Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

January 31, 2008

JAM guest Jeremy Beadle dies

Jeremy appeared on two JAMs in 1983, once with Sir Clement Freud, Kenneth Williams and Peter Jones, and later in the year with Clement, Kenneth and Aimi Macdonald. He won one of his two shows.

He was a huge name in British TV at the time.

An obit from The Independent

Jeremy Beadle, king of the TV practical jokers, dies aged 59

By James Macintyre
Thursday, 31 January 2008

Jeremy Beadle, the quiz-master and king of the televised practical joke in ITV's Beadle's About and You've Been Framed, has died of pneumonia while suffering from leukaemia. He was 59.

A trivia expert, he also entertained readers of The Independent Magazine on Saturdays with his testing questions. He leaves his wife, Sue, his daughters Cassie and Bonnie, and stepchildren Leo and Claire.

Beadle was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2005, 10 months after having a tumour removed from his kidney. Last week reports emerged that he was gravely ill with pneumonia.

His agent, Nick Canham, said: "Our heartfelt condolences go to his family. He will be greatly missed."

Beadle was born in Hackney, east London, on 12 April 1948, in difficult circumstances. The first two years of his life were spent in and out of hospital as he underwent surgery for Poland syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which stunted growth in his right hand, a condition for which he was mocked by hostile sections of the media in later life.

His father had left his mother when learning that she was pregnant with Jeremy. He refused ever to seek a meeting with his father. In a 2001 interview with The Independent, he said: "People find it very, very difficult to understand... [but it] would be incredibly selfish of me to go out and talk to a total stranger. I actually think it would have almost been a slap to my mum. She gave me the love that I needed, the inspiration, the protection and the important things."

With his mother working as a secretary to make ends meet – his father provided no money – Jeremy got into trouble at school and was expelled. He took up a number of adventurous jobs, at one point taking photographs of topless models. Eventually he made it into writing for radio and television, going on to provide material for stars such as Terry Wogan, Noel Edmonds and Kenny Everett.

But Beadle found fame in his own right fronting the LWT prank shows which attracted millions of viewers from 1987 to 1996. Horrified victims would look on as their car was apparently destroyed or their shop supposedly wrecked, before a grinning Beadle would emerge to howls of laughter all round.

Although his mischievous public image was as derided by some as it was loved by others, Beadle was also a significant fundraiser for many charities, including Children with Leukaemia, long before he was diagnosed with the disease. He is believed to have raised more than £100m for good causes. Beadle was a Trust Patron of The Philip Green Memorial Trust, and he annually hosted a quiz party along with Crown Prince Shwebomin of Burma to raise money for children.

Beadle was recognised with an OBE in 2001. In his Independent interview, he said: "I was quite moved to be honest. My eyes welled up. I've always done charity stuff for my own reasons, and quite selfish reasons. I like to make a difference. It's very easy just to sit back and feel sorry. Well, I hate that, I hate pity. So I turn it into something very positive. It's very selfish. It's actually stopping me from feeling pity."

Throughout his life he pursued his love of trivia, writing Today's the Day and A Chronicle of the Curious as well as contributing to the highly successful Book of Lists and People's Almanac. He was also director of Britain's largest supplier of pub quizzes, Redtooth.

He was the writer and host of the notoriously difficult media quiz at The Atlantic Bar and Grill, attended by celebrities including Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2005, he refused to stop working, and as recently as last autumn released three new books.

An obit from The Guardian

Veteran TV joker Jeremy Beadle dies of pneumonia, aged 59
* Martin Hodgson

Jeremy Beadle, the television personality best known for Beadle's About and You've Been Framed, has died of pneumonia, aged 59, his agent said yesterday.

Beadle, who previously fought leukaemia, was admitted to hospital earlier this week. His agent, Nick Canham, said: "Our heartfelt condolences go to his wife, Sue, his two daughters, Cassie and Bonnie, and his stepchildren, Leo and Claire."

A veteran of Saturday night television for many years, Beadle regularly pulled in audiences of more than 15 million with his shows featuring a hidden camera filming pranks and home video pratfalls

Henry Kelly, one of his co-presenters on the 1980s show Game for a Laugh, said: "I shall miss him desperately. Not only was he a terrific colleague, but he was a most wonderful friend and the most entertaining company you could imagine."

