For a decade, Kenny Everett's show was one of the most popular on British television, surviving the alternative comedy boom and even a change of channel. Though it had its critics ( many despised its so-called sexism, while others thought that a lot of the gags belonged in the pages of 'The Beano' ), it turned Kenny from cult disc jockey into mainstream comedy entertainer.
1988 saw the end of Cuddly Ken's Saturday night smash. Though it was still successful, he wished to get off the treadmill. But there was another, more alarming reason, for his decision to stop doing television comedy. He had been diagnosed as H.I.V. positive.
The final edition was a somewhat low-key affair. It must have been tempting for Kenny to stick two fingers up to his critics and go out with a really rude show ( as 'Not The Nine O'Clock News' did ), but to his credit, it stayed on the right path. Errol Brown of 'Hot Chocolate' provided the musical spot, while the sketches included 'The Sisters Of Perpetual Motion' ( nuns gliding like Daleks ), and a superb Fred Astaire-type number called 'I'd Like To Dunk You In My Coffee' ( sung by Kenny, with girls dressed as biscuits dancing around him ), which was good as anything Stanley Baxter ever did.
Kenny would next be seen as the host of a short-lived B.B.C.-1 quiz show called 'Brainstorm'. After years of spoofing the genre, it did not seem right somehow that he should go down the Ted Rogers/Les Dawson route by fronting a real one. Though Cleo Rocos was with him, he looked uncomfortable, and the show flopped. His remaining appearances on the box were confined to chat-shows and the retro quiz 'That's Entertainment!', hosted by Mike Smith. Kenny died on 4th April 1995, leaving behind a legion of admiring fans and some truly hilarious radio and television shows.
'The Kenny Everett Television Show' can be regarded now as one of the last in a long line of traditional comedy sketch shows, alongside 'The Two Ronnies', 'The Dick Emery Show' and 'Look-Mike Yarwood'. Kenny may have been more flamboyant and outrageous, but his show, with its guest-stars, big-breasted girls and corny gags, was old-school. Had it continued into the 1990's its not unfeasible that it might have been dumped along with those of Little & Large, Bobby Davro and Russ Abbot. We shall never know.
The final moments of the last show are particularly poignant, featuring a lone Kenny bidding a fond farewell to his audience. Though he is obviously only pretending to be emotional, one suspects Kenny found it tough to do the scene. His illness was not yet public knowledge, but soon would be.
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