Charles Penrose (entertainer)

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Charles Penrose
Charles Penrose Laughing Policeman.jpg
Charles Penrose as The Laughing Policeman
Background information
Birth nameCharles Penrose Dunbar Cawse
Born(1873-11-11)11 November 1873
Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, England
Died17 November 1952(1952-11-17) (aged 79)
Kensington, London, England
GenresMusic hall
Occupation(s)Musician, comedian, entertainer
Years active1891–1952

Charles Penrose (born Charles Penrose Dunbar Cawse; 11 November 1873 – 17 November 1952) was an English music hall and theatre performer, and later radio comedian, who is best known for his unusual comic song "The Laughing Policeman". He was born in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, the son of a master watchmaker and jeweller.

Early life[edit]

He initially followed his father into the jewellery trade, but enjoyed such success with his innovative laughing songs at local concert parties that he was invited to join a theatrical tour at the age of 18. His theatrical career took off, and he appeared in music hall and the West End. One of his most successful performances was in Tonight's the Night at the Gaiety Theatre, London in 1914–15. Penrose married architect's daughter Harriet Lewcock in 1899.

Performing career[edit]

It was his second wife, songwriter Mabel Anderson, 26 years younger than he was, who became his most important collaborator. In 1922, Penrose made the first recording of his song "The Laughing Policeman" under the pseudonym 'Charles Jolly'. The composition of the song is officially credited to his wife Mabel under the pseudonym 'Billie Grey', but the music, melody, and laughing are taken from "The Laughing Song" by the American George W. Johnson which was recorded in 1898, 1901 and 1902. The Penroses wrote numerous other laughing songs including "The Laughing Major", "Curate", "Steeplechaser", "Typist", "Lover" and "Sneezing Man". The B-side of The Laughing Sneezing Man was a short comical sketch called "The Dog Vs The Cornet" where a little boy had to get his dog to out-sing a cornet player and make him stop playing.


Penrose was one of the first comedians to star on BBC Radio, his most popular role being Sgt. Bob Evergreen in the wartime radio series The Pig and Whistle. He was also a character actor in a number of films in the 1930s and 1940s.


Charles Penrose died of heart disease on 17 November 1952 at the Princess Beatrice Hospital, Kensington, aged 79.



External links[edit]