The Laughing Policeman (song)

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"The Laughing Policeman" is a music hall song by Charles Jolly, the pseudonym of Charles Penrose.

The song[edit]

In June 1922, Penrose made the first recording of this song, which was released on Regal Records G-7816. The version more usually heard was recorded on 22 April 1926 and released on Columbia Records 4014 and later FB 1184.[1] The composition of the song is officially credited to his wife Mabel under the pseudonym "Billie Grey"; however, the music and melody are taken from The Laughing Song by George W. Johnson which was originally recorded in the 1890s.[2] The Penroses wrote numerous other laughing songs (The Laughing Major, Curate, Steeplechaser, Typist, Lover, etc), but only "The Laughing Policeman" is remembered today, having sold over a million copies. Its popularity continued into the 1970s, as it was a frequently requested recording on the BBC Radio 1 show Junior Choice. It even had a dance mix made of it, which was released on a 10 inch 45rpm disc, resembling an old-style 78rpm record, with the original version on the other side.

Stikkan Anderson gave the song lyrics in Swedish, as "Den skrattande polisen" ("the laughing police officer"), which was recorded and released in 1955 by Ove Flodin.[3]


The song is referenced in the novel and film of the same name: Fictional Swedish detective Martin Beck gets it as a Christmas present from his daughter Ingrid, but doesn't think it is funny. Beck's first laugh after the murder comes when Stenström's death is fully vindicated[clarification needed].

Other appearances[edit]

The chorus (of the singer laughing) has been used twice as a buzzer on the television panel game QI, and in 2007 for a Cuprinol television advertisement.

In The Man who Blew Away, an episode of One Foot in the Grave, the Meldrews are constantly kept awake by a late night party across the road, the worst comes when the partygoers join in the chorus of the song.

In an episode of the BBC police drama City Central criminals stole an officer's radio and used it to broadcast the song continuously, disrupting police communications.

In the BBC detective drama, Bergerac (TV series), the episode Natural Enemies features the song being played on a gramophone in a children's home, as several children laugh at Charlie Hungerford.

In the 1936 British Film 'Calling The Tune', a fictional story of rivalry in the early days of the gramophone industry Charles Penrose is seen 'recording' 'The Laughing Policeman', performing the complete song.

In the Space Pirates episode "Music that Makes Me Laugh," the Jingles did this song. First, Stringy laughed after Windy's first verse, then again on the second verse, then on the third verse Brassy and Stringy laughed. Then at the last verse, all three Jingles laughed. Then Windy said as soon as the song finished, he done it in the end and he was the best laugher.

External links[edit]

Calling the Tune


  1. ^ Brian Rust British Music Hall on Record, 1979
  2. ^ See this collection of George W. Johnson's music. Included are four different (1898–1902) recordings of The Laughing Song. Also included in the archive is a later version of The Whistling Coon, written in 1878 by Sam Devere (listen here for Johnson's 1891 version). This song was originally recorded in 1890 by Johnson, and on the back of its success, he derived The Laughing Song.
  3. ^ "Svensk mediedatabas". Retrieved 27 July 2011.