Following the news that Jeremy Beadle has just died from pneumonia at the age of 59, I thought it would be apt to mark his passing with the show that first brought him fame in the UK, Game For A Laugh, and paved the way for Beadle to become a household name when it came to anything to do with practical jokes.
Game For A Laugh first hit our screens in 1981, and was hosted by Jeremy Beadle, Sarah Kennedy, Henry Kelly and Matthew Kelly (the latter two of course not being related to each other). The show was a mixture of practical jokes, quizzes, games and stunts that involved members of the general public. As Beadle was always keen on reminding us it was the show where “The People Are The Stars” and the closing catchphrase of the show was “Watching Us Watching You, Watching Us Watching You” which was delivered by each member of the team saying a quarter of it each.
The featured practical jokes usually involved some hapless person had being set up by their spouse, family or work colleagues to be made a fool of, normally by having something nasty happen to them like their car being crushed in front of their eyes (of course, it wasn’t really their car). These were normally prefilmed segments where the person being humilated and the person who set them up were invited to sit and watch the mayhem commence.
In the studio there would be games involving volunteers from the audience, with a favourite example being the one where they are blindfolded and then have to put their hands into a box in front of them and guess what the object inside was that they were touching. I seem to recall once a lady was chosen who went through several boxes containing vegetables such as oranges and cucumbers, which cued much double entendre from Matthew Kelly. The last box contained Duncan Goodhew, the famous UK swimmer who was completely bald, so of course the lady declared he was a melon or something of that ilk. I’m pretty sure this was a Game For A Laugh moment, but it could quite easily have been one of the many copy cat shows that followed in its wake.
The show ran until 1985, although the death knell really came when the original team of presenters were replaced. Beadle remained, but was now accompanied by Martin Daniels (magician Paul’s son), Rusty Lee (the Jamaican cook with the infectious laugh from TV-am) and Lee Peck and Debbie Rix (no, I don’t remember who the last two are either!). Some vital spark seemed to have been lost with this new line up, and the show came to an end, with Beadle going on to present his own practical joke show Beadle’s About.