November 30, 2018
Can comedy kill? Some believe it to be possible and in truth, there has been a number of comedy performers over the years that have died on stage figuratively and slightly fewer that died on stage literally, the excellent Tommy Cooper being one such example. But have comedians killed others? The answer is yes and this is one such fascinating story.
When we say that comedy can kill and that comedians have managed to kill somebody, we actually mean that they killed through their comedy; a person actually died of laughter. You might think that this is not possible but when we laugh, our heart rate increases and for Alex Mitchell in 1974, that was sadly the case.
The bricklayer from King’s Lynn literally died laughing whilst watching an episode of The Goodieson 24th March 1975. Sketch comedians Bill Oddie (now better known as a bird watcher on the BBC), Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden are perhaps lesser known than the Monty Python boys these days but as far as we know, Messrs Cleese and Palin et al never managed to cause someone to die from one of their jokes, asides from perhaps a dead parrot.
Mr. Mitchell was watching an episode called Kung Fu Kapers and unfortunately experienced a cardiac arrest whilst laughing at Tim Brooke-Taylor, dressed as a kilted Scotsman, used a set of bagpipes to defend himself from Bill Oddie, who was attacking with black pudding, in a demonstration of the ancient Scottish martial art of Hoots-Toot-ochaye. We aren’t sure we’ve ever heard of anything so British either and writing this on St. Andrew’s Day seems particularly apt..
After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter, Mitchell slumped over and never awoke, His wife Nessie, a witness to the whole incident, later wrote to The Goodies to thank them for making her husband’s final moments so pleasant.
The Goodies haven’t just killed a person though, for they have also helped bring life into the world. On 1st November 1977, Seema Bakewell went into labour whilst laughing at one of their episodes, Alternative Roots, and refused to go to hospital until the episode was over. If only iPlayer had been invented back then!
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By Henry Fosdike