, concerned about his fall in popularity in the ratings, started to look for a writer to work alongside him. After many months of searching, in November 1947 Howerd remembered who he thought might be the perfect candidate - a comedian he had seen perform in Germany shortly after the war, when they were both touring with different productions. After tracking down that comedian and former soldier, Eric Sykes, a new comedy writing partnership was born. In 1950 Howerd, Sykes and Stanley Dale formed Frankie Howerd Scripts Ltd, to deal with the commissioning of new material.
Sykes is perhaps best known as being the person who ‘created’ Frankie Howerd’s comic persona (clearly in conjunction with Howerd himself). He was, though, the first in a long line of young talented writers who Howerd championed throughout his career. As a result, the archive includes scripts by the early pioneers of British comedy in the 1950s and 1960s. Working as Associated London Scripts alongside Sykes, soon-to-be-famous names such as Ray Galton and Alan Simpson; Johnny Speight; and Terry Nation changed the face of British comedy.
One of Howerd’s great traits was as the patron of new writing - over the later part of his career he employed the talents of Barry Took; Marty Feldman and Talbot Rothwell, as well as Barry Cryer; Griff Rhys-Jones; Jimmy Mulville; Rory McGrath and Clive Anderson.
Listen to Laurence Marks talking about experience of writing for Frankie Howerd: