It's a Funny Old Life
Its a funny old life

also honoured...

Ronald SHINER

3 November 1958

Comedian and actor, who became a familiar face in post-war British films, often playing cockney characters


Arthur ASKEY

28 December 1959

Comedian who rose to fame in the first regular BBC radio comedy series, Band Waggon, and starred in several comedy films during the 1940s


Charlie CHESTER

17 April 1961

Comedian and TV and radio presenter, who became well known in the 1940s through his BBC radio show Stand Easy


Michael BENTINE

30 April 1963

Comedian, comic actor and founding member of the Goons


Patricia HAYES

19 April 1972

Character actress well known for her appearances in many radio and television comedy shows since 1940

related pages...

'It's all about the comedy' when the This Is Your Life team shine the spotlight on those talented men and women who found fame tickling the nation's funny bones.


So, from music hall to stand up, via radio, television and the cinema, we take a look at those masters - and mistresses - of mirth who kept us laughing through the years, and were richly rewarded with the Big Red Book* treatment....

Ted Ray Ted Ray Ted RAY
23 October 1955
For his first This Is Your Life tribute, the comedian - best known for BBC radio's domestic comedy series Ray's a Laugh - was surprised by Eamonn at the BBC Television Theatre.
Three guests were unable to appear on the live broadcast due to lack of time, caused by Ted joking around and interrupting proceedings!
Norman Wisdom Norman Wisdom Norman WISDOM
2 December 1957
The production team made a rare trip out of London to enable Eamonn to surprise the actor, comedian and singer-songwriter at the Playhouse Theatre in Manchester, where he was currently appearing.
Among those paying tribute to Norman - star of a string of highly successful film comedies - are magician David Nixon and singer Vera Lynn.
  Jimmy Edwards Jimmy EDWARDS
6 October 1958
The comedy actor and script writer - perhaps best known for his role as Pa Glum in the BBC radio comedy series Take It From Here, was surprised by Eamonn at the BBC’s Piccadilly 1 Studios in London.
Jimmy - also famous for playing the headmaster ‘Professor’ in BBC TV’s Whack-O - is greeted by entertainer Harry Secombe and actress June Whitfield.
  Tommy Trinder Tommy TRINDER
11 May 1959
In what Radio Times billed as the 100th edition of the programme, Tommy - one of Britain's foremost entertainers - is surprised by Eamonn while appearing on the television show of fellow entertainer George Formby. Singer Elisabeth Welch pays tribute in the studio, while actress and singer Evelyn Laye sends a recorded message.
  Richard Hearne Richard HEARNE
26 October 1959
The actor, comedian, producer and writer was surprised by Eamonn backstage at the BBC Television Theatre. Richard became famous for his stage and television comedy character Mr Pastry - a bumbling old man with a walrus moustache - and was the first performer to be known as a 'television star' with his own television series.
Charlie Drake Charlie Drake Charlie DRAKE
11 December 1961
Eamonn surprised the diminutive comedian at the London Palladium, where he was discussing plans for the theatre’s forthcoming pantomime.
For this - his first This Is Your Life tribute - Charlie is greeted by, among others, popular painist Russ Conway and comedians Dick Emery and Bob Monkhouse.
  Kenneth Horne Kenneth HORNE
19 February 1962

The comedian and businessman - who at the time was best known for his popular BBC radio series, Beyond Our Ken - was surprised by Eamonn outside his London home in Kensington.
His first hit radio series, Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh, written with his co-star Richard Murdoch, arose out of his wartime service as an officer in the Royal Air Force.

Hattie Jacques Hattie Jacques Hattie JACQUES
12 February 1963
Hattie - a prolific television and radio performer - was an original member of the Carry On team with six of the comedies to her credit when Eamonn surprised her at the BBC Television Theatre.
Guests include her television ‘brother’ Eric Sykes, actors Leslie Philips and Leonard Sachs, entertainer Max Bygraves and a chimpanzee called Rosie!
Harry Worth Harry Worth Harry WORTH
7 November 1963
Eamonn and the production team leave their London base and travel north to Manchester to surprise the Yorkshire born comedy actor and comedian at the city’s Gaumont cinema.
Fellow comedian and friend Norman Vaughan pays tribute, while entertainer Harry Secombe sends a recorded message.
Ronnie Corbett Ronnie Corbett Ronnie CORBETT
1 April 1970
The Scottish comedy actor was surprised during a recording of a sketch for The David Frost Show, which involved a man who believes he is about to be surprised by Eamonn Andrews for This Is Your Life. In a clever twist, Eamonn appears for real and Ronnie is speechless! His guests include actor Clive Dunn and entertainer Danny La Rue.
  Mike and Bernie Winters

