Making people laugh – Gerry Kersey – 26th June 2017


Many will have heard Gerry Kersey as a d.j. and interviewer on various radio programmes.  He was born in Shiregreen in Sheffield before WW2.  At 18 he was called up for National Service and was drafted into the RAF as a telephonist.  This was good training for a future in radio.  Gerry can be heard on Radio Sheffield at 4.00pm on Sunday afternoons in his programme “Musical nostalgia and chat”.

He has always been interested in people and loves a chat.  He is a talented amateur artist as well as a keen amateur dramatic actor and singer.

His storey for his talk about comedy started in 1966 when he was working in the p.r. section of Cintride Ltd and was organising an exhibition stand at Olympia in London.  On this stand he met a number of celebrities of the time including Stirling Moss and Robert Beatty.  At the time Ken Dodd was a rising star with his tickling stick.  Gerry had the idea of making a tickling stick out of carbide tipped product and pink feathers.  He then put the word out and attracted Ken Dodd to the stand.  Gerry was rewarded with a ticket to see him in his show “Doddy’s here”.  He ended up drinking in the no. 1 dressing room with Ken and others and became hooked on the comedy side of show business.

Gerry quite fancied becoming a stand-up comic.  His chance came when he was offered the first slot for the Christmas Show at the Highcliffe Club in Sheffield.  He bombed and realised that he really didn’t want to spend his life like that but he was still fascinated in the mechanics of making people laugh.  During his radio career he interviewed many famous comics and they built up his knowledge of the subject.  There are no books about the subject, it can only really be tested on stage.

Gerry defined at least ten different types of laughter.  As people get older they tend to develop a recognisable laugh and you can sometimes recognise the laugh of somebody behind you.  In the 1950’s quite often people were planted in audiences to encourage laughter.  When listening to recordings of these shows one can often recognise the same distinctive laughter from one show to another.

In wartime there seemed to be a great need for joke telling and Gerry was aware of the dark side of comedy, he mentioned Tony Hancock and Kenneth Williams deaths.  On the bright side everybody remembers a host of comics from the past with affection.  Gerry’s favourite was probably Tommy Cooper and he noted that several comics he interviewed all held Tommy as their model.  A comic he came to admire was Bob Monkhouse who studied and had vast knowledge about making people laugh.

Gerry noted that there is a difference between appearing before a live audience where you receive applause at the end of the performance and many tv shows and films where recognition comes later.  For Gerry he loves to dwell in the past as it can’t get any worse and can’t do more harm.

He examined ten or more different types of comedy giving examples of each.  His talk was littered with jokes and was thoroughly enjoyed by his audience who left with smiles on their faces.