Kenneth Connor: Interview 1 | Interview 2

Ken Carries On Up Video


I've interviewed comedians and comedy actors before and usually it's been like dying and going to Purgatory. Rowan Atkinson was painfully shy, Adrian Edmondsen was painfully serious and Bill Oddies was just painful.

And it looked as though the laughs were gonna keep on coming when I met Carry On stalwart Kenneth Connor last week to talk about the Warner/Hollywood Nites sell-though package of these gems of British humour.

Why did you become an actor, I asked the diminutive 70 year old. He puffed on his cigarette - the pause seemed endless. Then he said "Why did you become a journalist?" and, I dunno, there seemed something spiky about his voice.

"I wasn't any good at anything else," I told him. Another pause. Then he put on his Sydney Mincing voice and said: "Yes. You can put me down for some of that as well, mate."

Sydney Mincing was a classic creation of Connor's when he was part of the team on the Ray's a Laugh radio series back in the '50s and '60s. Sydney was a wheezy, pinched voiced North Londoner.

"Sydney was inspired by this itinerant librarian who used to call from door to door when I was a youngster," recalled Connor.

"By the time you'd opened the door, he'd be kneeling down rifling through his collection of dog-eared books and he'd say terrible things line 'Look at page 15 - it says I want a man. Good eh? Tell your mother it's an adventure story.' Dirty old devil.

"Sydney also came from a distressed cleric who lived in the same area. He had the most extraordinary sour view of life. Doom-laden, really. He was a staunch believer in poverty and knowing your place. I once got a pet dog and when he saw it in the garden he simply said, in the most disapproving tone, 'Spreading yourself, aren't you?'

"I did a lot of work on radio but I think Ray's a Laugh was perhaps the most enjoyable. Ted Ray was a genius but, as you know, the censorship situation was extraordinary. I had to think up a catch phrase for Sydney and I came up with 'Oh well, there's always the other.' The BBC people went into a state of shock. But Ted Ray said 'No, we can use this. When Sydney says, There's always the other, I'll say, And what is the other?' Well you can imagine there was even more shock. But as he explained, the other was a little motto in tapestry hanging above Mincing's bed which read something like 'Whatever your parlous and straitened circumstances, always remember, Jack, I am in a perfectly content situation.'"

Another of Connor's creations was Herbert Toil, a permanently complaining old cove, whose catchphrase was "It's all go". By the end of Ray's a Laugh, the show consisted entirely of catchphrases.

"But that was the charm of it. Similar to the Carry On films in that this particular style of humour is comfortable and cosy. It's a bit saucy but in the tradition of seaside postcards and all that.

Connor seems to be the sort of chap who prefers not to stay serious for too long. So when I talked about kenneth Williams' recent death and the fact that Connor was one of the last of the originals, he replies "Yes, it's terribly sad. Kenneth Williams was someone who you expected and hoped would be around forever. But these things happen. In fact I was feeling a bit dodgy myself, this morning."

Like most comedians Connor is a firm believer in the theory that humour is all around and that the normal course of events is funnier than anything a scriptwriter could dream up. His favourite example: "This was years ago, the morning after a General Election and I overheard these two women talking about it. 'What did you do last night, then?' said the first. 'I done the Labour, didn't I.' replied the second. 'Wotcha do that then for?' 'Well, I didn't want the sodding socialists to get in , did I?'"

As the interview closed, Connor said "Thanks very much, you're a lovely feller - even if you do look like an Iranian terrorist."

"Funnily enough, that's only the second time this week someone's said that," I replied. Connor had the good grace to laugh.