Mike and Bernie WINTERS
16 December 1970
The brothers - who formed a comedy double act and made their first television appearance in 1955 - were surprised by Eamonn during the show's second Thames series.
This edition of the show no longer survives, so no further details are currently known about it.

Sandy Powell Sandy Powell Sandy POWELL
27 January 1971
The comedian - best known for his radio work in the 1930s, and for his catchphrase Can You Hear Me, Mother? - was surprised by Eamonn at Thames Television’s Euston Road Studios.
Sandy began his career in music hall and his tribute includes contributions from fellow variety performers Hettie King and Wee Georgie Wood.
Wilfred Pickles Wilfred Pickles Wilfred PICKLES
24 February 1971
Eamonn disguised himself as a cameraman in order to surprise the actor and radio presenter on the set of the ITV sitcom For The Love of Ada.
Yorkshire-born Wilfred - perhaps best known as host of BBC radio show Have A Go, which ran from 1946 to 1967 - was greeted by singer Vera Lynn and actress Beryl Reid.
Alfred Marks Alfred Marks Alfred MARKS
24 November 1971
The actor and comedian - popular on radio, film and television since the early 1950s - was surprised by Eamonn at a curtain call of the John Chapman / Ray Cooney farce, Not Now Darling, at London’s Criterion Theatre.
Alfred’s tribute includes filmed messages from actress Hermione Gingold and comedy actor Peter Sellers.
Les Dawson Les Dawson Les DAWSON
22 December 1971
Les - a winner of television's Opportunity Knocks - was surprised by Eamonn at Teddington Studios during the recording of a special Christmas edition of the talent show.
The Big Red Book was wrapped as a present for Les to open. His guests include Dora Bryan and Syd Lawrence and his Orchestra.
Michael Flanders Michael Flanders

Michael FLANDERS OBE
26 January 1972
The actor, broadcaster, and writer and performer of comic songs, best known for his partnership with Donald Swann was surprised by Eamonn at Thames Television's Euston Road Studios.
Michael - who was confined to a wheelchair due to contracting polio in 1943 - was greeted by, among others, singers Ian Wallace and Val Doonican.

