News: Tributes to Comedy Writer John Langdon

News: Tributes to Comedy Writer John Langdon

Veteran comedy writer John Langdon has died. 

Langdon was one of the country’s most experienced comedy writers, working on classic programmes including Not The Nine O’Clock News and with Kenny Everett. He also worked on The News Quiz and most regularly with Rory Bremner, who paid tribute to Langdon on Twitter. "So sad to report that my lifelong writing partner, best buddy, supporter, champion, encourager, and joy-giver John Langdon died on Monday. The kindest, most generous and funniest man and most brilliant of writers, he’s left me with a lifetime of great memories...He was writing lines for the tour of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue right up to early January, despite failing sight and being on oxygen for severe COPD. Loved jokes, comedy & people."

Comedian John Dowie wrote on Facebook: "RIP John Langdon. Comedy Gagman Extraordinaire and All Round Lovely Chap."

Ian Greaves tweeted: "Ach, this is terrible news. Had a very enjoyable evening with John when researching the Week Ending book. Rory Bremner's right hand man for so many years."

Writer Justin Lewis tweeted: "Sad news that John Langdon has died. As @GreavesIan mentioned, a tireless writing collaborator with Rory Bremner, but also had a lengthy association with Week Ending, Huddlines, The News Quiz, Jasper Carrott, and everyone from Russ Abbot to Roland Rat....John was one of many who were such a big help when we were putting together the Prime Minister book on Week Ending. Thank you, John and RIP."

Radio/TV producer Alan Nixon penned a long tribute to John Langdon on his Facebook page and has kindly allowed Beyond The Joke to publish his tribute in full here: 

"The writer of cracking comedy lines, John Langdon, who has just passed away, was often known as The Late John Langdon. Now that he’s gone, sadly, he would appreciate that irony. John was the first real ‘one-liner’ writer I met as an early radio producer on The News Quiz. He wrote most of the excellent gags for Barry Took and later Simon Hoggart. Some were sheer genius and worth waiting for John’s often very late delivery. 

He was notorious for swinging in frantically on the script delivery day at the very last moment, a battered satchel swung over one shoulder, a flapping jacket, an odd hat of sorts with long straggling dark hair springing out, matching his equally straggling black moustache. John would usually be carrying several coffees huddled in the crook of his arm, in a white paper bag, from the nearest proper old style café - by way of apology to everyone.  

John Langdon was tall and rangy, casual good looks somewhere between Lee Van Cleef of spaghetti Westerns and a young Leo Tolstoy with the added air of a well-travelled hippie.  He might have stepped from the front of an album by the Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash or any American West Coast band. He rolled cigarettes to puff between the less than perfect teeth hidden below his gaucho moustache. A man who seemed tangled with mystery and danger having escaped angry husbands or other undesirables. Despite his London accent and background John forever seemed merged with the exotic. 

He looked straight out of a 19th Century Russian novel. Indeed, he played guitar in a faux-Russian duo, Bibs & Vanya, who had a regular gig at London’s Borscht 'n Tears restaurant. And he actually spoke fluent Russian.  One of his biggest claims to fame – which, as a London newcomer, I found thrilling – was that he wrote all the puns and jokes for that famous Russian restaurant’s posters on underground stations. These huge, colourful and always funny ads were the only decent reading material on lonely tube stations to cheer up the stranded traveller. 

John also wrote for very many shows, both radio and TV, despite what seemed a complex home life. Projects were always bubbling under as John was ever working on ‘something big’ and failing to deliver on time regularly. Yet always so witty and funny with his innumerable excuses. At one point, he was ‘dialling in’ his material from the home phone. Trouble was the payphone in the hall was eventually cut off, so we producers had to call him up in hope as it no longer accepted outgoing calls.

He was master of the unexpected joke, sharp jibe or the plain silly idea. One of John’s great twisted puns I still find funny. There was a stage show called ‘I’m Getting My Act Together and Putting it on the Road” which Mr Langdon reframed as “I’m Getting Tarmac Together…”

I was lucky enough one year to pair John up with a new Edinburgh Fringe comic – Rory Bremner. And that relationship blossomed into a terrific comedy partnership that ran through several very funny topical tv series – And Now Something Else was one big hit. John wrote a lot of Rory’s satirical material. Although not always on time.  I did hear a great tale from video editor, Mykola Pawluk, that John once arrived breathlessly in the editing suite with sheets of his up-to-the-minute one-liners, not knowing the show had been recorded the night before. 

John Langdon was always affable and entertaining company on many great occasions. Despite being a writer of the sharpest political lines, he himself was never churlish, dour or downbeat. No matter what seemed to be happening in his tangled life, John was always happy to be part of your world where he was the unsung contributor to many great shows – radio and television and many great nights. His company, his warmth, and the many witty jokes will be sorely missed.

RIP Mr Langdon."

Picture: Twitter/@RoryBremner

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