Bill Kerr recites classic poetry

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I haven't felt much like writing this week. On Monday, I came down with the flu (although I didn't know it for sure until Wednesday), and I've been quarantined, spending most of my time hacking, coughing, sweating, and sleeping. To distract my brain from all the things I'm not getting done, I've been re-listening to a marathon of one of my all-time favorite comedy series, "Hancock's Half Hour," originally broadcast by the BBC from 1954 to 1959, and rebroadcast weekly on BBC Radio 4 Extra. And that got me poking around to see what Bill Kerr is up to these days.

Bill Kerr, born in South Africa in 1922 (his first gig was as an infant in his mother's arms), grew up in Wagga Wagga, Australia, working as a child actor, and came to fame in the 1940s and 1950s as a comedian on British radio. He is one of two surviving regular cast members of "Hancock's Half Hour." (Andrée Melly, Hancock's girlfriend in Series 2 and 3, is the other. Writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson are also still with us.) Kerr was in every episode of the show as Hancock's best friend, and he also voiced a number of other characters, including a spot-on send-up of the character West from the movie Blackboard Jungle.

He went on to more dramatic roles in films like Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously. A few years ago, he anchored the series "Animal X: Natural Mystery Unit," which aired on Animal Planet and is available on YouTube.

In this series of videos recorded by Storyteller Media in 2013, Kerr, age 91, gives dramatic recitations from memory of poetry that he learned at his mother's knee. The series includes "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes, "Laska" by Frank Desprez, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" by Robert Service, "Little Orphan Annie," and "The Game of Life," a poem that compares life to a game of cards, likening the suits to love, money, war, and death. This playlist includes the five poems, a 1951 Bill Kerr monologue from Variety Bandbox, a segment from the Hancock's Half Hour episode, "East Cheam Drama Festival," in which Kerr plays an angry young man in "Look Back in Hunger," the test pilot segment from the episode "Hancock's Diary," and the Hancock spoof of "Blackboard Jungle."

MORE: 720 ABC Perth ran a radio profile of Bill Kerr in July 2013.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 7, 2014 5:49 PM.

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