Four Yorkshiremen sketch
The "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch is a comedy sketch that parodies nostalgic conversations about humble beginnings or difficult childhoods. It features four men from Yorkshire who reminisce about their upbringing. As the conversation progresses they try to outdo one another, and their accounts of deprived childhoods become increasingly absurd.
The sketch was written by Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman and originally performed on their TV series At Last the 1948 Show in 1967. It later became associated with the comedy group Monty Python (which included Cleese and Chapman), who performed it in their live shows, including Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl.
It may be observed that the tone of the sketch reflects the conversation between Mr Bounderby and Mrs Gradgrind on the occasion of his birthday, as recounted in Chapter 4 of the novel Hard Times by Charles Dickens.
At Last the 1948 Show
The sketch was written and performed for the 1967 British television comedy series At Last the 1948 Show by the show's four writer-performers: Brooke-Taylor, Cleese, Chapman, and Feldman. Barry Cryer is the wine waiter in the original performance and may have contributed to the writing. The original performance of the sketch by the four creators is one of the surviving sketches from the programme and can be seen on the At Last the 1948 Show DVD as the closing sketch of series 2, episode 6. Its surviving camera script names the characters as Obadiah, Ezekiel, Josiah, and Hezekiah; but only the names Obadiah and Josiah are used, at the beginning.
I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again
A near derivative of the sketch appears in the BBC Radio show I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again Series 7, Episode 5 on 9 February 1969, in which the cast (Cleese, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie and David Hatch) in the guise of old buffers at a gentlemen's club, employ the same trope of out-doing each other for hardship, this time in the context of how far and how slowly they had to walk to get to various places in former days. It ends with the same payoff line "...and if you tell that to the young people today, they won't believe you..."
Cleese and Chapman were later among the founding members of the comedy group Monty Python. The "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch has been performed by Python during their live shows Live at Drury Lane (1974, no video recording available), Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982) and Monty Python Live (Mostly) (2014, performed at The O₂), each performance varying slightly in its content. (Tim Brooke-Taylor and Marty Feldman receive special thanks in the closing credits of Live at the Hollywood Bowl due to the inclusion of the sketch.) The performers in each case were Chapman (replaced by Cleese in the 2014 performance), Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin (Palin is the only member of the group actually from Yorkshire). It was also performed by Cleese, Jones, Palin and Rowan Atkinson for The Secret Policeman's Ball, the 1979 Amnesty International benefit gala.
The sketch was revived for the 2001 Amnesty show We Know Where You Live, performed by Harry Enfield, Alan Rickman, Eddie Izzard and Vic Reeves. In 1989 the script was published in the charity fundraiser The Utterly, Utterly Amusing and Pretty Damn Definitive Comic Relief Revue Book under the title "The Good Old Days", with the characters named as Joshua, Obadiah, Josiah and Ezekiel. This book was launched on an edition of the primetime chat show Wogan where the sketch was performed by Terry Wogan, Stephen Fry, Gareth Hale and Norman Pace.
In the mid-1990s the Hungarian comedy group Holló Színház translated and performed an adapted version of the sketch, substituting "four millionaires" for the Yorkshiremen. The sketch had a particular resonance for older Hungarians as exaggerating the level of your family's poverty and proletarian origins was a common practice to gain favour with Communist authorities in the immediate post-war period through to the 1950s.
In March 2015 the sketch was revived and adapted in a live television performance for Red Nose Day 2015 by Davina McCall, John Bishop, David Walliams and Eddie Izzard, in which they exaggerate what they did to raise money for charities.
- "Monty Python reveal events to mark 50th anniversary". Irish News. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
- [Charles Dickens (1854), Hard Times, Chapter IV]
- Morris Bright; Robert Ross (2001). Fawlty Towers: fully booked. BBC. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-563-53439-6. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
- Radio interview with Tim Brooke-Taylor – includes comments about the "Four Yorkshiremen sketch"
- The story of Britain's favourite sitcom "Fawlty Towers", by Graham McCann, published by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, England, U.K., in 2007 ISBN 978-0-340-89811-6 (hardback) – ISBN 978-0-340-89812-3 (paperback)
- At last, the 1948 show - Camera script of series 2 episode 6
- undoojoo (11 March 2007). "Four Yorkshiremen" – via YouTube.
- "Comic Relief Face The Funny: Red Nose Day 13 March 2015". BBC Media Centre. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 15 October 2019.