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Robert Alan Monkhouse OBE (1 June 1928 – 29 December 2003) was an Englishmarker entertainer. He was a successful comedy writer, comedian and actor and was also well known on British television as a presenter and game show host. Monkhouse was famous for his quick ad-lib and one-liner jokes.


Early career

Bob Monkhouse was born in Beckenhammarker, Kentmarker the son of Wilfred Adrian Monkhouse, who died in 1957 and Dorothy Muriel Monkhouse née Hansard. Monkhouse's father was a prosperous Methodist businessman who owned Monk and Glass, which made custard.

While a schoolboy at Dulwich Collegemarker, from which he was later expelled, Monkhouse wrote for the comics The Beano and The Dandy and subsequently drew for Hotspur, Wizard and Adventure comics. Among other writing, he wrote more than 100 Harlem Hotspots porn novelettes.

Monkhouse completed his national service with the RAF in 1948. He won a contract with the BBC after his unwitting group captain signed a letter Monkhouse had written telling the BBC he was a war hero and that it should give him an audition.

This anecdote was among many which Monkhouse recalled in the BBC Radio 2 documentary Caught In The Draft, written by Terence Pettigrew and presented by Michael Aspel. The programme took a nostalgic look at compulsory National Service, which operated in Britain from the wartime years until the beginning of the 1960s. Taking part in the programme along with Monkhouse were Leslie Thomas, author of The Virgin Soldiers, and BBC Radio 2 presenter John Dunn.

Writing and acting success

Monkhouse's adult career began as a scriptwriter for radio comedy in partnership with Denis Goodwin, a fellow Old Alleynian with whom he also compèred Smash Hits on Radio Luxembourg. Alongside performing as a double act, Monkhouse and Goodwin wrote for comedians such as Arthur Askey, Jimmy Edwards, Ted Ray and Max Miller. In addition, Monkhouse was a gag-writer for American comedians including Bob Hope when they wanted jokes for British tours.

In 1956, Monkhouse was the host of Do You Trust Your Wife?, the British version of an American gameshow. He went on to host more than 30 different quiz shows on British television. His public profile growing, Monkhouse also began appearing in comedy films, including the first of the Carry On film series, Carry On Sergeant in 1958. He appeared in films and television programmes throughout his career, making guest appearances particularly in later years. Other presenting jobs in the 1960s included hosting Candid Camera and compèring Sunday Night at the London Palladium. In 1979 he starred in a sketch comedy television series called Bonkers! with the Hudson Brothers.

In the early 1970s he appeared on BBC Radio in Mostly Monkhouse with Josephine Tewson and David Jason.

Stand up comedy

Monkhouse was a respected stand up comedian. Known for his talent at ad-lib, he became a sought-after speaker for dinners and similar events. In 1976 he was the speaker at the Mars (Mars confectionery) sales conference at the Excelsior Hotel on Bath Road opposite Heathrow airport. He had been in a television advert for Polaroid cameras, and he told the joke, 'I am the only man ever allowed to say on television "you take it out and hold it in your hand, and in only 20 seconds it develops - or a minute if you want it in colour."'

Game shows

Monkhouse was well known for hosting television quiz shows. One of his biggest successes was The Golden Shot during the late 1960s. This was broadcast live for 52 weeks a year and drew in up to 17 million viewers. The dozens of other shows Monkhouse presented included Celebrity Squares, Bob's Full House and Family Fortunes. Audiences regularly topped 15 million. In the late 1980s he hosted two series of the revival of the talent show Opportunity Knocks which aired as Bob Says Opportunity Knocks. He then moved to ITV to front two more gameshows, Bob's Your Uncle and the $64,000 Dollar Question, neither of which were popular successes.

In 1996, Monkhouse presented the National Lottery show on Saturday evenings on BBC One. The opening to each show would see him deliver several minutes of topical jokes, and on one occasion where his Autocue failed, he improvised a new and still topical routine. This talent was used in Bob Monkhouse On The Spot, a return to pure television comedy, in which audience members suggested topics and Monkhouse came up with a routine. Monkhouse returned to quizzes in 1998 when he took over hosting duties on Wipeout from Paul Daniels.

