by Hans ten Cate
Saturday, 1 January 2005

Happy New Year! The newswires are saying today that John Cleese has made the list of the all-time British King or Queen of Comedy, in a poll conducted by the UK branch of food company McCain. Cleese was ranked fifth overall, following Tommy Cooper (who ranked #1), Eric Morecambe, Peter Sellers, and Benny Hill.

Soberingly, nine of the funniest ten comics ever have all passed away, with only Cleese still alive.

Jane White, of McCain, said: “We wanted to find out who was the all-time British King or Queen of Comedy to launch our support for Red Nose Day 2005 and clearly Tommy Cooper was the nation's favourite laughter- maker. It's great to see Dawn French in the chart [ranked #19] but it seems men dominate the list of all-time greats.”

The poll of 4,400 people was conducted by McCain to publicise their sponsorship of Red Nose Day 2005 and Comic Relief, the charity founded by comedians to fight poverty. Red Nose Day is a UK-wide fundraising event organised by Comic Relief every two years which culminates in a night of extraordinary comedy and moving documentary films. It's the biggest TV fundraising event in the UK calendar.

Here is the full list:

  • 1) Tommy Cooper
  • 2) Eric Morecambe
  • 3) Peter Sellers
  • 4) Benny Hill
  • 5) John Cleese
  • 6) Spike Milligan
  • 7) Leonard Rossiter
  • 8) Sid James
  • 9) Tony Hancock
  • 10) Peter Cook
  • 11) Ken Dodd
  • 12) Kenneth Williams
  • 13) Ricky Gervais
  • 14) Norman Wisdom
  • 15) Vic Reeves
  • 16) Peter Kay
  • 17) Rowan Atkinson
  • 18) Billy Connolly
  • 19) Dawn French
  • 20) Eddie Izzard