Charlie Williams Charlie Williams Charlie WILLIAMS
2 February 1972
The comedian and former footballer was surprised by Eamonn on the stage of the Batley Variety Club. Yorkshire-born Charlie became one of the first post-war black players in British football, playing centre half for Doncaster Rovers, and later, was better known as Britain’s first black stand-up comedian, achieving national fame on television's The Comedians.
Larry Grayson Larry Grayson Larry GRAYSON
27 December 1972
Eamonn ambushed the comedian and presenter after the recording of Larry's television show at ATV Studios in Birmingham.
In a glitzy edition for a Christmas broadcast, Larry is greeted by his show business friends - comedy duo Mike and Bernie Winters, entertainer Danny La Rue, singer John Hanson and actress Dora Bryan.
Leslie Crowther Leslie Crowther Leslie CROWTHER
28 March 1973
Eamonn surprised the comedy actor - whose career has included variety, radio, television and theatre - at an antiques fair in London’s Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre. For this, his first This Is Your Life tribute, Leslie is greeted by, among others, actress June Whitfield in the studio, and entertainer Dickie Henderson via a recorded message.
Spike Milligan Spike Milligan Spike MILLIGAN
11 April 1973
The writer and comedian - one third of the ‘Goons’ - was surprised by Eamonn during a reunion of his former Army colleagues at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea.
Fellow Goons Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers cause mayhem, while poet Robert Graves - in a recorded message - brings some dignity to the proceedings.
Arthur Askey Arthur Askey Arthur ASKEY OBE
25 December 1974
For Arthur's second tribute, Eamonn sprung from a Humpty Dumpty outfit to surprise the comedian - currently celebrating 50 years in show business - at Thames Television’s Euston Road Studios.
For the Christmas Day broadcast the star-studded guest list includes comedian Charlie Drake, magician David Nixon and actress and singer Gracie Fields.
Ted Ray Ted Ray Ted RAY
26 February 1975
For his second tribute the comedian was surprised by Eamonn on the doorstep of his London home. Ted began his career in music hall, and would become well known through his long running weekly BBC radio show Ray’s A Laugh, which ran from 1949 until 1961. Among those paying tribute are actresses Noele Gordon and Diana Dors.
Beryl Reid Beryl Reid Beryl REID
17 March 1976
A talented and successful dramatic actress, Beryl was perhaps best known for her comedy characters, honed initially on radio where her skilful comic routines were developed.
Eamonn surprised Beryl in Thames Television's Teddington Studios car park, and her show includes tributes from actresses Pat Kirkwood and Eileen Atkins.
Frankie Howerd Frankie Howerd Frankie HOWERD
27 October 1976
Frankie was surprised by Eamonn at a book signing in London’s Selfridges department store.
The comedian’s career covered radio, television and film - including memorable appearances in the Carry On films. Among those paying tribute are singer Cilla Black, and actors Richard Burton, Dora Bryan and Ray Milland.
Tom O'Connor Tom O'Connor Tom O’CONNOR
12 January 1977
The former schoolmaster-turned-comedian was surprised on the set of his own television show, when Eamonn sprung out as the credits were rolling.
Another Opportunity Knocks success, Bootle-born Tom was greeted on the show by family and ex teaching colleagues, while entertainer Frankie Vaughan sent a recorded message.
Cyril Fletcher Cyril Fletcher Cyril FLETCHER
16 March 1977
The comedian - most famous for his Odd Odes, which formed a section of the BBC television show That's Life! - was surprised by Eamonn at a branch of Foyles bookshop.
That’s Life presenter Esther Rantzen and her team are among Cyril’s guests, along with entertainer Nat Jackley and actress Anna Neagle.
Max Boyce Max Boyce Max BOYCE
22 February 1978
