'The Crazy Gang' - Collectively, the best loved bunch of pensioners ever to tramp the boards, sing a song or raise a laugh. When they first came together in 1931 it was, perhaps, the most unlikely troupe of acts ever assembled on the stage for a single show. A pair of slapstick artists, an acrobatic high-wire act and a couple of comics who laced their jokes with schmaltzy songs wasn't really designed to set the stage on fire. Not even if you threw in a juggler with a red nose and a peculiar line of patter consisting of a little fractured French and a heck of a lot of cockney. But succeed they did and, by the time they made the very final of their many final appearances at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1962, they had topped the bill for over 30 years.
They were, of course, all very well established acts before they came together at the London Palladium in 1931 and their names read like a litany of the all time greats of variety.
Jimmy Nervo and Teddy Knox - who combined the agility of their high-wire training with the skill and hilarity of their slow motion wrestling and a spoof ballet act.
Charlie Naughton and Jimmy Gold - a pair of slapstick comics who, for two decades, had been an integral part of the London pantomime scene. Although they were ten years older than the other members of The Gang, their humour blended incredibly well with Nervo and Knox and Charlie's incredible mastery of the art of double-talk is something that will not be forgotten by everyone who knew him.
Then there was a pair of comics who had worked with a variety of other partners before they eventually came together for the very first time with that great music hall star of the 1920s Florrie Ford - Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen.
Three double acts - but there was someone else too! A man who started his show business life a serious juggler and was later described often by fellow comics simply as "The funniest man in the World". A man who did more to ruin the french language than any cheap Cognac - 'Monsewer' Eddie Gray.
Together they became a real comedy phenomenon, packing theatres and also appearing in a number of films.
'Crazy' was what they were! Their antics combining verbal gymnastics with farce and elaborate physical comedy and accompanied by slapstick and, usually, custard pies.
Off stage too they developed an infamous reputation as practical jokers, and played many pranks on one another and fellow guest stars; hoaxes that ranged from the harmless to the cruel and, on some occasions, the downright dangerous.
The team remained hugely popular for many years, Flanagan in particular being adored by the British public. It was an obvious idea to bring them to TV, and at least two of their first seven television shows featured extracts from a Crazy Gang theatre production, Jokers Wild, which Jack Hylton had mounted at the Victoria Palace in London since the end of 1954.
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