Home Television Comedy Fast and Loose

Fast and Loose

1 9 5 4 – 1 9 5 5 (UK)
4 x 45 minute episodes (monthly)
5 x 30 minute episodes (fortnightly)

Initially lasting 45 minutes instead of the usual half-hour, each episode of Fast and Loose consisted of lengthy sketches starring Bob Monkhouse and Denis Goodwin.

The show has been hailed as the first British programme to make situation comedy work as the sketches were long enough to allow the situations to develop through the characters.

Bob Monkhouse had begun his writing career in 1943 when, as a fifteen-year-old schoolboy, he sold a joke to Max Miller, then appearing at the Penge Emporium, for 2s 6d.

fast&loose3

He went on to team up with Denis Goodwin, who had been at the same school as Bob (although they were in different years and never actually met there).

Fast and Loose was to have been called The Bob Monkhouse Show but Goodwin was not too keen on that idea.

The show was a smash but the pair needed time to recharge their batteries for a second run so Bob faked a collapse at the end of the first series. The newspapers carried pictures of him ‘recovering’, and he and Denis thus had the opportunity to prepare future material.

Comedian Charlie Drake sustained lasting scars from Fast and Loose when Monkhouse accidentally blew off half of Drake’s left ear during a sketch. Monkhouse fired a blank-firing revolver which blew the packing out of the cylinder of the gun at Charlie’s face.

He completed the live sketch, keeping his right side to camera, before collapsing and having his ear stitched back by a doctor.

fast&loose2Another sketch that went wrong involved a glass door that steadfastly refused to smash. Throughout the sketch, actor Alexander Gauge had been singing the praises of his lovely glass door.

At the end, in a complicated piece of business, Bob’s coat was supposed to get caught on a hat-stand and the stand shatter the lovely glass door.

It called for immaculate timing and execution and worked perfectly in rehearsals. But when they performed it live in the evening, Bob did everything as planned but the hat-stand simply bounced off the glass.

The audience – who had been waiting for the pay-off – howled hysterically, so Monkhouse picked up the hat-stand and hammered it at the door. Still it didn’t break. Eventually, at the third attempt – and to a huge cheer – the glass broke.

As Monkhouse came off he asked Bill King, who was in charge of props, what had gone wrong with the door. King replied that when he saw the door smash in the afternoon he thought he had better replace it with shatter-proof glass so it didn’t break again!