Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Friday Night with the Crazy Gang (1956)

Courtesy of Dr. Julian Hilton

Main image of Friday Night with the Crazy Gang (1956)
For Jack Hylton Presents, Jack Hylton TV Productions for Rediffusion/ITV (London) 21/9-19/10/1956
6 x 30 minute editions, black & white
Director (uncredited)Michael Westmore

Cast: Bud Flanagan, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton, Jimmy Gold

Show full cast and credits

Chaotic and frequently bizarre comedy from the aptly named five-strong Gang.

Show full synopsis

The Crazy Gang had been film stars of the war years but by the time of this series (produced for Associated-Rediffusion under the wing of impresario Jack Hylton, and following a similarly named showcase for Terry-Thomas), they had become more or less permanent fixtures on the London stage in a succession of sell-out revues. Reduced by now to five members (Chesney Allen, who outlived them all, had retired due to ill-health) they made little attempt to tailor their act to television, each show looking like it had been photographed live from the stalls (and making generous use of material from their revue Jokers Wild).

The show presented here begins with a prim female continuity announcer being unexpectedly drenched with water, setting the tone for much of the good-natured chaos to come, which includes two song numbers, a balloon dance, an extended final 'Scarlet Pimpernel' sketch and their famous 'crossing gags' in which they walk briskly across the stage delivering a quick visual or verbal joke, followed without pause by another (for instance, one of the Gang enters in a diving suit accompanied by a mermaid holding two babies, and Knox explains, "That is what happens on the bed of the ocean"). The rigidly theatrical nature of the performance is maintained by having some of the Gang performing on stage while others interrupt from box seats.

The shows effectively convey the most 'modern' aspect of their act, which is its breathless pace. Usually even the most sympathetic modern audiences must make some adjustment for the more sedate tempos of 1950s TV comedy, but the Crazy Gang need no such special handling. They maintain a frantic barrage of corny gags, puns, visual jokes, vulgarity and topical references (with Diana Dors, Fabian of the Yard (BBC, 1954-56) and even the Suez crisis finding their way into the scripts). As usual, some of the jokes seem fairly risqué for the time, as when a woman explains that she concealed her emeralds in her bustle during a highway robbery and is met with the observation "Pity your mother wasn't here, she might have saved the cart."

Where the programme seems least modern (aside from the guest spots) is in the appearance of the stars themselves: all were over sixty when the shows were made and it is a rare (and nowadays unheard-of) treat to see such energetic, wild comedy being performed by obviously old men.

Matthew Coniam

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Crossing gags (3:10)
2. Teddy Boys' Ball (3:00)
Complete edition part 1 (8:34)
Part 2 (16:23)
O-Kay For Sound (1937)
Before Your Very Eyes (1956-58)
Tony Hancock Show, The (1956-57)
Crazy Gang, The
Hylton, Jack (1892-1965)