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Ray Alan (1930–2010) by Monty Fresco, 1979 [with puppet Lord Charles] © Monty Fresco / Rex Features

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Alan, Ray [name in religion Raymond Alan Whyberd] (1930–2010), ventriloquist, writer, and television presenter, was born on 18 September 1930 at 83 Dutton Street, Greenwich, London, the fourth son of Albert William Whyberd (1895–1984), shipping clerk, later a local government officer, and his wife, ...

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Dave Allen (1936–2005) by Trevor Leighton, 1999 Camera Press, London

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Allen, Dave [real name David Edward John Archer Cullen Tynan-O'Mahony] (1936–2005), comedian, was born on 6 July 1936 at Merrion House, Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin, the youngest of three sons of (Gerard John) Cullen Tynan-O'Mahony (b. 1900), journalist and managing editor of the ...

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Allen, William Ernest (Chesney) (1894–1982), comedian and singer, was born at 7 Hamballa Road, Battersea, London, on 5 April 1894, the son of Edwin Allen, a prosperous builder, and his wife, Louisa, née Cridland. Allen's first employment on leaving school was as a solicitor's clerk. In 1912, at the age of eighteen, he made his début as an actor in repertory at the ...

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Angel, Edward (d. 1673), actor and comedian, first came to public notice in winter 1659–60, when he joined the troupe assembled by John Rhodes at the Cockpit in Drury Lane. Angel's earliest recorded appearance was as Florimel in Fletcher and Rowley's The Maid in the Mill...

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Baker [married name Pearson], Hylda (1905–1986), comedian, was born on 14 February 1905 at Farnworth, Bolton, Lancashire, the eldest of the seven children (three boys, four girls) of Harold (Chukky) Baker (1884–1966), comedian, and Margaret Halliwell, seamstress, both of Farnworth. She was chiefly educated at ...

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Ronald William George Barker (1929–2005) by unknown photographer, 1975 Getty Images

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Barker, Ronald William George [Ronnie] (1929–2005), actor and comedian, was born on 25 September 1929 at 70 Garfield Street, Bedford, the only son and second of the three children of Leonard William Barker, a clerk for Shell, and his wife, Edith Eleanor, née...

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Joseph Knight

revised by Katharine Cockin

Bartley, George (1782?–1858), comedian, was born in Bath in or about 1782; one source states 1784. His father was box-keeper at the Bath theatre, and he thus had early opportunities of acquiring some stage experience, appearing in such characters as the page in ...

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Bennett, William Robertson Russell [Billy] (1887–1942), comedian, was born in Glasgow, the son of John Bennett who partnered Robert Martell in the Bennett and Martell slapstick comedy act which was quite well known in the 1890s and Edwardian years. Billy Bennett made his youthful first appearance as the rear end of a cow and spent a period as an acrobat, but was not keen to emulate his father and enlisted in the army. He then returned to the stage as a burlesque comic, but re-enlisted for the duration of the First World War. He served in the ...

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Michael Bentine (1922–1996) by unknown photographer, 1992 Rex Features

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Bentine [formerly Bentin], Michael (1922–1996), comedian, was born on 26 January 1922, in Watford, Hertfordshire, the second of two sons of Adan (later Adam) Bentin, aeronautical engineer, and his wife, Florence (d. 1949), daughter of James Dawkins, a Southend Water Board...

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Brown, Janet McLuckie (1923–2011), actress and impressionist, was born on 14 December 1923 at 26 Hamilton Road, Rutherglen, near Glasgow, the daughter of Andrew Brown, a sheet-iron worker in the Clyde shipyards, and his wife, Helen McLuckie, née Russell. She was educated at ...

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Janet McLuckie Brown (1923–2011) by Denis Jones, 1979 © Denis Jones / Associated Newspapers / Rex Features

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Cairoli, (Humbert Jean) Charles [performing name Charlie Cairoli] (1910–1980), clown, was born in Affori, near Milan, Italy, on 15 February 1910, the son of Jean Marie Cairoli, who was Italian, and his wife, Eugenie Ricono, who was French. His parents, who were circus performers, were descendants of circus families with a solid background in circus skills and music. As the youngest child (he had a brother ten years his senior) ...

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Carson, Hugh Francis [Frank] (1926–2012), comedian, was born at 46 Great Georges Street, Belfast, on 6 November 1926, the son of John Carson, a dustman and newspaper seller, and his wife, Josephine, née Augusta. He was of part Italian descent, his grandmother having emigrated from ...

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Chapman, Graham (1941–1989), comedian and writer, was born on 8 January 1941 at the Stoneygate Nursing Home, Stoneygate, Leicester, the second son of Walter Chapman, policeman, and his wife, Edith Towers. He was educated at several Leicestershire schools, including Melton Mowbray grammar school...

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Chevalier, Albert Onésime Britannicus Gwathveoyd Louis (1861–1923), comedian and actor, was born on 21 March 1861 at 21 St Ann's Villas, Royal Crescent, Notting Hill, London, the eldest son of Jean Onésime Chevalier, language teacher, and his wife, Ellen Louisa Mathews; his name at birth was registered simply as ...

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Albert Onésime Britannicus Gwathveoyd Louis Chevalier (1861–1923) by B. Knight [Mafekin' Night] © National Portrait Gallery, London