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The Bensonian Archives
A Resource/Media Centre/Hub/Portal/Interface for David Benson Studies
David Benson Live at the Club for Acts and Actors (CAA)
December 01, 2009 04:46 AM PST
I closed the bill at the CAA's Monday Night Concert on 30th November 2009. I was lucky to be accompanied by the venerable m.d. Terry White, who did an excellent job. In the audience was lovely Pamela Cundell aka Mrs. Fox off Dad's Army, now Queen of the CAA (see photo, taken 2008 at CAA).
March 11, 2009 02:02 PM PDT
I was amazed and flattered, during the run of Think No Evil at Us at Birmingham Rep (Dec 96-Jan 97) to be asked onto legendary chat-show host Michael Parkinson's Radio 2 afternoon show. It was my birthday too so it had a feeling of significance and the promise of having 'arrived'. Of course, it was his television show that I dreamed of being a guest on during my adolescence. I watched it every Saturday night religiously. Not only were some of my most revered idols interviewed on it (Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Morecambe and Wise, Dame Edna, Duke Ellington, George Burns...) but you had those memorable multi-guest mixes: Quentin Crisp and Malcolm Muggeridge, Dame Edna and Gloria Swanson, Bette Midler and Professor Galbraith. To me, to be invited onto his show was the apex of having made it. After that, surely you could die happy, I thought. Whatever downturns your life might take thereafter, you could always say on your deathbed, 'I was on Parkinson.'
Disappointingly, when the call came he did not have a television series but beggars can't be choosers, so radio was had to do.
A significant number of people who later came to see the show on tour first heard about me from this broadcast.BBC Radio London, Tessa Dunlop Show 8-2-08 11.35pm
February 09, 2008 11:07 AM PST
This is where it all went horribly wrong with Clayton and I and Radio London host Tessa Dunlop. The first one we did with her, last December, was a delight. We did another in January 2008 (not posted here yet) in which the end of our hour was marred by our use of words in Clayton's blog unsuitable for Radio London, a notoriously sensitive station (the words were 'cocks and bumholes').
This time we made another attempt at the same blog, sweetened up sufficiently we thought, to pass the station's rigorous standards of decency.
We found our host suspicious and ungracious from the word 'go' this time, possibly because one of the station's high-ups was in the building monitoring everything and, she told us, her contract is soon up for renewal.
As you'll hear, all did not go well. I was horrified by the whole debacle and could barely bring myself to speak at the end, fearing what might come from my mouth. I can be nasty when I am angry and I always regret it.
The saving grace was a caller who rang up and defended us in sane and intelligent words. I loved him.
You will hear what I hope you will agree is a reading of one of Clayton's best blogs, interspersed with music by Duke Ellington. The piece at the start is also Ellington, from the album Such Sweet Thunder (1957)Scott Mills Show, BBC Radio One January 24th 2008
January 25, 2008 01:15 PM PST
Another job for Radio 1, this is one of the strangest assignments I have ever been asked to perform. I was asked onto the Scott Mills show to help with a stunt which involved Scott giving me, in the guise of a high-up BBC executive, a tour of the Radio 1 building and meeting various employees - including the venerable Jo Whiley. My brief was to drop in a really bad joke at some point in the conversation and see whether our victims did a 'career laugh'.
What made it hard was that I had to be able to pass as a BBC boss. This entailed in-depth research, mostly watching clips of BBC Director General Mark Thompson on Youtube doing a Powerpoint presentation at a conference called 'Zeitgeist'. It turned out to be a priceless repository of every media buzzword in the book and gave me a vocabulary of cliches for my character to spout.
I also discovered that Mr. Thompson thinks it is 'cool' for 'users' 'out there' to nick BBC material and use it for our own ends. As he said with evident pride, "There's a little bit of Youtube about the BBC."
Therefore what I am presenting here is my own edited version of Scott's show without his or even the D.G.'s permission. It is also a sort of payback for the fact that, as you will hear, I remained completely anonymous and uncredited throughout the broadcast. Spooky...Mavis Nicholson, BBC Radio 2, December 1996
January 05, 2008 10:31 AM PST
This is an interview I did backstage at the King's Head Theatre, Upper Street, North London, immediately following a performance of Think No Evil of Us - My Life With Kenneth Williams, in December 1996. The show was still very new, just down from Edinburgh and I was overwhelmed at the response I was getting on this, its first London run: packed houses, great reviews and people wanting to interview me. At the age of 34 I had finally been discovered.
I was thrilled and honoured to be interviewed by the great Mavis Nicholson, one of the best interviewers we have ever had on British radio or television. She had a canny knack of getting her subjects to relax and reveal more about themselves than so many other chat-show hosts, mostly because she knows how to listen as well as talk.
I found that her unexpected questions and pointed follow-ups to answers I had already given disarmed and relaxed me, liberating my tongue. When the interview was over I knew I had been well and truly 'Mavissed"! I recall giving her a big hug and feeling that I had a friend for life. If only she did not live off in the Welsh valleys somewhere, I'd love to pop round to tea on a daily basis.
