THE MANY FACES OF ... LES DAWSON tells the story of the Manchester comic who spent many years working in the harsh world of the northern clubs before finding stardom as the winner of OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS in the late Sixties.
Thereafter his progress up the ladder of fame was gradual if unspectacular; eleven seasons of SEZ LES for Yorkshire Television, followed by THE DAWSON WATCH for the BBC. Throughout these years he perfected his art of stand-up comedy, his lugubrious features and impeccable timing rendering him especially popular with audiences. Dawson was not a joke-teller per se; he preferred the shaggy-dog story, illustrated with ever-increasing flights of linguistic fancy, followed by the bathetic ending. He was also a master of facial expressions, especially the northern art of gurning.
As his television career evolved, so his selection of comic party-pieces expanded to encompass the lecherous Cosmo Smallpiece, the legendary duo of Cissie and Ada, two northern women modeled on the old music-hall act of Norman Evans (which Dawson performed with Roy Barraclough), and the wrong-note piano-playing. Dawson was an accomplished pianist in his own right, and it took a considerable amount of daring to learn how to play the wrong rather than the right notes to raise laughs.
In the Eighties Dawson continued to enjoy televisual success as he took over from Terry Wogan as the host of BLANKETY BLANK. Dawson was happy to make fun of the format, the contestants, and the panel, but he did so in such a way as not to offend anyone. He helped keep the comedy quiz show at the top of the ratings, and was just about to move into a straight acting career when he died in 1993 of a heart attack.
The overriding impression of this biography was that Dawson was a fundamentally nice person - well-read, well-educated and highly intelligent. John Cleese, one of the interviewees, wondered whether the comedian might not have moved into documentary presentation, if he had been allowed to continue his career. Many of the clips used to illustrate the bio have become familiar over time, but they still reveal Dawson's mastery of timing, proving beyond doubt that some humor is timeless.
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