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Ted Ray (comedian)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ted Ray
Comedian Ted Ray.jpg
Charles Olden

(1905-11-21)21 November 1905
Wigan, Lancashire, England
Died8 November 1977(1977-11-08) (aged 71)
London, England
Spouse(s)Dorothy Sybil Stevens[1]
ChildrenRobin Ray
Andrew Ray

Ted Ray (born Charles Olden; 21 November 1905 – 8 November 1977) was an English comedian of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, on radio and television. His BBC radio show Ray's a Laugh ran for 12 years.


Ray was born Charles Olden[2] in Wigan, Lancashire, England, to comic singer and mimic Charles Olden (who used the stage-name Charlie Alden) and his wife Margaret Ellen (née Kenyon).[1] His parents moved to Liverpool within days of his birth, and Liverpudlians regard him as a local. He was educated at Anfield council school and Liverpool Collegiate School, and as a youth wished to become a footballer.[1] As a comedian of the 1940s and 1950s, he demonstrated his ad-libbing skills in his weekly radio show Ray's A Laugh from 1949 until 1961.[3] A music hall comedian, Ray usually played violin badly as part of his act—first as Hugh Neek, then "Nedlo the Gypsy Violinist".[2] He also played comedy roles in several British films—notably as the headmaster in Carry On Teacher.[4]

He is best remembered for the BBC Radio show Ray's a Laugh, a domestic comedy in which Kitty Bluett played his wife.[5] Other actors and actresses who featured on the show included Peter Sellers, Fred Yule, Patricia Hayes, Kenneth Connor, Pat Coombs and Graham Stark; Sellers' earliest appearances predated The Goon Show by a couple of years. In 1949 and 1950, Ray was King Rat of the Grand Order of Water Rats.[6][7]

Ray was an accomplished golfer, frequently playing with professional sportsmen. Later in his career, he appeared with Jimmy Edwards, Arthur Askey and Cyril Fletcher in the comedy radio panel game Does the Team Think?[8]

Ray appeared on television, reading on Jackanory, a children's programme, in the 1960s and 1970s.[1] In 1974, he presented a radio show on BBC Radio 2, The Betty Witherspoon Show, with Kenneth Williams, Miriam Margolyes and Nigel Rees.[9] He was also involved in Jokers Wild, an ITV celebrity comedy game show (1969–74) which was chaired by Barry Cryer.[10] Arthur Askey was another regular on the show.[11]

He married showgirl Dorothy Sybil (b. 1909), daughter of mechanical engineer George Henry Stevens;[1] the couple had two sons: Robin Ray, a well-known television personality in the 1960s and 1970s, who initiated Call My Bluff and specialist classical music shows, and Andrew Ray, a child star of the 1950s who had a long career on stage, film and television.[12]

He was the subject of This Is Your Life on two occasions: firstly, in October 1955 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre, and secondly in February 1975, when Andrews surprised him on the doorstep of his Southgate home.[citation needed]

In 1975, returning home from a day of golfing and alcohol, two of his passions, Ray was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident. The injuries sustained were physically debilitating and left him dependent on crutches; he was convicted of dangerous driving under the influence of alcohol.[1][13]

On 16 June 1977, he recorded a half-hour interview talking about his life, which was broadcast on 25 July 1977. This was repeated on Radio 4 Extra's It's a Funny Business series on 3 November 2013.

On 8 November 1977, he suffered a fatal heart attack.[13][14]

Ray's a Laugh (1949–61)

Ted Ray's alter ego, Nedlo, the Gypsy Violinist, started his own variety show in 1949 and made a success of it. Ray's a Laugh did not include Nedlo's name in the credits, however, nor indeed that of Charlie Olden (Ray's real name). Nedlo/Olden was, by 1949, calling himself Ted Ray (after the golfer);[15] this was how he billed himself for his radio series.

Ray's a Laugh was a domestic comedy, with Ray's wife played by Kitty Bluett. Fred Yule played his brother-in-law. Patricia Hayes also appeared, as did Kenneth Connor as Sidney Mincing. In later series Ray had left the Cannon Enquiry Agency and joined the Daily Bugle as a reporter. Jack Watson and Charles Leno joined the cast and new characters included Mrs Dipper and Roger Curfew, the paying guest with songs by John Hanson and the King's Men.

Another early member was Peter Sellers, then 23 and billing himself as an impressionist. He appeared as Soppy, a small boy criticised by the nation's watchdogs for his catchphrase, "Just like your big red conk!" Another of his characters was a strange woman, Crystal Jollibottom ("Stop it you saucebox!" he would cry in a crazy falsetto). Laidman Browne, as Ray's boss Mr Trumble, Pat Coombs as Ursula Prune, Charles Leno and Graham Stark were also present. Percy Edwards, the animal impersonator, played Gregory the chicken.