Chat show

After being a stalwart of chat-shows, in the mid-1980s Monkhouse presented his own chat show for the BBC, The Bob Monkhouse Show. The show lasted two series and featured many guests from the world of movies and comedians of every age. Monkhouse was known among young comedians as a keen supporter of new comedy, and he used the show to introduce older audiences to new comedians, and vice versa. The format of the interviews varied between "true" chat and analysis of comedy, to scripted routines in which Monkhouse would willingly play the role of the guest's stooge. The most notable guest was the comedienne Pamela Stephenson who, after prior arrangement with the show's producer, appeared in a series of fake plaster casts, apparently the result of accidents whilst at home. During the interview she produced a handgun and fired it on several occasions, destroying a plantpot on the set and a series of lights in the studio roof. She then presented a rocket launcher which she promptly 'fired' destroying a television camera.

The gun, launcher and camera were replicas. None of this arrangement was known to Monkhouse (although the production crew were aware) who appeared genuinely frightened.

Film and television archive

An expert on the history of silent cinema and a movie collector, he presented Mad Movies in 1966, in which he presented clips from comic silent movies, some of which he had helped to recover and restore. His private film collection was the cause of a court case at the Old Baileymarker in 1979 after he was charged with attempting to defraud film distributors, but he was acquitted. Many of the films in his collection were seized and destroyed (including what would have been the only surviving copies of many films) before the acquittal.

In 2008, the British Film Institute were contacted by Bob Monkhouse's daughter, Abigail, who asked if they would like to view the collection and provide some advice as to the best way of preserving it. Amongst the discoveries were many long disappeared TV shows. Dick Fiddy, archivist said "It's a huge, unwieldy collection which deals with a number of areas. It's not just film and TV. Initially we found half a dozen TV shows that we knew to be 'missing'."

Amongst those shows rediscovered, many feature Monkhouse himself. Including The Flip Side, a 1966 play starring Monkhouse as a DJ with his own late night television show, and the 1958 comedy My Pal Bob about an extra-marital affair.

Not counting film cans, the archive consists of 36,000 videotapes, going back to when Monkhouse first bought a home video recorder in 1966. His film archive began in the late 1950s.

The entire Bob Monkhouse film and television archive is now held by Kaleidoscope, including all material previously held by the NFTVA. It is being catalogued and restored to digital formats in readiness for a major event at BAFTA on 24 October 2009. The full list of the archive will be published during that event, which is being organised by Kaleidoscope and filmed by the BBC. Chris Perry, part of Kaleidoscope and its partner company Kaleidoscope Publishing, said, "We are painstakingly transferring the important contents of the video tapes and restoring radio shows. There are many incredible finds, and the event in October will be an exciting time for all concerned."

In his final years, Monkhouse hosted a show on BBC Radio 2 called The Monkhouse Archive, in which he provided humorous links to clips of comedy acts spanning the previous 50 years. As both an enthusiast of classic comedy, and a keen supporter of young acts, he was ideally placed to select clips.

Awards and influence

Monkhouse became a favourite with impressionist, and, as his style fell out of favour in the 1980s, he was mocked for his slickness and accused of insincerity. He came back into fashion during the 1990s, and appearances on Have I Got News For You restored his popularity. The British Comedy Awards handed him the Lifetime Achievement for Comedy honour in 1995. The Television and Radio Industries Club awarded him a Special Award - for outstanding contribution to broadcasting in 2003. In a 2005 poll of fellow comedians and comedy insiders to find The Comedians' Comedian, Monkhouse was voted among the best 50 comedy acts ever.

Personal life

Monkhouse was married twice, to Elizabeth Thompson on November 5, 1949 (divorced in 1972), and then to Jacqueline Harding on October 4, 1973. He had three children from his first marriage, but only his daughter Abigail survived him. His son Gary Alan, who had cerebral palsy, died in Braintreemarker, Essex, in 1992, aged 40; this led to Monkhouse being an avid campaigner for the disabled. His other son Simon, from whom he had been estranged for almost a decade, died of a heroin overdose in a Bangkokmarker hotel in 2001.

