We Have Ways of Making You Laugh

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ITV (ended 1968)

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We Have Ways of Making You Laugh

Show Summary

Welcome to the We Have Ways of Making You Laugh guide at TV.com. Producer Humphrey Barclay was very enthusiastic when he helped establish London Weekend Television (LWT) in 1968. He had been the producer behind the successful children's series Do Not Adjust Your Set, which was to be revived on LWT within a year. Barclay believed the novel way to start LWT would be with a novel merging of two television formats. Barclay envisioned doing We Have Ways of Making You Laugh as an innovative combination of comedy scenes and interviews. He lured in two of the Do Not Adjust Your Set crowd, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam. While Frank Muir, the host of We Have Ways of Making You Laugh, carried on with the interviews, the camera would look over Gilliam's shoulder as he drew a caricature of the guest. Eric Idle performed in sketches, as did a number of other comedians Barclay thought were at or near their peak. The result: According to Idle, "We Have Ways of Making You Laugh was very unfunny. We didn't have any ways of making them laugh!" Part of the problem was the show's failure to overcome a shaky start. As you can tell from the ticket reproduced on this page, We Have Ways of Making You Laugh, and LWT itself, had set August 2, 1968 as their debut. The August 2 show went over well with the audience, and everyone was pleased, but sadly, Humphrey Barclay told the group that a strike had thwarted the LWT debut. Nothing aired. Idle angrily asked why they weren't told earlier that the unions had pulled the plug on LWT. Barclay explained, "We didn't want you to stop in case they put the plugs back in." (Strikes such as these were common to new television companies. We Have Ways of Making You Laugh host Frank Muir, who served as LWT's first Head of Light Entertainment, broke the strike on Day 2 when he acted as floor director of Frost on Saturday. LWT Heads of Drama were working the cameras for that program. "It was just extraordinary that they got this show done!" explains Michael Palin, a performer on Frost on Saturday.) The shakiness of the strike delayed the on-air debut of We Have Ways of Making You Laugh until August 23, 1968—after two planned episodes were scrapped. Once it was televised, the show never reached the potential Barclay had hoped. The only reason We Have Ways of Making You Laugh remains in people's minds is that Terry Gilliam produced his first animated sequence on that show. Writer Dick Vosburgh had collected three months' worth of awful puns with which a disc jockey linked records. Vosburgh was desperate for a way to use this material. Terry Gilliam suggested that he turn it into an animated film. With only two weeks and a budget of £400, Gilliam was forced to use cut-out pictures. The result was ground-breaking. Gilliam would quickly forget what the animation looked like, but it instantly caught the eyes of all who watched it. Humphrey Barclay asked Gilliam to do another cartoon, which Terry called Beware the Elephant. There were other bewares out there, ready to devour We Have Ways of Making You Laugh. With little else to grab an audience, the show was pulled off after nine broadcasts.moreless
Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam

Resident Cartoonist

Eric Idle

Eric Idle

Regular Sketch Performer

Kenneth Cope

Kenneth Cope

Regular Sketch Performer

Trisha Noble

Trisha Noble

Regular Sketch Performer

Dick Vosburgh

Dick Vosburgh

Regular Sketch Performer

Frank Muir

Frank Muir

Host

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