31 July 2019

55 years since Opportunity Knocks ...

Tomorrow, August 1st 2019, will mark a mind-boggling fifty five years since Freddie Davies's debut on Opportunity Knocks - and five since the publication of his autobiography Funny Bones, which tells the story of that life-changing experience.

It came at the end of an extraordinary week which had begun with the comic at his lowest ebb, struggling through an audience participation show in Dunoon. An article in The Stage had claimed he was leading his own troupe, but in fact it was just Freddie and a pianist called Tom, dying twice daily (except Sunday) in an open air theatre near where the ferries docked. "It was called Fun With Freddie," he recalls. "And if a few lost souls – kids, dripping wet dogs and some well known local drunks – did happen along to see what all the noise was about, they would be confronted at the end of the show by council operatives from the bin department taking up a collection in tins."

Charming. So how did he leap from this ignominy to stardom? The full story of the amazing week which turned Freddie's fortunes around, taking him from Dunoon to Didsbury, the Manchester suburb where Opportunity Knocks was recorded, can be found in Funny Bones if you are one of the unhappy few who haven't yet read it. 

John Fisher, producer of Channel Four's Heroes of Comedy series and biographer of Tony Hancock and Tommy Cooper, says:
Freddie Davies’ autobiography, co-written with Anthony Teague, is unquestionably one of the most honest and illuminating books I have read about the practice of comedy, never losing sight of the pressures and insecurities of a job that is prone to more ups and downs than a roller coaster. Along the way it provides fresh insights into other comedy greats ... In every way, a cornerstone of its genre. 

Cultural Historian Alwyn Turner considers it:
Beautifully written ... a marvelous portrait of a working comedian, complete with all the proper ingredients: the years of struggle, the overnight sensation, the slow decline, the career revivals ... one of the few great biographies of British comedy.
Viv Gardner of Manchester University hails Funny Bones as "important to our understanding of the whole period he worked in":

the heyday and decline of variety, clubs, cabarets and cruise entertainment, the rise of television comedy and subsequent changes in fashion, and the shifting relationship between popular and ‘highbrow’ performance ... A researcher’s dream.  It is a fascinating and important story, not just a personal but also a social and performance history.

Buy Funny Bones from amazon or direct from Scratching Shed Publishing.