In July 1995, Monkhouse appealed for the return of a ring binder that constituted one of his 'joke books', offering a £10,000 reward. The book, which contained notes on sketches and one-liners, for which Monkhouse was most famous, was returned after 18 months.

Monkhouse was appointed an OBE in 1993. He succumbed to prostate cancer on 29 December 2003.

Posthumous advertisement

On 12 June 2007, Monkhouse appeared posthumously on a Britishmarker TV advertisement promoting awareness of prostate cancer for Male Cancer Awareness Week. Using a combination of stock footage, a body double, CGI, and Simon Cartwright's "serious" impersonation of his voice (i.e. accurate, not caricatured), Monkhouse was seen in a graveyard next to his own gravestone (though in reality he was cremated) talking about the disease seriously, interspersed with humorous asides to another camera ("What killed me kills one man per hour in Britain. That's even more than my wife's cooking"). He ended by saying, "As a comedian, I've died many deaths. Prostate cancer, I don't recommend. I'd have paid good money to stay out of here. What's it worth to you?," before walking away from his grave and disappearing. The advertisement was made with the support of Monkhouse's family and supported by poster campaigns. Money raised went to the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation.

Partial career summary


As a performer

As a writer

  • Fast And Loose UK 1954
  • Cyril's Saga UK 1957
  • Early To Braden UK 1957
  • My Pal Bob UK 1957
  • The Bob Monkhouse Hour UK 1958
  • The Big Noise UK 1964
  • The Bob Monkhouse Comedy Hour UK 1972
  • I'm Bob, He's Dickie UK 1977
  • Marti UK 1977
  • Bonkers! UK 1979
  • An Audience With Bob Monkhouse UK 1994
  • Bob Monkhouse On The Spot UK 1995
  • Bob Monkhouse - Over The Limit UK 1998

As an author

  • Book of Days, 1981, ISBN 0099271508
  • Crying with Laughter: My Life Story 1994 ISBN 0099255812
  • Over the Limit: My Secret Diaries 1993-98, 1999 ISBN 0099799812
  • The World of Jonathan Creek with Steve Clark, 1999, ISBN 0563551356
  • Just Say a Few Words 2004 ISBN 0753509083

As a singer

As a voice actor




Famous Bob Monkhouse one-liners

  • "Dulwich College takes me back after seventy years: My Mum must have written one hell of a sick note!"
  • "They laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian. They're not laughing now."
  • "Personally, I don't think there's intelligent life on other planets. Why should other planets be any different from this one?"
  • "Silence is not only golden, it is seldom misquoted."
  • "Marriage is an investment which pays dividends if you pay interest."
  • "I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my father. Not screaming and terrified like his passengers."
  • "Growing old is compulsory - growing up is optional."
  • "As a comic, you need every wrinkle. Having a facelift would be like asking a tap dancer to have his feet lopped off."
  • "I came home and found that my son was taking drugs - my very best ones too!" (on Have I Got News For You)
  • "I'm rather relaxed about death. From quite an early age I've regarded it as part of the deal, the unwritten guarantee that comes with your birth certificate."
  • "So you are half Welsh and half Hungarian, that means you are well-hung!" (on V Graham Norton)
  • (on stage as a veteran comic)"You'll be glad to hear, I can still enjoy sex at 74 which is great because I live at 75."
  • "I can remember when safe sex meant a padded headboard."
  • "It got up to 94 degrees today - that's pretty good at my age."
  • "People often think I'm from Kent. I hear them whisper it as I walk past."
  • On his visits to Princess Grace Hospital for treatment after being diagnosed with prostate cancer--"I've been in and out of Princess Grace more often than Prince Rainier."
  • "With my wife it was sex, sex, sex...Yes, three times in 35 years."
  • "Should you wish to piss...." (an infamous blooper when presenting The $64,000 Question in which he mispronounced the word "pass")

Game show catchphrases

  • "Bernie.... the bolt!" - catchphrase on The Golden Shot.
  • "In Bingo lingo clickety-clicks, it's time to take your pick of the six"- catchphrase on Bob's Full House.


  1. Youtube video

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