When Barry Cryer says you were a special comedian, you’ve got the approval of the biggest expert around.
Barry has written for everyone from Dave Allen to George Burns and Tommy Cooper to Les Dawson, Bruce Forsyth, The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise and Spike Milligan.
According to him, the late, great Kenny Everett was the only one he ever worked with who wasn’t a natural comic – but remains one of his favourites.
It’s high praise indeed from a man still making us laugh aged 83.
“Kenny was the only non-comedian I ever wrote for, and he was a one-off,” says Barry. “They tell me his shows were crazy and anarchic but we didn’t think so then.
“We all had a great time – the women in the show adored him.
“How did we get famous people to make fun of themselves on Kenny’s shows? Well, we were the modest version of Eric And Ernie – they got big actors and we got music biggies.
“Freddie Mercury, for Heaven’s sake! And Cliff Richard did the show quite a lot, we took the Mickey out of him a lot and he loved it.
“Rod Stewart told me that when he and his band were travelling they never listened to music. They listened to comedy, which was what they loved to relax with.
“When Kenny did Rod, his backside got bigger and bigger during the sketch, until he floated up in the air.
“Rod loved it, and it became something of an accolade, to have the Mickey taken out of you by Kenny Everett.”
At a time when nobody else could get the likes of David Bowie to even do major interviews, Kenny had him making a complete fool of himself on a rooftop, smashing a violin while singing his latest hit.
Kenny was in his London City gentlemen’s outfit, Angry Of Mayfair, with the bowler hat.
And the stockings and suspenders on the back when he turned round and was chased by Bowie.
If Kenny didn’t write much of this madcap stuff, he wasn’t without a bit of experience, having dreamed up all sorts of zany tricks for his radio shows.
“Kenny had been a superb radio performer and he did all his own tapes brilliantly,” Barry points out. “But he didn’t write much for TV. Ray Cameron, Michael McIntyre’s dad, and I wrote the shows initially.
“You’d just give Kenny an idea and he’d run with it. If he did ever change it, it was for the better.
“In the days at Thames, there was no audience and we’d work on the show all day.
“The camera crews would fight to get on it. They all loved working with Kenny, and it was the only show I ever worked on where nobody said: ‘Quiet!’
“There was no countdown, they just started the cameras and we’d see what happened.
“The boss was upstairs, and the joke was that if he ever found out what was going on down there, there’d be trouble.
“In the end, we did get into trouble. Kenny did a character called Sid Snot, and we were going to do a soap, The Snots.
“Unfortunately, news about this was leaking to the boss.
“When he heard about the Snots and cancelled it, we turned up and the studio was empty. We went upstairs, and Kenny said he couldn’t work with these people.”
Angered by this and the fact his show was up against the Beeb’s Top Of The Pops every Thursday evening, Kenny moved to the BBC.
His new show, in which he was forced to come up with some new characters, was a hit, too.
“It was very sad, because we’d had a wonderful time at Thames,” says Barry.
“Kenny just went with the flow. He was an amazing character. Now and again, something annoyed him and you could tell, but mostly he just went with the flow.
“Of course, being gay, that was a horrible era for him. He had been happily married, of course, to Lee Middleton.
“But Kenny and Lee had had a very happy marriage and a very friendly divorce.
“My gay mates were hunted men in those days, because they would have been ruined and probably gone to prison. It was horrible.
“Lee’s third husband was John, and Kenny was asked to be their best man. He stood up, looked at John and said: ‘For God’s sake, don’t tell them about us!’ He was a one-off, he was wonderful.”
Clearly, just a glance at his resume demonstrates how much Barry Cryer knows about classic comedy, and his admiration for Kenny is obvious.
As he points out, a simple twist of fate could have seen Kenny still entertaining us now, instead of having died at just 50, in 1995.
“As Paul Gambaccini said to me, the horrible thing was that the treatment of HIV-Aids improved so much that if Kenny had lived just another year, he would still be with us now,” he says.
“The timing of his death was tragic.
“What would Kenny be doing now? He’d still be doing radio, and the young ones would love him. Chris Tarrant said to me that, in his time, Kenny was the man, the No 1.
“He could do all the tricks and make his own tapes, he could sing, he could even do all the Bee Gees! You might remember him interviewing all of them, with himself playing all the brothers.
“And he ad-libbed all the time at Thames. If he’d tried that at the Beeb, they’d have made him film it again!
“At Thames, Kenny turned the camera so viewers saw the dusty floor and cardboard coffee cups. He went: ‘Oooooh, the glamour of it all!’”
Keen to spread anarchy and avoid doing everything off a script, we loved Kenny Everett for it.