The issue date of April 1 was carefully chosen for the Comedy Greats set, which celebrates 10 of Britain’s best loved funny acts of the past 60 years, including many whose work is considered a landmark in the history of entertainment.

Royal Mail says that part of the inspiration behind the issue is that a quirky sense of humour is a trait synonymous with British people. There are also several linked anniversaries, including the centenary of the birth of Norman Wisdom and the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s television show Not Only…But Also...

Available in se-tenant strips of five, the stamps were designed by The Chase and printed in lithography by International Security Printers.

1st class Spike Milligan

The main inspiration behind The Goon Show, the BBC radio programme that ran from 1951 to 1960, Milligan (1918-2002) was also known for the television show Q, which was aired from 1969-1982. His surreal, stream-of-consciousness humour is known to have inspired Monty Python.

1st class The Two Ronnies

Ronnie Barker (1929-2005) and Ronnie Corbett (b1930) first worked together on The Frost Report in the mid-1960s and later teamed up for their own television show, The Two Ronnies, from 1971-87. Sketches, spoof news reports and musical send-ups were their stock in trade.

1st class Billy Connolly

An irreverent Glaswegian, Connolly (b1942) worked as a shipyard welder and a folk-singer before he came to fame in the 1970s as a stand-up comic and actor. His rambling, earthy, observational stories about everyday life inspired a whole generation of future comedians.

1st class Morecambe & Wise

Eric Morecambe (1926-84) and Ernie Wise (1925-99) teamed up as teenagers to perfect a brand a comedy rooted in the music hall variety tradition, and presented their eponymous television sketch show from 1968-84. Almost every year from 1969 until 1980, they had a Christmas Day special drawing some of the highest audience figures in television history.

1st class Norman Wisdom

Best known for a series of comedy films produced in 1953-66 featuring his hapless character Norman Pitkin, Wisdom (1915-2010) was once nominated by Charlie Chaplin, no less, as his favourite clown. Famously, his films were the only ones from the capitalist world permitted to be broadcast in Albania under the closed Hoxha regime.

1st class Lenny Henry

Henry (b1958) came to fame by winning the television talent show New Faces in 1975, and ended up with his own series by 1984. A stand-up comedian combining social commentary with mimicry, and also an occasional Shakespearean actor, he co-founded the charity Comic Relief, which has raised more than £1bn over 30 years for disadvantaged people.

1st class Peter Cook & Dudley Moore

Cook (1937-95) and Moore (1935-2002) made their name in the satirical stage revue Beyond The Fringe, and went on to establish a sketch style which was both literate and occasionally surreal in their television show Not Only…But Also..., which ran from 1964-70. Cook also provided financial backing for the satirical magazine Private Eye, while Moore became a Hollywood actor.

1st class Monty Python

Graham Chapman (1941-89), John Cleese (b1939), Terry Gilliam (b1940), Eric Idle (b1943), Terry Jones (b1942) and Michael Palin (b1943) introduced television audiences to a pioneering form of comedy sketch show as Monty Python’s Flying Circus from 1969-74. Making fun of British sensibilities, usually surreal and not necessarily with punchlines, it bred a cult following and a series of movies.

1st class French & Saunders

Dawn French (b1957) and Jennifer Saunders (b1958) paved the way for a new generation of funny women with their eponymous sketch show, which first aired in 1987, not least for its spoofs of cult fims and television programmes. Individually, they also won critical acclaim for their sitcoms, The Vicar of Dibley and Absolutely Fabulous respectively.

1st class Victoria Wood

Another winner of the New Faces talent show, in 1974, Wood (b1953) developed a style of gentle observational humour which thrived both in her sketch show Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV, from 1984, and in her sitcom Dinnerladies, from 1998. Her live act typically comprises monologues interspersed with songs of her own composition, which she accompanies on piano.

OTHER PRODUCTS

The presentation pack, written by biographer Graham McCann, charts the life and times of the stamp subjects. Stamp cards and a first day cover are also available.

 

PRICES

Set of 10 stamps        £6.30

Presentation pack      £6.80

Stamp cards               £4.50

First day cover           £8.04

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH 2/5

Comedians are among Britain’s best-loved celebrities, but many people will consider the choice of subjects too contemporary

QUALITY OF DESIGN 2/5

A combination of close-up portraits and cameos from shows or sketches reminds why we like these entertainers

WOW FACTOR 1/5

These stamps will not make a big impression on cover, although they will probably catch the eye of non-collectors