Friday, May 29, 2015

The Clitheroe Kid

It was the longest running sitcom on British radio. The Clitheroe Kid was a BBC radio comedy program. the protagonist was a irreverent but mostly wholesome schoolboy in a northern England town. Including the pilot episode and 17 seasons, it totaled 290 episodes in all. It aired for 15 years without interruption: 1957 through 1972. It's still regularly re-run on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

The "Kid" was played by James Robinson "Jimmy" Clitheroe. He was kind of a British Mickey Rooney; comic and tragic. He was only 4'3" tall but had a solid career as a comic in film, TV and radio. [LINK] He was born on Christmas Eve in 1921 in the town of Clitheroe, England. His early work was in comedy troupes and film, even pantomime. In 1936 he was touring England with the Winstanley Babes. It was an almost all-girl troupe, he was the only male. There he did comedy, played xylophone, piano accordion and clarinet.

He moved into radio in the mid 1950s. His earliest known appearance was on comedian Jimmy James’s show The Mayor’s Parlour.  Clitheroe soon had his own series, "Call Boy." that aired on the BBC Light Programme in 1957. Later that year The Clitheroe Kid debuted. The show was all schtick and catch phrases. Clitheroe referred to his sister and his teachers by nicknames such as Scraggy-neck, Sparrow-legs, Umm-ya Pete and Tick Tock Tillie. The English writers also took the time to mock the Scots. The Kid had a Scottish grandfather, whose ancestry was endlessly mocked, with talk of beer, haggises and bagpipes. More here.

Though already 35 years old, Clitheroe played an 11-year old boy.  The British papers called him "the Peter Pan of Show business." It was nicer than the things they wrote about Mickey Rooney. In the 1960s Clitheroe broke into television, but he stuck with the sitcom season after season. He died in 1973 from an accidental overdose of barbiturates. More here.