Kenny Everett (born Maurice James Christopher Cole in Liverpool on 25 December 1944), or 'Cuddly Ken', as he liked to be known, revolutionised pop radio in the 1960s and 1970s with his mastery of the technical side of the medium, absurdist humour and an irreverent presentational style which saw him dismissed on a number of occasions. While radio always remained his favoured medium, he successfully transferred his manic humour to television in the late 1970s.
He was first heard on the airwaves when he joined pirate station Radio London in 1964, where he remained (apart from a brief period at Radio Luxembourg following the first of his dismissals) until 1967, when he joined the BBC's new pop station, Radio 1.
Through his creative use of sound effects (something in which he led the way as a radio disc jockey) and mischievous humour, he quickly accumulated a loyal following, leading to his first television work as co-host of the comic sketch series Nice Time (ITV, 1968-69).
Dismissed from Radio 1 in 1970, he was approached by London Weekend Television with a proposal to make a series of television programmes in the same vein as his radio shows. The results were The Kenny Everett Explosion (ITV, 1970), Making Whoopee (ITV, 1970) and Ev (ITV, 1970). Each was a mix of pop music and comic sketch, and each was a disaster.
Having been forgiven by the BBC (returning to Radio 1 in 1972), he was one of a number of participants in the satire series Up Sunday (BBC, 1972-73). However, it was at Thames Television where he finally found the perfect visual vehicle for his brand of humour.
Like his earlier LWT shows, The Kenny Everett Video Show (ITV, 1978-81), renamed The Kenny Everett Video Cassette for its final series, married pop music and comic sketch, but far more successfully. Everett's irrepressible personality, his array of comic characters (including rocker Sid Snot, saucy Frenchman Marcel Wave and monumentally breasted (and bearded) movie starlet Cupid Stunt), the Everett-voiced animated character Captain Kremmen, and (as the series title implies) the use of cutting-edge video technology, all helped to make the series a hit with viewers.
The raunchy routines of scantily-clad dance troupe Hot Gossip, another element of the series, and frequent references to 'naughty bits' may have raised the hackles of society's moral guardians, but it was "all done in the best possible taste" and viewers eagerly embraced both him and the series. Aided immeasurably by the quality writing of Barry Cryer and Ray Cameron, it won a BAFTA for best light entertainment series in 1979.
His success led to the BBC inviting him back into the fold once again for The Kenny Everett Television Show (BBC, 1981-88), more or less retaining the same format as his ITV series but adding some new characters. The quality of the comedy, however, began to decline and by the middle of the series he was expressing himself bored with television. An attempt to transfer his brand of humour onto the bigger screen with the comic horror Bloodbath at the House of Death (d. Ray Cameron, 1983), in which he starred, was less than rapturously received.
Not that his popularity was waning. Even his infamous "Lets's bomb Russia" outburst at a Conservative Party general election rally in 1983, his very appearance at which one would have thought anathema to a large percentage of his natural audience, couldn't damage his 'Cuddly Ken' persona. Although he hosted his own quiz shows Brainstorm (BBC, 1988) and Gibberish (BBC, 1992), Everett was to spend the majority of his later years in his favoured medium, radio, presenting a show on London station Capital Gold between 1988 and 1994.
Diagnosed as HIV positive in 1989, Everett died from an Aids-related illness on 4 April 1995. The previous year he had been awarded the Sony Radio Gold Award for his achievements in radio.