Les Dawson 1934-93
Les Dawson, the bricklayer's son from Collyhurst, who became one of Britain's best loved stars.
Manchester-born comedian, a former jazz pianist who used his keyboard skills to great effect in his useless-pianist routine. Otherwise, Dawson was noted for his dry, pessimistic delivery and his catalogue of mother-in-law and wife jokes. Discovered on opportunity knocks, he quickly moved on to star in his own YTV series, Sez Les, in which he developed characters like the seedy Cosmo Smallpiece, and perfected a gossipy housewife double act (Cissie and Ada) with Roy Barraclough. Taking overBlankety Blank from Terry Wogan, he maintained the show's high ratings and, still with the BBC, he also hosted The Les Dawson Show. His career came full circle in 1990, when he became compere of Opportunity Knocks, succeeding Bob Monkhouse.
One of his most unusual roles was that of a 100-year-old woman
in the straight drama, Nona, but his last appearance came in the comedy-drama,
Demob, in which he took the role of comic Morton Stanley.
Nobody could tell a mother-in-law joke like Les Dawson, but there was always far much more to him than this working men's club school of humour - at which he was, admittedly, unrivalled. For as well as being a superb stand-up comedian, Les Dawson was also a first-rate pianist, an excellent pantomime artist, a sketch-artist, writer and had even played in a jazz band in his time. In his later years, he made an anarchic success of both BLANKETY BLANK and OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, but it was with his own variety shows, like THE LES DAWSON SHOW that you got to see the full panoply of his talents.
A great deal of the success of Les Dawson's act lay in the combination of his deadpan delivery and his remarkably adaptable face, which he himself described as resembling a 'sack of spanners'. Dawson would 'gurn' in the manner of traditional seaside entertainers to effect his female impersonations, most successfully in the Cissie and Ada sketches with Roy Barraclough. But he was equally famous for his comic monologues, straight-faced joke-telling and deliberately sabotaged piano playing. Les Dawson's death in 1993 robbed the entertainment industry of one of its most talented stars, who was admired by both his peers and by a whole school of younger comedians and performers.
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