Reputations: Season 5, Episode 4

Kenneth Williams: Desperately Funny (1 Jun. 1998)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary
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1 June 1998 (UK)  »

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Biopic of a Tormented Soul
26 December 2013 | by (London) – See all my reviews

Looking at this documentary on Williams today, one is struck by the complexities of a comedian whose almost obsessive private life was counterpointed by an insatiable desire for public exposure. He was a perpetual show-off who would browbeat audiences into submission; if they didn't laugh, his behavior would become more and more outrageous until they did. In his private life he would not allow anyone in, either physically or emotionally; few people visited his flat, and he remained a prisoner of his homosexuality. Although enjoying a career at the top of his profession for over thirty years, Williams' reputation eventually declined, as those who once enjoyed (and employed) him looked for alternatives. By the time he died in 1988 aged only 62, he was reduced to appearing in chat-shows and doing regular stints on the radio panel game JUST A MINUTE. This two-part documentary portrays a man of considerable virtuosity, who was capable of doing far more - in terms of straight plays as well as comedy - than the tits-and-ass humor with which he became associated through the CARRY ON films. Williams certainly had his opportunities to develop, but his perpetual desire for public acclaim prevented him from taking the necessary risks. The tale is a sad one, the more so because in the long run, Williams' life was a waste of a phenomenal talent.

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