Here you will find a great interview she did with Kenneth Williams in 1974, one of his best and most revealing:
December 31, 2007 12:55 PM PST
I play the part of Rex in this adaptation by Mark (League of Gentlemen) Gatiss of 1950's novelist Pamela Branch's black comedy. I was delighted to be working not only with the excellent and ubiquitous David Tennant but also with the brilliant Julia Davis, whose BBC4 series Nighty Night was such a highlight of their recent output. I come in about eighteen minutes in.BBC Radio London, Tessa Dunlop Show 15th December 2007 00:12 - 01:00am
December 31, 2007 12:02 PM PST
By a bizarre co-incidence I was invited on to this delightful woman's show the same night as a very good friend of mine, Clayton. It was the midnight spot where a couple of guests 'review' the next day's papers and plug their products: in Clayton's case, his Myspace blog about Soho life (www.myspace.com/dwbsoho) and me my Christmas show that I was touring at the time. Ms. Dunlop was a most invigorating host and we had a fun time. We will be on again on January 11th. Watch this space!The Rag and Bone Man read by Kenneth Williams, Jackanory Wednesday 10th December 1975
December 31, 2007 11:33 AM PST
In December 1975 I was one of the winners of the BBC's annual Jackanory Story Writing Competition. My prize was to have have my story read by Kenneth Williams.
There were two anonymous presenters who read the bulk of the winning entries in the studio. Halfway through the programme, came the star spot: the lucky winner selected to have their story read by Williams. I got the Wednesday Williams Spot.
One of the forgotten presenters would pick up the phone and dial. We then cut to a pre-filmed sequence featuring Kenneth riding imperiously in the back of a sleek Rolls Royce, giving the segment a pleasing air of class. Kenneth's in-car phone would ring; he would answer, repeat the name of the winning story, then get out of the car and start reading. I have a dim memory of my story being read before a rather bleak backdrop of urban decay - a scrapyard perhaps or wasteland.
Entrants were invited to submit their own illustrations for their stories, which I did. Kenneth duly held them up for the rostrum cameras. There are no extant copies left' sadly, as I remember they were rather good. Like the story itself, they were very much influenced by Spike Milligan.
The programme no longer exists in the BBC's archives. This recording, made by holding a borrowed portable cassette recorder up to the television, is all that remains of it. [NB sharp-eyed visitors will notice that my 13-year old self absent-mindedly wrote the date as 10-11-75, rather the correct 10-12-75]
For more on my story and clips of Kenneth in action, see this clip of BBC4's Story of Jackanory (2006) http://youtube.com/watch?v=o1bUsFcMzsAMr. Crowley's Christmas
December 31, 2007 05:24 AM PST
A special Christmas skit featuring Scarifyers' favourite Aleister Crowley in a twist on Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Also featuring Nicholas courtney, Terry Molloy and Ilona McDonald. Written and produced by Simon Barnard
For more on The Scarifyers series, see www.cosmichobo.comLoose Ends BBC Radio Four, Saturday 16th December 2007
December 31, 2007 05:09 AM PST
I was asked on to plug my show Christmas Party. Here I am performing a song from the show with Alex Silverman. You will also hear the host Peter Curran and actor Peter Bowles. Also in the studio were Mark Gatiss, Robin Ince, John Bird and Jeremy Beadle.Kenneth Williams Last Diary Entries
December 31, 2007 04:46 AM PST
The last chapter of The Private World of Kenneth Williams, a project I put together with producer Jonathan James Moore in 2003. The three half-hour programmes comprised readings by me from The Kenneth Williams Diaries, interspersed with recordings of Kenneth himself in performance.
Here are the final, sad diary entries plus a clip from a radio phone-in show where Kenneth talks about his preferred epitaph.
The full programmes are available on a 2-CD set from the BBC: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Private-World-Kenneth-Williams-Dramatisation/dp/0563529369/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1199104986&sr=8-1Ruth Draper and Her Company of Characters
December 30, 2007 12:28 PM PST
Broadcast BBC Radio Four, December 2002
I was invited by producer Jonathan James Moore to put together a tribute to my great theatrical hero Ruth Draper (1884-1956). It was a great honour to be able to pay public tribute to this brilliant performer, now sadly mostly forgotten but a huge and continuing influence on my own solo stage work. I was particularly pleased that we able to access rare recordings of Draper from the BBC's own archives, as well as playing copious extracts from the monologues recorded in 1954/55, when she was about seventy years old. You will also hear Joyce Grenfell and Maureen Lipman.
For more on Ruth Draper see: www.drapermonologues.comBert The Radio One Receptionist + Wes Butters, Daniel Bedingfield, Jo Jo, Brian McFadden
December 30, 2007 10:59 AM PST
Wes Butters, then host of Radio One's Chart Show, asked me to play the part of Bert for this skit. The voices of the stars (whoever they are) are genuine, recorded specially for the broadcast. Wes also asked me to do a couple of 'wind-up' calls, which I don't really approve of and I found hard to do. But I did them and here they are...Carry On Filming (Documentary) BBC Radio One 27-2-06
December 30, 2007 10:32 AM PST
I was asked to provide voices for Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howerd in this BBC Radio One doc' about the UK film industry. Prod/writer Simon Barnard
Recordings from my voluminous sound archives.
More to come!
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