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Handley, Tommy

Handley, Tommy (1892–1949). Comedian. Handley's heyday was the Second World War when, with much entertainment suspended or curtailed, radio predominated. Born in Liverpool, Handley began as a commercial traveller and singer in variety shows, with modest success until the launch of the radio programme ITMA (It's That Man Again) in 1939. The weekly programme attracted vast audiences to the gallery of comic characters—Mrs Mopp, Colonel Chinstrap, Mona Lott, Funf—and repetitive catch-phrases. The show was still running when Handley died at 57. The Spectator called the end of ITMA ‘something like a national calamity’ and the New Statesman wrote that ‘our little world, shared weekly by millions of ordinary people, has collapsed as completely as the Third Reich which indirectly brought it into being’. Though Handley received no honours in his lifetime, the king sent a message of condolence to his widow and there was a service in St Paul's. By later standards much of the humour was unsophisticated but it contained a satirical and surrealist element that was developed by later programmes: the Goon Show was first broadcast in 1951 and Hancock's Half Hour in 1954.

J. A. Cannon

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