Lines from My Grandfather's Forehead

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Lines From My Grandfather's Forehead, a comedy sketch show for radio, was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from 15 February 1971. Two series of eight episodes were broadcast, the second was transmitted from 21 July 1972. In addition, there were two "specials". A Christmas special, entitled 'Lines From My Grandfather Christmas's Forehead', was broadcast on 24 December 1971; and a compilation of selected items from past editions, under the title 'Just A Few Lines From My Grandfather's Forehead', was broadcast on 27 August 1977.

The show starred Ronnie Barker and featured Terence Brady and Pauline Yates, with Gordon Langford at the piano. Some editions also featured guitarist Dick Abell.

Each programme was a sequence of comedy sketches, monologues and comic songs. The writers were credited on each recording but the items they wrote were not named, so identifying the author of a particular item is difficult. Among the writers was one Gerald Wiley, which was a pseudonym used by Ronnie Barker to submit material without using his own name, so as to find out whether the producer genuinely thought his material was good enough to use - and much of it was.

The show's content is difficult to define. The wry humour was askance/off-the-wall/tangential, and certainly different from most comedy of the time. It was not even announced as a comedy, but as 'a sequential entertainment for radio'. The nearest relatives might be Monty Python, or The Goons.

Items included:

  • Barker as a 17th-century man with two heads
  • a couple talking about curtains
  • a pianist playing a difficult piece and failing at the last note or two
  • a sketch with Barker as an encyclopedia salesman in the Garden of Eden ('one bite and you're a PhD')
  • a sketch about a lodger and commercial traveller called Roger
  • a wistful little poem about the retirement of Mr Babbage (using rhymes ending in '-idge' throughout)
  • a spoof newspaper report about court proceedings, sending up the euphemistic language used in certain tabloids
  • a song with the first line "I took my love to Turnpike Lane"
  • a spoof of the Queen's Christmas Message, as written and delivered by a milkman
  • an elephant delivered as a Christmas present.

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