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The Trials and Triumphs of Les Dawson Hardcover – 1 Feb 2012
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From 11 series of Sez Les to the wilder lunacies of Blankety Blank, Les Dawson was always around and always hilarious... We shall probably never see his like again... All praise to Louis Barfe. He's got the context as well as the jokes right here. He gives you more than the booze and fags and the sometimes tortured hero of standard showbiz biographies. He makes us realise what we lost when Les Dawson died. --Observer
Louis Barfe succeeds in digging beneath the television personality to uncover Dawson's hidden layers. --Time Out
[A] conscientious, heartfelt book... In today's hard times, we could do with another comic like Dawson. --New Statesman
Lugubrious, complex and always funny, Les Dawson gets the biography he deserves. --Scotsman --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Louis Barfe was born in 1973 in Epsom, Surrey. He studied at Lancaster University. He has written for Private Eye, The Oldie, New Statesman and the Independent on Sunday. His books include Where Have All the Good Times Gone: The Rise and Fall of the Record Industry and Turned Out Nice Again: The Story of British Light Entertainment.
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He liked to use vocabulary that stretched his northern routed upbringing and gave the audience out right laughs at both him and them selves. This for me was his key to success. People could identify with events he mentioned and laugh, at times, to conceal their embarrishment of being reminded of the events in question.
A reasonably well read man, he entertained millions with his piano playing. it was said to me that "to play like he does, you must know music and the piano". His widow on being interviewed explained he practiced his classical pieces before practices his off key ones, soon to be renditioned pieces. I recommend this book.
My only quibbles are the authors desire to ensure Les acceptance in the more politically correct 'alternative' comedy world (Barfe queries a gay sketch as homophobic, whereas it appears on this reading to be in the mould of Julian and Sandy). And there is the now seemingly obligatory pop at Bernard Manning (the two were born within months of each other in the same part of Manchester), who is presented as little more than a joke stealing boor.
Dawson's was a larger, more generous presence than his North Manchester rival. As a local to the area myself, the early chapters of Dawson's life were fascinating and enhanced the authors credibility with his subject matter. Barfe recounts the tale of Dawson being told of the need for more kindness by a blind man whilst staying in a Welsh digs, and kindness underpins many of his actions, doubtless a product of the hard road he took to eventual success. Many of his lines are laugh-out-loud funny. Dawson could discuss Nietzsche with TV executives, black puddings with Prince Philip, and remain sympathetic his poor working class roots. My admiration for him was enhanced by reading this book.
Working through a timeline of his career, we are introduced to many of Dawson's contemporaries, all of whom offer up memories and anecdotes that paint a picture of a lugubrious and complex man who enjoyed life, even when it wasn't going his way. Les Dawson worked hard for his success, often being spurned in favour of more telegenic but less talented performers. But this gave him time to hone his act, and when he finally got his chance, he delivered.
The best thing about this biography though is that it serves as a history of comedy throughout the 20th Century, placing Dawson in his context at all times, and delivering a superb analysis of a changing industry and Dawson's place within it. You'll be introduced to performers you have never heard of but will love meeting, reacquainted with comedy greats you may have forgotten about, and given an insight into a number of fabulous shows that can be found to watch elsewhere.
With the added bonus of an exhaustive appendix of Dawson's live, radio and television appearances, this is a definite must-read for any student of comedy.
Very good. Really interesting story about a very funny man who I loved watching back in the 70s.
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