Beadle was born in Hackney, east London, the result of an affair between his mother and a newspaper journalist he never met. After school, he worked as an insurance clerk, music festival promoter, advertising salesman and assembly line worker. He wrote material for the comedian Bob Monkhouse, boosting his income with minicab driving until he secured a radio show called Beadle's Bookshelf.

His television career began as a writer and presenter of The Deceivers, a BBC2 history of swindlers and hoaxers, and Eureka, which told the stories behind everyday inventions.

After the BBC turned down a format called Gotcha!, he took its practical joking element to LWT's Game for a Laugh, which established him as Britain's king of the practical joke. The show ran for five years and was followed by another hidden camera show, Beadle's About.

In his most famous stunt, he staged a UFO landing in a Dorset garden. So convincing was the hoax that the home's owner, Janet Elford, invited the supposed alien pilot inside for a cup of tea. "The scale was huge," Beadle told Channel 4 in 2005. "We literally cut off half of Dorset."

In 1990, he launched You've been Framed, which featured viewers' disastrous home videos. Sometimes criticised as the epitome of tacky TV, he remained philosophical about his love-hate relationship with the viewers. "I think people are guilty about enjoying the cruelty of comedy which is always at someone else's expense," he told the Sunday Times.

Beadle raised funds for Children with Leukaemia and is estimated to have generated more than £100m for the charity, for which he was made a MBE in 2001.

In recent years, Beadle had been plagued by ill health, losing a kidney to cancer in 2004. A year later he was diagnosed with leukaemia, but he shrugged off the illness, saying it was "business as usual".

Prankster's highs

· In the early 80s Game for a Laugh inflicted the practical jokes pioneered by the US show Candid Camera on the British public and helped to usher in reality TV

· In Beadle's About, Beadle presided over the apparent anarchy, often disguised as a policeman, before revealing the prank and his identity

· You've Been Framed began in 1990 and is still going strong. It cashed in on the boom in home video cameras

An obit from the Telegraph

Jeremy Beadle made you laugh at yourself

By Alec Lom

He was responsible for some of the most mischievous yet popular programmes in British television history.

But according to those who knew him best Jeremy Beadle was one of the kindest men to work in broadcasting.

The shows that made him a household name, You've Been Framed and Beadle's About, used the hapless blunders of members of the public to make audiences laugh and at the peak of his fame the presenter commanded audiences of 19 million viewers.

He earned millions from his on-screen reputation but also raised more than £100 million for charity and was awarded an MBE in 2001.

Born on a tough London council estate, he developed a thick skin early in life and decades later, when tabloid television critics labelled him "the most hated man in Britain", he smiled all the way to the bank.

Beadle, who died at a north London hospital after a brief battle against pneumonia, lived a life that was full of contradictions.

Among the many charities he supported, he worked tirelessly to help run and raise funds for Children with Leukaemia only to be struck down by the disease himself.

People who never met him, but felt they knew him, often seemed happy to vilify him.

Yet, in person, he was a charming man with many close and loyal friends, most of whom, surprisingly, worked outside the entertainment industry.

The publicity departments of his television companies worked overtime to raise his showbusiness profile when his series were running.

But, away from the screen, he was a private individual who felt happiest at home, working in his library, surrounded by paperwork.

Beadle's wife, Sue, and close friends were at his bedside when he died, and many others expressed their condolences to his two daughters, Cassie and Bonnie, and his stepchildren, Leo and Claire.

A well-wishers' book had been set up at the hospital during the days before he died.

One close friend, who sat with him for hours and later left a message, said: "People were in effect coming to pay their last respects and say their goodbyes.

"He was too ill at the end to be aware of their visits."

Paul Jackson, ITV's director of entertainment, said: "We are incredibly saddened.

"Jeremy appeared the ultimate joker and a consummate prankster. He had a brilliant brain which never stopped thinking of new ideas and formats."

Beadle worked as a taxi driver, tour guide, music festival promoter and co-edited the Time Out London magazine.

He worked as a presenter on BBC Radios 2, 3 and 4 and LBC and Capital Radio before turning to television.

He once said: "People feel guilty about enjoying the cruelty of comedy which is at someone else's expense. As I'm the instigator, they transfer their guilt on to me. But I say let them hate me, just as long as they watch me."

