"When England was a kingdom, we had a king. When we were an empire, we had an emperor. Now we're a country, and we have Margaret Thatcher."
—The joke that got him fired from BBC Radio 2 in 1981
Kenny Everett (born Maurice James Christopher Cole) was a British comedian, radio DJ and television entertainer. Everett is best known for his career as a radio DJ and for The Kenny Everett Video Show.
He began his career in show business on the British pirate radio station Radio London in 1964, where he first adopted his Stage Name as an alias to avoid legal problems. (He had actually been offered a job at the BBC as a presenter on the BBC Light Programme on the basis of an audition tape, but declined it in favour of the less constrained world of pirate radio.)
He almost immediately began the pattern of firings and re-hirings that characterized much of his career when in 1965 he was sacked after some outspoken remarks about religion on air. (Like most British pirate stations of the period, Radio London carried American evangelical shows and Everett's disparaging remarks about one caused its producers to threaten to withdraw their lucrative contract with the station.) For more than a decade and a half he bounced back and forth between the BBC and other radio outlets, including Radio Luxembourg and Capital Radio, one of the UK's first commercial radio stations -- sometimes voluntarily, and sometimes not. He was sacked several times for spontaneous quips made on the air (although in at least once case the true cause was political and the quip was merely an excuse). For many years he was forced to prerecord his shows so that they could be reviewed and if necessary censored before broadcast.
During this time he refined and expanded his trademark style, incorporating surreal comedy characters, jingles and sketch comedy into his DJ routine. Along the way he became friends with numerous figures in the music industry, among them The Beatles, whom he accompanied on their August 1966 tour of the United States; he also produced their 1968 and 1969 Christmas records. He also became close friends with Freddie Mercury of Queen after they met in 1974, and was instrumental in getting "Bohemian Rhapsody" released as a single in 1975. (While they were never lovers, they were deep, close friends, Everett becoming an advisor and mentor to Mercury during the 1970s, and Mercury was Everett's confidant, helping Everett to accept his homosexuality.)
Although he had made the occasional television appearance starting in 1965 and including a four-year stint as an announcer on the game show Celebrity Squares, it was in 1978 that London's Thames Television offered him a new venture which would eventually carry his fame across the Atlantic to the United States: The Kenny Everett Video Show. This program, along with its successors The Kenny Everett Video Cassette and The Kenny Everett Television Show, gave Everett an entirely new dimension in which to expand his comedy, and allowed him to create the iconic characters for which he is best remembered today.
During and after these shows he still maintained a presence on British radio -- and still regularly got fired for things he said on the air. One of the most infamous was the 1982 comment, quoted above, which got him booted from BBC 2. However, starting in 1984, he managed to stay on Capitol radio for ten years, only ending his on-air presence in 1994 when his declining health made it impossible for him to continue.
Everett married the singer and psychic Audrey Lee "Lady Lee" Middleton in June 1969. By September 1979, they had separated, and in the mid-1980s, he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. One of his first boyfriends, a waiter called Jay Pitt, was found for Everett by his wife.
Everett was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1989, and he made his condition known to the public in 1993. He died from an AIDS-related illness, in the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, on 4 April 1995, aged 50.
The following is a list of the main shows Everett presented.
- Kenny & Cash Show (Radio London), 1964–65
- Kenny Everett Audio Show (Radio Luxembourg), 1966
- Midday Spin (BBC Radio 1), 1967
- Everett is Here (BBC Radio 1), 1968–70
- Kenny Everett Radio Show (BBC Local Radio), 1971
- Kenny Everett Radio Show (BBC Radio 1), 1972–73
- Breakfast Show (Capital Radio), 1973–74
- Kenny Everett Audio Show/Cassette (Capital Radio), 1974–80
- Kenny Everett Audio Show/Cassette (Radio Victory), 1975–76
- Captain Kremmen (Radio Victory), 1976
- Kenny Everett Radio Show (BBC Radio 2), 1981–83
- Kenny Everett Audio Show (Capital Radio) 1984–88
- Weekday afternoons (Capital Gold), 1988–91
- Weekday mid-mornings (Capital Gold), 1991–94
Tributes, portrayals and books
In 1981, Everett co-wrote a semi-fictitious autobiography entitled The Custard Stops at Hatfield. It was published by Willow Books, William Collins, Sons, in September 1982.
Everett is the subject of a 1997 episode of the Thames Television series Heroes of Comedy which covered his life and career from his beginnings on pirate radio up until his death. Celebrities such as Steve Wright, Cliff Richard, Cleo Rocos, Barry Cryer, Jeremy Beadle, Terry Wogan and Barry Took appear and talk about their experiences, collaborations and friendships with Everett and his influence on them.
In 2000 he was the subject of a 30-minute mini-documentary entitled The Unforgettable Kenny Everett.
