Bob Monkhouse OBE 1928 – 2003
Bob Monkhouse is one of this country’s best remembered entertainers and all round comic genius. Enjoying a career as a successful comedy writer, comedian and actor, he became a household name on British television as a presenter and top game show host, Monkhouse himself once quipped in his live stand up routine “there’s Monkhouse, he’s got prizes”. Monkhouse was famous for his quick ad- lib and one liner jokes.
Born Robert Alan “Bob” Monkhouse, 23rd June 1928 at 168 Bromley Road, Beckenham, Kent, the son of Wilfred Adrian Monkhouse, who died in 1957, and Dorothy Muriel Monkhouse née Hansard. Monkhouse’s father was a prosperous Methodist businessman who owned Monk and Glass, which made custard powder.
Bob Monkhouse attended Dulwich College as a school boy, from which he was later expelled. It was during his time as a school boy that Monkhouse began his early writing career, writing for the Beano and Dandy comics. He also drew for Hotspur, Wizard and Adventure comics. Amongst other early writing he wrote more than 1oo Harlem Hotspots porn novelettes.
He got his first break in 1948 after completing his National Service with the RAF. He secured a contract with the BBC after his unwitting Group Captain signed a letter Monkhouse had written telling the BBC he was a war hero and that it should give him an audition.
Bob Monkhouse’s adult career began as a scriptwriter for radio comedy, writing in partnership with Denis Goodwin with whom he also compèred Smash Hits on Radio Luxemberg.
Alongside performing as a double act, Monkhouse and Goodwin wrote for comedians such as: Arthur Askey and Ted Ray. The double act with Goodwin would last until Bob Monkhouse became famous on TV. In the early part of his TV career the partnership remained. However Goodwin was not comfortable with TV, leaving Monkhouse to become a household name on TV in his own right.
Alongside this new found TV career, Bob Monkhouse continued writing but in his own name, as a gag-writer for American comedians including Bob Hope when they wanted jokes for British tours.
In 1956, Monkhouse hosted Do You Trust Your Wife?, the British version of an American gameshow. He went on to host more than 30 different game shows on British television for over 30 years. In the same decade Monkhouse also began appearing in comedy films, including Carry On Sergeant in 1958. He appeared in films and television programmes throughout his career, although in later years these were often guest appearances.
By the 1960’s he was hosting Candid Camera and compèring Sunday Night at The London Palladium. Around 1969 he was a partner, with Henry Howard, in the London Agency Mitchell Monkhouse.
In the early 1970s he appeared on BBC Radio in Mostly Monkhouse with Josephine Tewson and David Jason. In 1979 he starred in a sketch comedy television series called Bonkers!.
Throughout his career Bob Monkhouse fronted a great number of game shows including favourites such as Golden Shot, Celebrity Squares and Family Fortunes.
Despite his hugely successful career, Bob Monkhouse’s personal life endured many traumas and difficulties.
Married twice, to Elizabeth Thompson on November 5, 1949 (divorced in 1972), and then to Jacqueline Harding on October 4, 1973. He had three children from his first marriage, but only his daughter Abigail survived him. His son Gary Alan, who had cerabel palsy, died in Braintree, Essex, in 1992, aged 40; this led to Monkhouse being an avid campaigner for the disabled. His other son Simon, from whom he had been estranged for almost a decade, died of a heroin overdose in a Bangkok hotel in 2001.
Monkhouse lived in a house called “Claridges” in Eggington, near Leighton Buzzard and had a flat in London. He also had a holiday home in Barbados.
In his autobiography, Monkhouse admitted to hundreds of sexual liaisons and affairs, including one with a transexual person.
However he claimed that he only undertook this course of action because his first wife was unfaithful. His lovers before his second marriage included the actress Diana Dors, about whose parties he later commented after her death: “The awkward part about an orgy is that afterwards you’re not too sure who to thank.
Bob Monhouse was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in September 2001. He died from the illness 29th December, 2003
Joking Till The End
In July 1995, Monkhouse appealed for the return of a ring binder that constituted one of his ‘joke books’, offering a £10,000 reward. The book, which contained notes on sketches and one-liners, for which Monkhouse was most famous, was returned after 18 months.
Monkhouse was appointed an OBE in 1993.