An obit in The Times

Arch-prankster Jeremy Beadle dies at 59 after battle with pneumonia

Adam Sherwin, Media Correspondent

The television prankster Jeremy Beadle has died after a short battle with pneumonia, aged 59.

Once dubbed the “most hated man in Britain” by critics, Beadle regularly attracted television audiences of more than 15 million for his programmes Beadle’s About and You’ve Been Framed. The programmes, which aired video clips sent in by viewers and pranks on unsuspecting members of the public, often disguised the ITV stalwart’s intellectual fascination with trivia and the history of practical jokes.

Beadle had leukaemia diagnosed in 2005 after devloping cancer of the kidney, but he refused to use his condition as a reason to stop working. Last autumn he released three new books and before his illness he was working on some new television formats.

Beadle, a former editor at Time Out magazine, was catapulted to fame in 1981 by the success of Game for a Laugh, the hit ITV show that used hidden camera set-ups. Henry Kelly, his co-presenter, said: “Jeremy and I were firm friends for nearly 30 years. I loved and admired him and I shall miss him desperately. Not only was he a terrific colleague in our Game for a Laugh days and beyond, but he was a most wonderful friend to have and the most entertaining company you could possibly imagine.”

The entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar, a close friend of Beadle, described him as “one of the most charitably minded and generous people I have ever come across”. He said: “He was also one of the greatest comedy talents of our generation. He made millions laugh and he will never be forgotten.”

When the ratings for Beadle’s About and You’ve Been Framed faded, Beadle published a series of trivia books, showcasing his knowledge of dates and events, which sold in their millions. He also appeared in numerous pantomimes and as circus ringmaster for Gerry Cottle.

Television fame brought Beadle considerable wealth, which he invested in his home in Hertfordshire with its library of 22,000 books.

Beadle’s charitable efforts included helping children with Poland’s syndrome, which he suffered from and which left him with a withered right hand. He was a significant fundraiser for Children with Leukaemia throughout his life and is estimated to have raised more than £100 million for charities. In 1998 he disclosed that he had helped a friend dying of motor neuron disease to commit suicide. He was appointed MBE in 2001.

Describing his role as a prankster to some, irritant to others, he once said: “I’m the Fouche, Talleyrand and Cardinal Wolsey.”

He once said: “People feel guilty about enjoying the cruelty of comedy which is at someone else’s expense. They transfer their guilt on to me. But I say let them hate me . . . as long as they watch.”

An appreciation of him in the Times

Erudite man who had more to offer than TV demanded
Andrew Billen: Appreciation

Some will say that Jeremy Beadle’s legacy was to lower candid-camera television from a surreal art form to a sub-species of the theatre of cruelty. The goal of Beadle’s About, his best-known show, seemed to be to induce a coronary in the victims of his practical jokes.

A man might return home to find his house had been sold. A holiday-maker would drive his car into a ferry’s hold and return to find a space where he had left it. The old, gentler Candid Camera of the 1960s would place a man on a park bench and have him talk into his sleeve, convincing the people next to him that he was a spy, not that his own house or car had been destroyed.

The 1980s seemed to require something stronger. Beadle’s techniques were aped by everyone from Noel Edmonds (twinklier) to Chris Morris (deadlier) until every two-bit DJ prided himself on being a wind-up merchant.

Beadle eventually got out and went into television production. He had probably read enough headlines calling him the most hated man in Britain or profiles suggesting that his act was a revenge on God for creating him with a withered hand. Or maybe, his devilish, bearded face simply became too well known for him to get away with playing, for the umpteenth time, the obtuse parking warden. There were, after all, few more media-savvy than he.

As one quarter of ITV’s Game for a Laugh, in 1981 he helped to end the long Saturday night hegemony of the BBC and its Generation Game. In an earlier incarnation as a radio phone-in host on the London station LBC, he persuaded listeners one night that he was presenting his one-hour show from a Tube train. Scores of them turned out to greet him at his final destination. He had never, of course, left the studio.

But his knowledge of the media bred contempt. At the Edinburgh TV Festival a few years ago he warned those new to the game never to respond to the reporter who promises you the chance to “give your side of the story”. He said: “That means, ‘Kiss me because I am going to rape you anyway’.”