On 18 November 2007, ITV1 broadcast a tribute show to Everett entitled Licence to Laugh. This celebrated the 30 years since he first appeared on ITV with The Kenny Everett Video Show (Thames Television). Friends and colleagues revealed what it was like to know and work with the man they affectionately dubbed "Cuddly Ken". Additionally, contemporary celebrities such as Chris Moyles and Chris Tarrant talked about their love for the outrageous entertainer and discussed the ways in which Everett had influenced them and their work. It also featured archive footage.
The documentary When Freddie Mercury Met Kenny Everett, broadcast on Channel 4, tells the story of the relationship between the two men from the moment they met in 1974 when Mercury was a guest on Everett's radio show, through gay lovers and drug use to when both died of AIDS. It features affectionate interviews by many people who were close to him.
In March 2010, the BBC confirmed that it was producing a 90-minute TV biographical film called Number One in Heaven, to be written by Tim Whitnall and focusing on Everett's unhappiness at secondary school.
On 3 October 2012, the BBC broadcast a 90-minute TV biopic called The Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story, which focused on the performer's relationship with his wife, singer Lee Middleton. It was based on the biography In the Best Possible Taste: The Crazy Life of Kenny Everett by David Lister.
- Amusing Injuries: All self-inflicted by handyman character "Reg Prescott".
- The Beard: Played for laughs by Everett when he classified his close friend comedian Barry Cryer as "honorary gay". Kenny insisted that Cryer's wife of 40 years and four kids were just a smokescreen.
- Buccaneer Broadcaster: Got his start on the pirate station Radio London, where he was advised to change his name to avoid legal problems; he chose "Kenny Everett", taking "Everett" from American film comic actor Edward Everett Horton, a childhood hero.
- Camp Gay: Much to his own chagrin.
- Catchphrase: Like his contemporaries Monty Python, Everett's comedy boiled over with repeatable lines and quotes which could be heard echoed in pubs and workplaces after every broadcast.
- Channel Hop: Practically a trademark; see the main text for just a sampling of the times he was forced to move from station to station.
- Clipboard of Authority: Everett claimed to have infiltrated The BBC in order to obtain an audition by carrying a large reel of tape.
- Closet Key: Freddie Mercury.
- Country Matters: Just the implication of this trope in the page quote got him fired from BBC Radio 2.
- Declarative Finger: A near-trademark gesture for him, as seen in the page image.
- Doom It Yourself/DIY Disaster: The inevitable result of anything TV handyman character "Reg Prescott" attempted, along with self-inflicted injuries.
- Fan Disservice: "Cupid Stunt".
- Gag Boobs: Literally, for "Cupid Stunt".
- Gayngst: Everett suffered from this for a while upon realizing he was homosexual, but was helped through it by friend Freddie Mercury.
- General Ripper: "General Cheeseburger", complete with a Chest of Medals.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: A core element of his comedy. However, as the number of his firings attest, he wasn't always that good at actually avoiding the radar.
- Improvisation: None of his shows ever had a script. He simply went in and did them completely off the cuff.
- Ink Suit Actor: As the animated version of "Captain Kremmen".
- Meaningful Name: He took "Everett" as part of his stage name in homage to actor Edward Everett Horton, a childhood hero.
- Ms. Fanservice: Everett's co-star on The Kenny Everett Television Show, Cleo Rocos.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: "Cupid Stunt"'s sketches included being "interviewed" by a cardboard cut-out of famous British journalist and presenter Michael Parkinson.
- Planet Looters: In the Captain Kremmen radio bits, the evil Thargoids raid other planets for their best brains, drain them for their knowledge, then destroy the planet.
- Punk: "Sid Snot", described by the Radio Times as "the thinking man's punk".
- Raised Catholic: He even contemplated becoming a priest at one point. After realizing his homosexuality he was still guilt-wracked enough to think coming out would ruin his career and contemplated suicide instead.
- Real Name as an Alias: He once did a promo which ended with the words "...Or My Name Isn't Maurice Cole!" The joke being that most of the listeners wouldn't have known his real name at the time.
- Screwed by the Network: Thames Television scheduled The Kenny Everett Video Show against the BBC's top-rated show Top of the Pops, apparently in an effort to kill it. When Everett ended the show and jumped to the BBC over this and other accusations of mismanagement, Thames attempted to claim copyright on his characters. While the effort was ultimately unsuccessful, it did force him to create several new characters for his BBC series The Kenny Everett Television Show.
- Spoonerism: "Cupid Stunt", Everett's dimly lascivious American B-film actress character. For bonus points she was originally to be called the equally spooneristic "Mary Hinge", but the BBC inexplicably objected to that name's implied obscenity.
- Stage Name: Born "Maurice James Christopher Cole".
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: "Gizzard Puke", created as a replacement for Sid Snot during Thames' attempt to claim copyright on Everett's characters.
- Tempting Fate: Upon his return to BBC radio, he was told to "behave himself" by a producer. As soon as he was on the air, his first words were, "I've just been told I mustn't say 'penis'."
- Weather Report: One sketch had Kenny as an irate TV viewer who attacked a weatherman for forecasting bad weather.
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