A Poke in the Eye (With a Sharp Stick)
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (November 2007)|
||It has been suggested that this article be merged with Pleasure at Her Majesty's. (Discuss) Proposed since July 2012.|
A Poke in the Eye (With a Sharp Stick) is the title of the first show in what became the iconic Secret Policeman's Ball series of benefit shows for human rights organization Amnesty International. The film of the show was titled Pleasure At Her Majesty's which is sometimes mistakenly thought to be the title of the actual benefit show.
The landmark 1976 show starring the Monty Python, Beyond The Fringe and The Goodies teams and other top British comedic performers of the 1960s and 1970s, led directly to the 1979 show The Secret Policeman's Ball - which in turn triggered the involvement of major rock stars such as Sting, Bono, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Geldof in working for the human rights cause.
The show took place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday April 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 1976 as a series of late-night galas at Her Majesty's Theatre – a theatre in London’s West End theatre district. The show was directed by Beyond The Fringe alumnus Jonathan Miller.
The event was audio-recorded and an album featuring highlights of the three nights was released in November 1976 by Transatlantic Records. The album had the same title as the show.
The event was also the subject of a film shot by documentary-maker Roger Graef that documented the rehearsals, backstage moments and show performances. The resulting film was titled Pleasure At Her Majesty's. It premiered in November 1976 at the 20th annual London Film Festival held at the National Film Theatre. The film was then screened on British TV by the BBC in December 1976. Subsequently the film received a modest theatrical release at ‘’art-house’’ cinemas in 1977.
Though the show included sequences featuring the Monty Python, Beyond The Fringe and Goodies teams who were billed under their group names on the individual track listing of the resulting album - for the show itself, the album cover and the cast listing on the film credits, the performers were listed under their individual names.
The cast included: John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam of Monty Python (with "Python girl" Carol Cleveland); Jonathan Miller, Peter Cook and Alan Bennett of Beyond The Fringe; Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor of The Goodies. Solo performers included: John Fortune, John Bird, Eleanor Bron, Barry Humphries in character as Dame Edna Everage. Neil Innes and mime artist Des Jones.
The show consisted primarily of "greatest hits" of the various performers. Peter Cook and Alan Bennett performed iconic solo routines from their early 1960s revue "Beyond The Fringe". The Monty Python team performed several of their most famous skits including the Dead Parrot, the Custard Pie (aka The Japes Lecture) and the Lumberjack Song. The Goodies performed their hit single The Funky Gibbon. Bird, Fortune and Bron performed several of the routines they made famous in their appearances in the early 1960s at the satirical nightclub The Establishment.
The working title for the show was An Evening Without David Frost – a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the fact that David Frost was a common frame of reference for all the performers, most of whom had worked with him - or for him - early in their careers.