The Welsh comedian and singer was surprised by Eamonn on the rugby pitch at Glyn Neath following a match. The show was then recorded at the Patti Pavillion in nearby Swansea, where the guests included Ken Dodd, and Welsh rugby union fly-half, Barry John. Max - a former coal miner - closed his tribute with one of his comedy songs.
William Franklyn William Franklyn William FRANKLYN
26 April 1978
Eamonn was concealed in a pick-up crate in order to surprise the comedy actor - currently appearing in the ITV sketch show What's On Next? at Thames Television's Teddington Studios.
William's colleagues from that show, Barry Cryer and Bob Todd are on the guest list, while actor Brian Rix pays his tribute.
Richard Murdoch Richard Murdoch Richard MURDOCH
3 May 1978
Richard - best known for his radio work with Kenneth Horne, and for his film and radio appearances with Arthur Askey - was surprised by Eamonn onboard a bus in central London.
Among those paying tribute to the man affectionately nicknamed 'Stinker' are magician David Nixon and actor Jack Warner.
Terry Scott Terry Scott Terry SCOTT
22 November 1978
The star of BBC television's Terry and June was surprised by Eamonn at the unlikely venue of Camberley’s Army & Navy Stores, during a promotional appearance with his television screen wife June Whitfield.
Terry's guests include, among others, actors Mollie Sugden, Bill Maynard and Brian Rix.
Eric Sykes Eric Sykes Eric SYKES
25 December 1979
The popular comedy actor and writer was treated to the programme’s second specially extended Christmas Day edition, when he was surprised by Eamonn at the New London Theatre. Eric – seated unusually on stage right due to his deafness – enjoyed a lively show which included comedy greats Frankie Howerd, Spike Milligan and Tommy Cooper.
Paddie O’Neil Paddie O’Neil Paddie O’NEIL
23 January 1980
The comedy actress and singer was surprised by Eamonn - with some help from her actor husband Alfred Marks - while riding the ghost train at Chessington Zoo.
Among those paying tribute are actor and comedian Norman Wisdom and television’s cookery experts Fanny & Johnny Craddock.
Nat Jackley Nat Jackley Nat JACKLEY
30 April 1980
The comic actor - equally at home in variety, film or pantomime - was surprised by Eamonn at London's Euston Station.
A whole host of variety names pay tribute to Nat, including entertainers Dickie Henderson and Tessie O'Shea in the studio, and comedy actress Beryl Reid on film.
Janet Brown Janet Brown Janet BROWN
3 December 1980
Famous at the time for her impression of the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, the actress and comedienne was surprised by Eamonn at Thames Television's Euston Road Studios. Some of the victims of Janet’s mimicry skills are part of her guest list – presenter Esther Rantzen, dog-trainer Barbara Woodhouse and Broadway star Carol Channing.
Billy Connolly Billy Connolly Billy CONNOLLY
31 December 1980
In a fitting New Year’s Eve Hogmanay special, the ‘Big Yin’ was surprised by Eamonn at Thames Television's Teddington Studios.
The Glasgow born singer and comic - who started his working life as a welder in the shipyards - was greeted via a live link by pop star Elton John, while studio guests include Kenny Everett and Michael Parkinson.
Tim Brooke_Taylor Tim Brooke_Taylor Tim BROOKE-TAYLOR
18 February 1981
The comedy actor - well known as a member of the comedy group The Goodies, and for his appearances on numerous television and radio shows - was surprised by Eamonn on the elevators of London's Cunard Hotel. Comedian Spike Milligan, cricketer Denis Compton and members of the Derby County football team are among Tim's guests.
Bernard Cribbins Bernard Cribbins Bernard CRIBBINS
25 February 1981
Eamonn dressed as a Womble to spring the surprise on the affable actor while he was driving a car in central London; and in one heart stopping moment, Bernard took the book and declared ‘I’ll read the bugger later’ gesturing to drive off!
Actresses Dora Bryan and Dinah Sheridan are among those paying tribute.
Bill Fraser Bill Fraser

