Comedy Vicars (Part 2)
Updated: Mar 6
There are a number of great comedians and actors from the television and stage that have lampooned the clergy in a way that portrays them as a bit soft around the edges, easily shocked and aloof. Frankie Howerd, Dick Emery, Les Dawson, Rowan Atkinson have all made their contributions. Frankie Howerd added in the sermon stammer for good measure.
I once remember hearing someone say, 'He had the air of a clergyman'. What is that exactly? This seemed to have made perfect sense to some of our most famous comedians who often performed vicar sketches. There seemed to be a wide consensus with regards to getting the costume and the general demeanour right: Anglican choir dress, comb over, half-moon spectacles and bucked teeth!
Over Christmas I enjoyed watching the repeats of some of the most memorable vicar sketches from our great comedy heroes. I'm grateful to Channel 5 for showing 'Frankie Howerd: In his own words' over the festive period. I think Frankie Howerd's 'Jumble Sale' and 'Nudist Colony' sermon sketches are the funniest I've seen.
Back in the 1980's, Howerd was rediscovered by a younger audience and became a cult figure. At the age of 73, he performed in front of a hall full of students at the Oxford Union who roared with laughter at his cawing and cackling and his exaggerated 'ooohs' and 'aaahs'. Students proudly wore tee-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Get Your Titters Out!’ and ‘Nay, Nay and Thrice Nay’.
Although they don't quite deliver the same as an online text, here are a couple of sketches for your titillation but you have to imagine the rising and falling cadences of the 'ooohs' and 'aaahs'. Oh well, please yourself.
THE PARISH JUMBLE SALE
The subject of my sermon today is SIN. Now, that’s woken of few of you up hasn’t it? Mm, Mm, Mm, Mm..My friends, an overwhelming tide of pornography is threatening to engulf us all. It has even arrived at this small and fair village of ours.
‘What?’ You say (high pitched voice) or deeper if you’re a baritone. ‘What?’ you say, ‘Pornography? In Much-Rotting-in-the-Wold?’ ‘Impossible!’ But Nay, Nay and thrice Nay! And again, Nay! It is not impossible because I have seen it with my own eyes.
Brethren, the things I saw yesterday at the jumble sale in the village hall distressed me beyond words.
I think at this time it might be advisable if the Verger would dismiss the choirboys…and no earwigging in the vestry!
Mm, Mm, Mm, Mm…as I was saying at the jumble sale I was appalled. Some of the titles on Mrs Daly’s second hand book stall were a DISgrace! And whereas we’re very grateful for the £95.10 she took, I’m afraid I cannot condone it.
An illustrated copy of ‘White Thighs’ alone changed hands for £7.10 and this is not right! Particularly as page thirty-four was missing!
Now, I would be happy to report that this was an oversight, that this was the only offending title. But alas and alack, the trestle table was sagging with porn. Items like, ‘The Lustful Turk’, ‘The Passionate Flesh’, and our old friend ‘Fanny Hill’…mingling…MINGLING shamelessly with ‘Biggles Goes West.'
THE NUDIST COLONY
Here Frankie revives his eccentric country Vicar routine. He holds up a rotting banana skin from the pulpit.
I trust this is a leftover from last week’s Harvest Festival and not placed here with the idea of seeing me go surplus over cassock into the font. Nevertheless, dearly beloved, Mm, Mm, Mm, Mm..this skin...this discarded covering is symbolic with regards to this service which you know is a service of thanksgiving for the first anniversary of our local nudist colony here in our village of Much- Rotting-in-the-Wold.
Mm, Mm, Mm, Mm..and I’m very pleased to welcome all forty members of the nudist colony here today, thus, SWELLing the congregation. So to speak. And I do hope the Verger has made a good job of sandpapering the pews. We all know how painful a piece of pine up the spine can be.
It is no secret that this service – I’ve been criticised for it, I’ve been criticised in may quarters for holding this controversial service in my church. I have been Vilified! And Pilified..from evensong to breakfast-time. Obscene notes have been thrust through my letterbox…Indeed, other things have been thrust through my letterbox! Even the front wall of the vicarage has been completely daubed with slogans. Completely! Thus, making it impossible to see the latest one, which is particularly regrettable because you can’t see the word ‘Gomorrah’ unless you live ‘round the back. Now blessings on you all and God go with you.
Frankie leaves the pulpit while ‘He who would valiant be’ is sung. As he turns around to leave the stage we see his cassock and surplice have been cut out at the back revealing his saggy bottom!