Whether fear, pragmatism or cynicism led him to flee the limelight, it is almost certain that this erudite man with a jackdaw’s mind for dates and facts had more to offer than television encouraged him to give.

Another appreciation from the BBC...

Fond memories of 'a wonderful man'
As the world of entertainment mourns the loss of Jeremy Beadle, one man recalls the days when he worked side-by-side with the TV prankster.

Danny Greenstone, 54, worked with Mr Beadle as a producer on BBC radio and later on ITV's Game For a Laugh.

The loss of Jeremy is a great loss to us all. He was a fantastic entertainer and a wonderful man.

I was at his side for many years, and I recall how he had an infinite capacity for wanting to generate laughter.

Even when he was at the peak of his fame, he would always break off and talk to ordinary people and members of the audience.

I have never seen anyone sign so many autographs.

I remember some bizarre moments with him - like being stuck together in a tiny hideout, no bigger than a cupboard, while we were waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting member of the public on Game For a Laugh.

My time on radio with him was a revelation. He was a natural, and it would be a shame if people forgot how good he was in that format.

But he was an incredibly intelligent man, as well.

Whenever I went to his house I was always amazed by how many books he had. Every idea you discussed would be impeccably researched by him.

The only word he didn't have in his vocabulary was no.

Every time you made a suggestion for a prank on the show, he would want to take it as far as it would go even if the rest of us thought it wouldn't work.

Beadle did so much for charity that he didn't ever want published.

He could have made sure that his name was attached to everything he did for good causes. But it was personal to him, it was private.

He was a lovely, lovely man, and I'll remember him fondly.

Tributes here, from Sky News

Friends Pay Tribute To Jeremy Beadle

British television stars have been paying tribute to the TV presenter Jeremy Beadle who has died from pneumonia.

The 59-year-old had become one of TV's best known faces through popular shows like Beadle's About and You've Been Framed.

He had battled ill health in recent years, having been diagnosed with leukaemia in 2005. His wife, Sue, and close friends were at his bedside when he died.

Beadle was one of ITV's best known faces for more than 15 years, regularly pulling in audiences in excess of 15 million.

Henry Kelly, Beadle's co-presenter on 1980s hidden camera show Game For A Laugh, said: "Jeremy and I were firm friends for nearly 30 years. I loved and admired him and I shall miss him desperately."

Game For A Laugh ran from 1981-1985 and also featured Matthew Kelly and Sarah Kennedy.

Ms Kennedy said: "I'm very, very sad for him and his family to know that he's gone."

Noel Edmonds, Beadle's one-time BBC "rival" said it was "a sad loss for TV and a great shame that a new audience have lost Jeremy Beadle.

"He was a consummate professional but also a greatly misunderstood man - a great TV talent who was never truly appreciated.

"I was always astonished at his ability to raise funds for charity. Nobody in showbusiness raised more money than him."

Beadle was a significant fundraiser for Children with Leukaemia throughout his life and is estimated to have helped to raise more than £100m for charities of all description.

He was made an MBE in 2001.

Carol Vorderman, who worked with Beadle on Countdown, said: "He just loved all kinds of information. You could ask him about anything and he would know about it."
Beadle with wife Sue (right) and daughter Cassie

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan said they would remember Beadle with "immense fondness".

Entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar and his wife, Ann, were close friends of the star.

He said: "Jeremy was a great friend of mine and one of the most charitably minded and generous people I have ever come across.

"He was also one of the greatest comedy talents of our generation - he made millions laugh and he will never be forgotten."

Beadle hosted ITV show You've Been Framed from 1990 to 1997.

Dianne Nelmes, executive producer of the series when it launched, said: "Because of You've Been Framed and Beadle's About he had a reputation as someone who was forever playing tricks on people, but in reality he was the kindest person you could ever meet."

Beadle leaves his wife Sue, daughters Cassie and Bonnie, and step children Leo and Claire.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a shame. I've always harboured the fantasy that one day I would meet him and be able to thank him in person for the fantastic time I had at Bickershaw Festival all those years ago. Disorganised to the point of anarchy, cold, wet, muddy - I loved every minute of it and if Jeremy Beadle is remembered for nothing else, _I_ will always remember him for a weekend that changed and affirmed my life. RIP JB.

11:31 pm  

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