Bill FRASER
21 October 1981
The Scottish actor - well known for his roles in such television comedies as The Army Game and Bootsy and Snudge, was surprised by Eamonn at London's Royalty Theatre.
Among the many guests paying tribute are actresses Susan Hampshire and Thora Hird and comedian Tommy Cooper.

Cannon & Ball Cannon & Ball Tommy CANNON and Bobby BALL
11 November 1981
Eamonn is launched - rather unsuccessfully - from a cannon outside London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane to surprise the popular comedy double act.
Among those paying tribute to the duo - currently scoring high ratings with their own television show - are This Is Your Life second-timers actresses Diana Dors and June Whitfield and comedian Charlie Drake.
Faith Brown Faith Brown Faith BROWN
20 January 1982
The popular comedienne and impressionist was surprised by Eamonn while appearing as a guest on the ITV entertainment show Game For A Laugh.
Faith - who began her career as a singer before launching her television career on the ITV sketch show Who Do You Do? - is greeted by, among others, comedian Ken Dodd and magician Paul Daniels.
Bob Monkhouse Bob Monkhouse Bob MONKHOUSE
10 February 1982
Eamonn surprised Bob on London’s St Martin’s Lane in front of a giant version of the set from his hit television game show Celebrity Squares.
Bob’s guests on this occasion included entertainer Liberace, and comedians Bob Hope and Max Wall. The comedian would be honoured again in April 2003 with an hour long special edition.
Jimmy Tarbuck Jimmy Tarbuck Jimmy TARBUCK
13 April 1983
‘Tarby’ was honoured with a rare hour long special edition when he was surprised by Eamonn while fronting his successful television variety show, Live From Her Majesty’s. A mixture of top sporting and entertainment names pay tribute to television's funny man, including singer Tom Jones, boxer Henry Cooper, golfer Tony Jacklin, entertainer Max Bygraves
Jim Davidson Jim Davidson Jim DAVIDSON
1 February 1984
Eamonn and a group of Irish Rangers descend on Jim’s Surrey home to ask for a cup of tea. Jim - who had entertained the troops recently in the Falklands - had offered the invitation as a joke!
Among those paying tribute to Jim - who first found fame on television talent show New Faces - are entertainer Danny La Rue and film star Omar Sharif.
Bob Todd Bob Todd Bob TODD
15 February 1984
Eamonn surprised the comedy actor in the audience of the Royalty Theatre. The tables were turned as Bob was under the impression the subject was to be comedy writer and comedian Barry Cryer.
Bob appeared as a straight man for Spike Milligan and Benny Hill, and both men appear in person to pay their tribute.
Frank Carson Frank Carson Frank CARSON
6 February 1985
In one of the most ingenious ‘pick-ups’ the team has ever plotted, the Belfast born comic was surprised by Eamonn, having just touched down at Heathrow Airport, after sharing a flight together from Dublin. Eamonn had the Big Red Book in his hand luggage throughout the flight, and sprung the surprise in the arrivals lounge.
Jim Bowen Jim Bowen Jim BOWEN
10 April 1985
In another unusual ’pick-up’ Eamonn arrived by train to surprise Jim in his back garden - the comic and presenter of television's darts game show Bull’s Eye - lives in an old converted train station.
The top darts players of the day paid their tribute, along with other guests who included Gary Wilmot, Jimmy Cricket and Jim Davidson
Ted Rogers Ted Rogers Ted ROGERS
26 March 1986
The comedian best known as presenter of ITV quiz show 321 - which included a booby prize known as Dusty Bin - was surprised by Eamonn in London’s Covent Garden – with the help of several showbusiness personalities dressed as Dusty Bin! French singer Sacha Distel and comedian Jimmy Edwards are among the guests.
Norman Wisdom Norman Wisdom Norman WISDOM
11 February 1987
For his second This Is Your Life tribute, Eamonn surprised Norman - on his 72nd birthday - at St Margaret’s Tavern in Twickenham.
Many show business names gather to pay tribute and wish Norman a happy birthday, including agent Billy Marsh, singer Vince Hill, and comedians Charlie Chester and Freddie Starr.
Jimmy Cricket Jimmy Cricket Jimmy CRICKET
4 November 1987
Famous for his trademark hat and wellies, Jimmy was surprised by Eamonn on a central London building site.
The show was broadcast on the eve of Eamonn’s death, and was, therefore, the last This Is Your Life that Eamonn saw.
Jimmy's guests include comedians Jim Bowen and Roy Hudd.
Ken Dodd Ken Dodd Ken DODD
7 May 1990
In what was billed as the 500th 'Life' produced by Thames Television, and broadcast as an hour long bank holiday special, Michael surprised the man from Knotty Ash at the London Palladium.
Ken’s tribute included song and dance with his Diddy Men, and guests included singer Vince Hill, entertainer Danny La Rue and actor and writer Eric Sykes.
Ernie Wise Ernie Wise Ernie WISE OBE
26 December 1990
A Boxing Day special pays tribute to the surviving member of one of Britain’s top double acts - surprised by Michael at Thames Television's Teddington Studios.
A number of former Morecambe & Wise guest stars pay tribute, including singer Shirley Bassey, and actors Glenda Jackson and Peter Cushing, while Michael reads out a letter from Hollywood legend, Gene Kelly.
Bernard Manning Bernard Manning Bernard MANNING
27 November 1991
Bernard was surprised by Michael at his Manchester nightclub - The Embassy - in front of a cheering crowd. Sat next to Bernard during the tribute was his beloved mother, Joan.
