The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979)

TV Movie  |   |  Documentary, Comedy  |  June 1980 (UK)
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A series of benefit concerts to raise money for Amnesty International. Performances include comedy skits and musical numbers by a varied cast of mostly British performers. Featuring several... See full summary »



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This video provides a retrospective of music and comedy from four Amnesty International benefit performances held in 1976, 1977, 1979, and 1981.

Directors: Roger Graef, Julien Temple
Stars: Connie Booth, Graham Chapman, John Cleese


Credited cast:
Paul Abrahams ...
Himself (Piano Player)
Various Roles
Chris Beetles ...
Beetles and Buckman
Mike Brearley ...
Various Roles
Rob Buckman ...
Beetles and Buckman
Ken Campbell ...
Suzanne Church ...
Himself - Various Roles
Peter Cook ...
Various Roles
Anna Ford ...
Clive James ...
Clive Jenkins ...


A series of benefit concerts to raise money for Amnesty International. Performances include comedy skits and musical numbers by a varied cast of mostly British performers. Featuring several Monty Python members, Rowan Atkinson, and Peter Cook. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

June 1980 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

O horos tou xefonimenou batsou  »

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Did You Know?


Pete Townshend who performs in the show, said on the 2009 "The Secret Policeman Rocks" DVD, "I love looking back at The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979). It showed us how to do it in a way that wasn't patronizing. I remember Martin Lewis who invited me to do the thing in the first place... I really, really relied on people like Martin and on other people to keep me abreast of what was going on...". In 2011, Townsend added, "It's 1979 that I appeared at The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979) - the Amnesty thing that John Cleese had kicked off. And my friend Martin Lewis had invited me to, in a sense, to kind of lighten the break up the comedy. And it was amazing subsequently to see what that triggered. Sting...Peter Gabriel...subsequently people like U2...Bruce Springsteen...and so on...Quite big names got involved in supporting Amnesty. And it became evident that big names in music and Amnesty melded very well. So it's good to see that what I did kicked that off. I feel that I planted a seed...". See more »


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Featured in Zomergasten: Episode #18.3 (2005) See more »


Won't get Fooled Again
Written by Pete Townshend
Solo accoustic version Performed by Pete Townshend (as Pete Townsend)
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User Reviews

Deserves to be carved in stone
23 November 2006 | by (Derbyshire, UK) – See all my reviews

It is perhaps a shame that Britain does not have something like the American Congress's official list of historically significant works of art. If there were, this show deserves framing as an iconic series of performances.

"The Secret Policeman's Ball" was the second benefit performance for the charity, Amnesty International. It followed the earlier "Pleasure at her Majesty's" in 1976. The Ball featured a most effective mix of old and new blood; from the old stable, several of the Pythons, Peter Cook at the height of his comic and satirical powers; from the new stable, Billy Connolly and Rowan Atkinson.

There were some old favourites among the acts (the "Four Yorkshiremen" and Python's "Cheese Shop"), but some of the new acts and sketches were inspired. In particular, Rowan Atkinson's sardonic "Schoolmaster", and Peter Cook's "Entirely a Matter for you", written specially for the occasion.

There is a minor musical landmark, with Pete Townsend (of the Who) reportedly forced to play acoustic rather than amplified for the first time in his life, alongside classical guitarist John Williams.

In later years, the subsequent Policeman's Balls were seen as a showcase for new talent with the result that several acts became over-the-top and hammed.

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