The Greatest Show on Legs

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The Greatest Show On Legs
MediumComedy, television, theatre
Years active1978–present
GenresSketch comedy, surreal humour, physical comedy
MembersMartin Soan
Adam Taffler
Matt Roper
Former membersMalcolm Hardee (deceased)
Terry Alderton
Adam Bloom
Steve Bowditch
Dr. Brown
Keith Chegwin
Chris Lynam
Simon Munnery
Dickie Richards
Bob Slayer
Arthur Smith
Holly Burn

The Greatest Show On Legs (also known as The Legs) is a surreal comedy group, founded in the United Kingdom by comedian Martin Soan, and joined after by the late Malcolm Hardee. The group, continually performing with a changing line-up with Soan at the helm, played an important role in the development of alternative comedy at the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s.[citation needed]


The Greatest Show on Legs was founded as a one-man adult Punch and Judy act by Martin Soan as a teenager. He discovered that if he wore the puppet booth over his shoulders, revealing only his legs, he could easily carry the show from pub to pub. Malcolm Hardee, recently released from prison, became Martin's driver and The Legs soon evolved into a surreal sketch group. The Greatest Show on Legs became a regular at the Tramshed venue in Woolwich, alongside the likes of Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson.[1] Soon afterwards, in 1979, The Comedy Store opened in Soho and The Greatest Show on Legs became regulars there.

The Naked Balloon Dance[edit]

Their breakthrough came in 1982, when they performed the Naked Balloon Dance, their signature sketch, on Chris Tarrant's anarchic late-night television show O.T.T.,[2] earning huge applause from the studio audience but drawing complaints from Mary Whitehouse, the founder of the National Viewers and Listeners Association.[3]

The Legs also performed the dance at a Trades Union Congress conference in Blackpool during the years of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, substituting large cut-outs of the Prime Minister's face in place of the balloons.[3]

According to Soan, the sketch was first performed in Totnes, Devon: "The Greatest Show on Legs reacted to the local extreme, over-the-top feminists who were living in this land of privilege and having weekly meetings about how they could wipe out Chinese foot-binding. Shit. They were all living in a bubble, really. It was our reaction to that. We thought up the balloon dance in the kitchen and we went to the Dartmouth Inn that night and premiered it”, adding "The Greatest Show on Legs were feminists, but they were feminists who weren’t really thinking. In actual fact, we were rather gallant as a group of performers."[4]

Present day[edit]

The Legs continue to be presented internationally with an ever changing line-up, under the direction of founder member Martin Soan. They have performed at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival and several times at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2011, The Greatest Show On Legs appeared in Stewart Lee's At Last! The 1981 Show at the Royal Festival Hall.[5]


  1. ^ "Chortle, 2 February 2005".
  2. ^ "Malcolm Hardee". The Daily Telegraph. 4 February 2005. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  3. ^ a b Nudity on ITV, balloons & how Malcolm Hardee fell out with OTT Chris Tarrant – John Fleming 'So It Goes' July 18, 2014
  4. ^ Why the Greatest Show on Legs started their infamous Naked Balloon Dance – John Fleming 'So It Goes' Sept 6 2013
  5. ^ At Last! The 1981 Show – Review | Brian Logan | Guardian