Tributes and jokes came from his fellow comedians – Frank Carson, Jim Bowen and Mike Reid, along with comedy duos Little and Large and Cannon and Ball.
Les Dawson Les Dawson Les DAWSON
23 December 1992
Les was caught by Michael on stage at the curtain call of the pantomime Dick Whittington, at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, where the show was then recorded.
For his second This Is Your Life tribute, Les was greeted by, among others, entertainer Bruce Forsyth and actor and writer Eric Sykes, while Michael read out a letter from HRH Prince Philip.
Little & Large Little & Large Syd LITTLE and Eddie LARGE
12 January 1994
Michael donned wellies to surprise the comedy duo at the close of their slightly wet routine at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.
Many names from the world of entertainment and sport pay tribute, including comedians Frank Carson and Jim Davidson, boxer Frank Bruno and footballer Kevin Keegan.
Leslie Crowther Leslie Crowther Leslie CROWTHER CBE
9 November 1994
For his second This Is Your Life tribute - which took place just two years after he was involved in a car crash which left him with serious head injuries - Michael surprised the entertainer during a book signing in London's Selfridges store.
Joining the tribute are actress June Whitfield, and actors Ronnie Barker and Matthew Kelly.
Mike Reid Mike Reid Mike REID
16 November 1994
The comic turned actor - who had spent a long stint in the television soap opera Eastenders - was surprised by Michael following a gig at the Lakeside Country Club in Surrey.
The cast of Eastenders, led by Barbara Windsor, boxer Nosher Powell and fellow comedian Frank Carson are among those paying tribute.
Spike Milligan Spike Milligan Spike MILLIGAN CBE
15 February 1995
Michael surprised Spike on the concourse of London’s Euston station - his response being: “Well I’ve been dead 10 years!”
For his second This Is Your Life tribute, Michael updates his story with the help of guests which include writer Johnny Speight, actor and comedian Barry Humphries, and actor and writer Eric Sykes.
Charlie Drake Charlie Drake Charlie DRAKE
1 November 1995
Michael dressed as a policeman to surprise Charlie at the curtain call of Ray Cooney's farce Funny Money at London's Playhouse Theatre.
Among the guests on Charlie's second This Is Your Life tribute are theatre producer Bill Kenwright, comedy duo Cannon and Ball and comedian Jim Davidson.
Stan Boardman Stan Boardman Stan BOARDMAN
8 November 1995
Surprised by Michael at the end of a comedy show in Blackpool’s Paradise Rooms, the Liverpudlian comic was then decamped to Manchester, where the show was recorded. Stan's guests in the studio include the producer of television's The Comedians, Johnnie Hamp, while comedy actor Norman Wisdom send a recorded message.
Frank Skinner Frank Skinner Frank SKINNER
15 November 1995
Michael gate crashed a second comedy show in as many weeks, when he surprised the comic and football pundit at the London Palladium, where Frank's tribute was then recorded.
Among the guests are actor and writer Steve Coogan, presenter Jonathan Ross, actress Paula Wilcox and Basil Brush!
Les Dennis Les Dennis Les DENNIS
17 February 1997
The comedian and actor - remembered for his impressions with comedy partner Dustin Gee on the television series Russ Abbot's Madhouse - was surprised by Michael, at ITV's Central studios, while presenting the gameshow Family Fortunes, which he had fronted since 1987. Comedians Ken Dodd and Freddie Starr are among the guests.
Russ Abbot Russ Abbot Russ ABBOT
22 September 1997
Michael surprised the comedian and actor on his 50th birthday - during a game of golf at Wentworth.
Friends and colleagues from show business and sport gather at London's Langham Hotel to pay tribute - among them are entertainer Bruce Forsyth, comedians Bob Monkhouse and Roy Walker and footballer Pat Jennings.
Roy Walker Roy Walker Roy WALKER
21 September 1998
The Belfast-born comic and television presenter was surprised by Michael during a recording of his popular television game show, Catchphrase at Carlton TV Studios, in Nottingham.
Roy's guests include fellow Irish personalities - snooker’s Dennis Taylor and singer-turned-politician, Dana.
Harry Hill Harry Hill Harry HILL
21 February 2000
The doctor turned comedian was surprised by Michael at Thames Television Teddington Studios following the recording of his Channel 4 sketch show.
Actress Wendy Craig and comedian Frank Skinner send recorded messages, while comedians Keith Harris and Ronnie Corbett pay their tributes in person in the studio.
Bill Oddie Bill Oddie Bill ODDIE
31 January 2002
In a heart stopping moment, the former member of comedy team The Goodies who turned television presenter, was initially reluctant to accept Michael’s surprise invitation delivered at the Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust. However, Bill agreed to take part and among those paying tribute are journalist and presenter David Frost and botanist and broadcaster David Bellamy.
Bob Monkhouse Bob Monkhouse Bob MONKHOUSE OBE
23 April 2003
Michael surprised the comedian, for his second tribute, at the BBC Television Centre for a mid-series extended edition of the show.
Such is the breadth of Bob’s story two Big Red Books are needed, the second one delivered midway through the show by comedian Joe Pasquale. Other guests include actress June Whitfield and comedian Bob Hope.