The Laughing Policeman (song)

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"The Laughing Policeman"
Song by Charles Penrose
RecordedJune 1922
GenreMusic hall
LabelRegal Records
Songwriter(s)Charles Penrose
"The Laughing Policeman"
Song by Charles Penrose
Recorded22 April 1926
GenreMusic hall
LabelColumbia Records
Songwriter(s)Charles Penrose

"The Laughing Policeman" is a music hall song by British artist Charles Penrose (published under the pseudonym Charles Jolly in 1922).

A similar laughing song with the same tune but other subject matter had been in circulation since the 1890s popularised by George W. Johnson of the USA.

The song[edit]

In June 1922, Penrose made the first recording of this song, which was released on Regal Records G-7816. The version more usually heard was recorded on 22 April 1926 and released on Columbia Records 4014 and later FB 1184.[1] The composition of the song is officially credited to his wife Mabel under the pseudonym "Billie Grey"; however, the music and melody are taken from The Laughing Song by George W. Johnson which was originally recorded in the 1890s.[2] The Penroses wrote numerous other laughing songs (The Laughing Major, Curate, Steeplechaser, Typist, Lover, etc.), but only "The Laughing Policeman" is remembered today, having sold over a million copies. Its popularity continued into the 1970s, as it was a frequently requested recording on the BBC Radio 1 show Junior Choice. It even had a dance mix made of it, which was released on a 10 inch 45rpm disc, resembling an old-style 78rpm record, with the original version on the other side.

Stikkan Anderson gave the song lyrics in Swedish, as "Den skrattande polisen" ("the laughing police officer"), which was recorded and released in 1955 by Ove Flodin.[3]


The song describes a fat jolly policeman who cannot stop laughing and has a chorus in which the sound of laughter is made in a sustained semi musical way by the singer. The first verse is.

I know a fat old policeman,
he's always on our street,
a fat and jolly red faced man
he really is a treat.
He's too kind for a policeman,
he's never known to frown,
and everybody says he's the happiest man in town.

(Ha ha ha ha ha,
Woo ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha,
Woo ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha,
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha,
Ha ha ha .)

In popular culture[edit]


  • The song is referenced in the 1968 novel The Laughing Policeman by Swedish writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö and film of the same name. Fictional Swedish detective Martin Beck gets it as a Christmas present from his daughter Ingrid, but doesn't think it is funny. Beck's first laugh after the murder comes when Stenström's death is fully vindicated.


  • In One Foot in the Grave episode "The Man Who Blew Away", the Meldrews are constantly kept awake by a late night party across the road, the worst comes when the partygoers join in the chorus of the song.
  • In an episode of the BBC police drama City Central criminals steal an officer's radio and use it to broadcast the song continuously, disrupting police communications.
  • In the BBC detective drama, Bergerac, the episode "Natural Enemies" features the song being played on a gramophone in a children's home, as several children laugh at Charlie Hungerford.
  • In the 1936 British Film Calling the Tune, a fictional story of rivalry in the early days of the gramophone industry, Charles Penrose is seen recording "The Laughing Policeman" and performing the complete song.
  • The song is used as the central theme in the Space Pirates episode "Music that Makes Me Laugh".
  • Ken Dodd performed it as part of one of his appearances on the popular BBC variety show The Good Old Days, getting the audience to laugh with him.
  • The Wiggles did a parody of the song for their album and video "Wiggle House" titled "The Laughing Doctor".


Postage stamp[edit]

  • In 1990 the Royal Mail of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland issued a 20p greeting stamp entitled The Laughing Policeman which bore an illustration based on the song. [6]

External links[edit]

  • Johnson, George W. (1894). "The Laughing Song". Historic American Sheet Music. Duke University Libraries. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
  • Calling the Tune
  • Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project Publication information and mp3 of George W. Johnson's recording: "The Laughing Song"


  1. ^ Brian Rust British Music Hall on Record, 1979
  2. ^ See this collection of George W. Johnson's music. Included are four different (1898–1902) recordings of The Laughing Song. Also included in the archive is a later version of The Whistling Coon, written in 1878 by Sam Devere (listen here for Johnson's 1891 version). This song was originally recorded in 1890 by Johnson, and on the back of its success, he derived The Laughing Song.
  3. ^ "Svensk mediedatabas". Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  4. ^ Narasimham, M. L. (26 December 2010). "Mayabazaar (1936)". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  5. ^ "Copy Cat Crown (Part 5) – Copy Cats Of The Yore". Cinegoer. 8 November 2006. Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Stamp: The Laughing Policeman (United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland) (Greetings Stamps 1990 - Smiles) Mi:GB 1256,Sn:GB 1309,Yt:GB 1450,Sg:GB 1488,AFA:GB 1386". Colnect. Retrieved 2019-03-02.