Round the Horne

Round the Horne was one of the most influential BBC Radio comedy programmes, comparable to The Goon Show in its influence on other comedy programmes. It was transmitted in four series of weekly episodes from 1965 until 1968.

Round the Horne was created by writers Barry Took and Marty Feldman, with other writers contributing to later series, and starred Kenneth Horne with Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden, Bill Pertwee and Douglas Smith. The show featured a parody a week, several catchphrases, and many memorable characters. It has musical interludes by the Fraser Hayes Four, and accompaniment by Edwin Braden and the Hornblowers, except for the final series. It normally opened with a deadpan delivery by Horne of the answers to "last week's quiz", a quiz that listeners never heard nor knew about which was laced with (what were for BBC Radio at at that time) incredible double-entendres and sexual innuendo.

One of the most popular sketches was Julian and Sandy, featuring Williams and Paddick as two flamboyantly camp men, with Horne as their comic foil. They usually ran fashionable enterprises in Chelsea which started with the word 'Bona' (for example 'Bona Pets'), and they spoke in the gay slang Polari.

Other popular characters included J. Peasemould Gruntfuttock (the world's dirtiest dirty old man), Charles and Fiona, and criminal mastermind Dr Chou En Ginsberg MA {failed} (accompanied by his 'female' servant Lotus Blossom, played by a cockney Hugh Paddick) and parodies of popular British TV entertainers such as Eamonn Andrews ("Seamus Android") and Fanny Cradock. The shows featured old English folk singer Rambling Syd Rumpo, played by Kenneth Williams, who sang such delightful and parodic nonsense ditties as "Green grow your nadgers-O!", "What shall we do with the drunken nurker?", and the timeless "Ballad of the Woggler's Mooly".

Charles and Fiona was a regular comedy sketch in the show. Betty Marsden played Dame Celia Molestrangler, and Hugh Paddick was 'ageing juvenile Binkie Huckerback'. Their characters — Fiona and Charles — were a pair of lovestruck, dated cinema idols engaging in stilted, extraordinarily polite, dialogues, in scenes that were parodies of Noel Coward's style. Typical dialogue (imagine it spoken in BBC English) included:

Charles: "I know."
Fiona: "I know you know."
Charles: "I know you know I know."
Fiona: "I know you know I know you know."
Charles: "I know."


Charles: "Everything is the same…"
Fiona: "and yet somehow different."

A fifth series had been commissioned, but Horne's untimely death by a heart attack in 1969 closed the book on the series.

The series has been issued as a series of CD box sets (in the same format as the Hancock's Half Hour radio series), restoring lots of material previously believed lost.

At time of writing, episodes can be heard on BBC 7 at 12.30 and 19.30 GMT each Wednesday. As is usual for BBC 7 programming, episodes remain available for up to a week on the BBC 7 web site.

A stage play, Round the Horne… Revisited, was first staged in 2004. Based on the original radio scripts, it has been adapted for the stage by Brian Cooke, the last surviving writer for the original radio series. The play has also been filmed for television and was broadcast on BBC 4 as part of a "Summer in the Sixties" season in June 2004. Both the stage and TV versions are directed by Nick Wood and star Charles Armstrong, Kate Brown, Nigel Harrison, Jonathan Rigby and Robin Sebastian.

David Took (Barry's son) gave the following opinion on the modern staging:

"The cast are all truly excellent, and all have genuine moments of brilliance [...] the low spot would be the new material [...] With so much good material to call on it is madness to insert indifferent items. Dad and Marty would not be amused."1

Comparisons can be drawn between Round the Horne and the American sketch comedy television series Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (1968–1973). Notably, Barry Took was the principal writer in the 1969 season; Executive Producer George Schlatter, a Canadian, was influenced by Round the Horne on CBC repeats of BBC original programming, and searched out Took for his programme.

External links


  • 1Kettering Magazine #3 (
    • Carries an overview of the series plus an interview with Barry Took's son, David, giving his view on Round The Horne - Revisited.

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