Date of Issue – 1 April 2015
Royal Mail celebrated the April Fool’s Day with a launch of a set of stamps to mark the contribution to the world of entertainment and comedy by some of the nation’s most cherished performers across the decades since the 1950s. The issue consists of ten items that were released on the 1st of April.
Comedian Ronnie Corbett with The Two Ronnies stamp, which features in Royal Mail’s Comedy Greats stamp series. Photograph: Des Willie/Royal Mail/PA
The UK has long boasted a broad range of comic talents. From stand-ups and double acts to satirists and surrealists, stalwarts of stage and radio to stars of film and television, the nation has produced countless heroes of humour. Representing the best in British comedy, the stamps feature ten individuals, duos and groups who have brought wit and laughter to millions.
The set of stamps focuses on performers who emerged from the tradition of stand-up and sketch show artists, rather than those more widely regarded as comic actors.
The stamp issue features some of the influential founders of modern British comedy Norman Wisdom (whose centenary falls in 2015) influenced a new generation of physical comedians such as Lee Evans, who has directly paid tribute to Wisdom.
Morecambe and Wise and the Two Ronnies represent the continuity of a variety style of comedy reaching back to the 1940s, of huge popularity on TV in the 1970s and still reaching a wide audience in the 1980s, and which have influenced all double acts since.
In contrast, another double act, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are featured representing the Cambridge Footlights generation that dominated the early 1960s comedy scene, and their partnership in particular reinvented the sketch show format. Their ground-breaking TV series, ‘Not Only But Also’ premiered in 1965 and hence this year marks its 50th anniversary.
Spike Milligan is included as his anarchic influence is especially great from the 1950′s Goon Show and in particular his pioneering ‘Q’ TV series from the late 1960s, that was influential to Monty Python.
The Python team in turn represents a scatological approach that revolutionized comedy in the 1970s and in turn influenced later generations of comics in the UK as well as the USA. Python also paved the way for the alternative comedy boom of the 1980s which is represented by French and Saunders, the most successful British female double act or team of all time.
Lenny Henry is included as he represents how 1970s stand-up comedy could fuse with an alternative comedy influence to create a distinctive style that continues to provide inspiration to new generations of performers.
Billy Connolly’s and Victoria Wood’s reputations put them in a distinctive class of their own as stand-out performers and writers. Connolly regularly tops polls to find the greatest stand-up comedian of all time and Wood has won more television BAFTAs than anyone else in BAFTA history. She has also been a key influence on most female performers since the late 1970s.