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My Man Joe

1 9 6 7 (UK)

Pudgy comedian Joe Baker so impressed an ATV staff party at which he performed that he was given his own TV series, My Man Joe, which cast him as the hapless valet of a hard-up aristocrat.

Baker, who was from a family steeped in music hall, made his theatrical debut at the age of two months when he was carried on stage by Gracie Fields at the Empire Theatre, Southampton.

He began to establish himself as a performer in his own right in the late 1940s when he took a stand-up act around the variety circuit. Soon he had teamed up with Jack Douglas, and their comedy patter routine quickly established a regular place on the bill at the Windmill Theatre.

The pair split up in the late 1950s – Douglas went on to star in the early Carry On films – but not before they had appeared together in New Look (1958), a television skit show which, unusually for the period, made fun of television itself.

This led to more small-screen work for Baker, and in 1964 he landed a part in Fire Crackers, an intermittently amusing sitcom about madcap firemen led by Alfred Marks and Cardew Robinson.

The next year he was given his own show in which, backed up by Gerald Harper, Geoffrey Palmer and the leggy Shona Leslie, Baker played a chubby man on whom all the world looked down.

Baker emigrated to California in 1975, even though he was then earning a reputed £20,000 a year in Britain and starring in a lucrative television advertisement for washing powder. He did not become a big success in the United States, although he appeared regularly on programmes such as Hollywood Squares and was well-liked by actors there.

In later years he became friends with Jim Carrey and appeared in minor parts in films of his such as Dumb and Dumber (1994).

Baker died in California in 2001, aged 73.