The After-Dinner Joke

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The After-Dinner Joke
Written by Caryl Churchill
Date premiered 14 February 1978 (1978-02-14)
Place premiered BBC1
Original language English
Subject The politics of charity
Genre Epic television drama

The After-Dinner Joke is a television play in the epic form written by the English playwright Caryl Churchill for the BBC1 Play for Today series which was broadcast on 14 February 1978.

Unfolding through a sequence of 66 short, episodic scenes and utilising a large number of characters, the drama explores the politics of charity through the story of a young woman called Selby who wants "to do good." As a charity worker, she studiously avoids becoming embroiled in political issues, only to discover during the course of the action that this is impossible. "There's something political about everything," a local Mayor assures her.

Colin Bucksey directed the television production, which featured Paula Wilcox as Selby, Richard Vernon as Price, Clive Merrison as Dent and Derek Smith as the Mayor.

It has also been produced for the stage, including a major revival at the Orange Tree Theatre in London, directed by Sophie Boyce in May 2014.


  • Churchill, Caryl. 1990. Shorts. London: Nick Hern Books. ISBN 978-1-85459-085-5.