There was the glamour girl who would do anything, but "Not until after six-o'clock!" Songs came from the Beaux and the Belles, and Bob and Alf Pearson provided the musical interlude – "We bring you melodies from out of the sky, my brother and I!" Bob also played the little girl, Jennifer who, asked her name, would coyly reply: "Jen-ni-fer!"

The show was no real departure from tradition, even in its catch-phrases. There was Ivy's (Ted Ray) devotion to Mrs Hoskins, for instance: "You're a lovely woman, Mrs Hoskins!" And it was she to whom Mrs Hoskins would remark weakly: "It was agony, Ivy!" Whenever Ivy felt poorly, Mrs Hoskins would say, "I'll have to send for young Dr Hardcastle", to which Ivy would reply, "He's lovely, Mrs Hoskins, He's loooooovely!" This role was also played by Bob Pearson.

In addition, there was the adenoidal "If you haven't been to Manchester, you haven't lived" from Tommy Trotter (Graham Stark).

Ray's a Laugh ran from 1949 until January 1961, eventually dropping the musical items.[16] Ray also showed his skill at ad-libbing (together with Jimmy Edwards, Arthur Askey and Cyril Fletcher) in Does the Team Think?[1]

The Ted Ray Show (1955–59)

The first series accented variety, with international guests; the second and third series had greater emphasis on stand-up comedy; the fourth featured domestic routines (with Kitty Bluett as Ted Ray's wife and Kenneth Connor as "that interfering brother-in-law"); the fifth and six—with new writers—concentrated on sketch comedy and were branded 'New Edition' and '1959 Edition' to underline the difference.[17]



  • Sid Colin – Writer (series 1–4)
  • Talbot Rothwell – Writer (series 1–4)
  • George Wadmore – Writer (series 1–4)
  • John Junkin – Writer (series 5 & 6 and special)
  • Terry Nation – Writer (series 5 & 6 and special)
  • Dave Freeman – Additional Material (3 shows)
  • George Inns – Producer (series 1–5)
  • Bill Ward – Producer (2 shows)
  • Ernest Maxin – Producer (1 show)
  • Barry Lupino – Producer (1 show)

Transmission details

  • Number of episodes: 29 • Length: 28 × 60 mins • 1 × short special
  • Series One (4) 21 May – 13 Aug 1955 • monthly Saturday mostly 9.15 pm
  • Series Two (4) 28 Apr – 21 July 1956 • monthly Saturday mostly 9.15 pm
  • Series Three (8) 19 Jan – 3 Aug 1957 • monthly Saturday mostly 8 pm
  • Series Four (5) 25 Jan – 10 May 1958 • monthly Saturday 8 pm
  • Series Five (3) 27 Sep – 22 Nov 1958 • monthly Saturday 8 pm
  • Short special • part of Christmas Night with the Stars 25 Dec 1958 • Thu 6.25 pm
  • Series Six (4) 31 Jan – 2 May 1959 • monthly Saturday mostly 7.30 pm



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Midwinter, Eric (6 January 2011). "Ray, Ted [real name Charles Olden] (1905–1977), comedian". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/64577.
  2. ^ a b Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 137.
  3. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 371. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
  4. ^ "Carry on, Teacher". Variety. 1 January 1959.
  5. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra – Ray's a Laugh, From 01/04/1954". BBC.
  6. ^ "past king rats,". Grand Order of Water Rats. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  7. ^ "Biography of a Water Rat".
  8. ^ "Does the Team Think?". 23 November 1967. p. 70 – via BBC Genome.
  9. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra – The Betty Witherspoon Show, From 22/06/1974". BBC.
  10. ^ "Joker's Wild – UKGameshows".
  11. ^ Gaughan, Gavin (11 October 2002). "Obituary: Ray Martine". The Guardian.
  12. ^ Barker, Dennis (26 August 2003). "Obituary: Andrew Ray". The Guardian.
  13. ^ a b "Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams, and the cast of Carry On: what happened next?". The Telegraph. 6 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Ted Ray". BFI.
  15. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra – How Tickled Am I?, Series 2, Ted Ray". BBC.
  16. ^ "Ray's A Laugh, 1949". 3 September 2015.
  17. ^ "Ted Ray Show, The | Nostalgia Central".

External links

This page was last edited on 22 April 2022, at 14:01
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