At a time when variety was the order of the day along came Tony Hancock, who had made a name for himself as a cast member of popular radio show Educating Archie in 1952. Up until Hancock’s Half Hour comedy shows would generally echo the kind of material seen in Theatres, a series of sketches, mixed with a musical interlude.
Although this format would continue even to this day, two of the sharpest scriptwriters seen at the time: Ray Galton and Alan Simpson wanted to try something different, in a 2014 interview they told us “we decided we would like to do a half hour storyline sitcom without interruptions for music and thus was born Hancock’s Half Hour”. So began a partnership that would last until 1961, across both radio and TV and what is even today considered the very first sitcom.
Perhaps this was Tony Hancock at his best. Supported by Sid James and Bill Kerr with a young Kenneth Williams doing all the funny voices and additional female support from no less than 3 different ladies over it’s run. Hancock’s Half Hour was particularly popular with young audiences. At the time it was first broadcast writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson were a mere 25 years old, Hancock himself was only 30.
Hancock’s Half Hour was the must listen Sunday Afternoon Radio Show, that ran for 5 series totalling 103 episodes between 1954 and 1959. Between 1956 and 1959 it ran concurrently with Hancock’s TV shows.
Each week would see our hero in a different situation whether pounding the beat as a policeman or attending Sid’s Wrestling Gala you were treated to laughter from start to finish. In many ways these radio shows are perhaps Hancock’s funniest work.
Moira Lister (series 1)
Andree Melly (series 2&3)
Hattie Jacques (series 4&5)
Channel: BBC Light Programme
Written By: Ray Galton and Alan Simpson
Original Run: 2nd November 1954 – 29th December 1959
Hancock’s Half Hour radio shows are regularly repeated on Digital radio station BBC Radio 4 Extra
Of 103 episodes recorded for radio only 83 still remain in the BBC archives. In 2014 to commemorate 60 years since it’s first broadcast Galton and Simpson picked five scripts from the missing episodes for the BBC to re-record.
All images and audio clips are the property of the BBC.