Thursday 27 April 2017

Vale Chris Bearde - International funny man. Graham Shirley and others remember

Editor’s Note: Chris Bearde was a major contributor in the early days of Australian television. Chair of the Australian Media Oral History Group Graham Shirley has sent in these notes: Wendy Borchers has let me know about the death on Sunday of long-term Australian and US comedy writer, Chris Bearde.  After local fame as a writer for Digby Wolfe and others, Chris Bearde moved to the USA, where his credits as a comedy writer and producer included Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In, The Gong Show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and The Andy Williams Show.

I also remember the impact of the Digby Wolfe shows, specifically Revue 61 and Revue 62, which had a modernist ‘white look’ (in terms of production design) as part of their appeal.  Jim Murphy wrote in the Light Entertainment chapter of Australian TV: The first 25 Years (ed. Peter Beilby, Thomas Nelson Australia, Melbourne, 1981): 

“A landmark in variety occurred in 1961 when ATN-7 did a deal with the American talent agency MCA to put together a Sunday night variety show under the direction of Canadian Peter MacFarlane: Revue ’61 was compered by the urbane English actor and comedian, Digby Wolfe, who also had a hand in writing the show with Alan Kitson and Chris Bearde. Wolfe and Bearde later went to the US and were involved with the creation of Laugh-In.  A splendid chorus, the Revue 20, was recruited, members of which were spotlighted for solos in the show. Ted Hamilton sang, Carlu Carter and Bill McGrath danced, and there were guest stars from overseas, organised by MCA. Digby Wolfe was a smooth and professional host, and in production values the whole show was streets ahead of anything else on the air. A key reason for this was that ATN-7 was the first station in Australia equipped with videotape, which allowed the programme to be taped in segments and assembled later.”

Graham has also forwarded an email from Allan Black and this link to a Deadline Hollywood article.

Alan writes


This was on the Radio Memories Facebook site and as he was a 2UE panel operator at the start of his career I thought I would pass it on to you ...

"There would be many of you from the tv and radio fraternity who would remember the talented and very funny Chris Bearde. Chris began his career in Sydney, then found success in Canada and America as a comedy writer and producer. He worked on Laugh In, The Gong Show, The Andy Williams Show, An Elvis Special, Sonny and Cher Show and so many more. Sadly Chris passed away in California last night. 
RIP Chris, you were one in a million."

 "When Chris lived in Sydney, he began as a panel operator at 2UE, then at 2UW he panelled for 'Birdbrain'. Bert Robinson on breakfast. This madness was way ahead of its time.

Chris worked at Channel 10 for a while. Then had his own Children's show on 7. I think it was there that he met Digby Wolf and began writing for Revue 61. Left Australia for Canada and worked for CBCTV in Toronto. From there to The States ..and the rest is history. I went out with Chris a few times but could never eat anything because I couldn't stop laughing. Happy memories of an amazing talent but a sad, sad day for those of us who knew him"

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