Monday, November 17, 2008

Reg Varney (1916-2008)

Comedian Reg Varney, best known for his roles in The Rag Trade and On the Buses, died yesterday at the age of 92. Varney's link with comics included an adaptation of the latter that appeared in Look-In in 1971-74, drawn by Harry North and scripted at various times by Scott Goodall and Geoff Cowan. As can be seen in the episode above (dated w/e 2 October 1971), the strip wasn't a flat-out comedy and Varney himself noted of the show: “We act it straight. It can be drama as well as comedy. It’s a fine hairline, knowing the difference. We don’t put in jokes. In fact, we take out jokes if they are interfering with the truth of the situation. The broader the situation, the straighter you have to play it.”

Varney had earlier appeared in a strip called "The Adventures of Reg Varney as a Boy" (to which was added "and what a boy!" in the subtitle). Drawn by Roy Wilson, the strip ran for around 18 months and was later reprinted as "The Valiant Varneys" in Buster in 1965-66. I've also seen it noted that some of "The Valiant Varneys" reprinted episodes of "Terry-Thomas" from Film Fun, also drawn by Roy Wilson, with Reg Varney drawn in by another hand.

Obituaries: The Times (17 November); Daily Telegraph (17 November); The Guardian (17 November); The Independent (18 November).

(* artwork © IPC Media. My thanks to Dave Whitwell [see comments] for reminding me of the earlier Varney strip.)


  1. I was very sad to hear of the death of Reg Varney as he was a favourite on TV when I was growing up. One of the last 1950s/60s 'Comedy Greats' has gone.

    Reg Varney actually appeared in British comics a little earlier though. Reg Varney first appeared in his own strip, in the pages of TV Fun, circa 1956 - Drawn by the inimitable Roy Wilson.

    I believe These strips were reprinted in Buster in 1965, under the title of 'The Valiant Varneys'.

    I've emailed you an attachment of part of the strip (sadly my A4 scanner is not big enough to scan the whole image, but you'll get a taste of the strip).

    Dave Whitwell

  2. Have just re-read your Reg Varney item... and read it properly this time! As ever, you've done your homework, which kind of makes my previous comment redundant.

    I must get some new glasses!

    All the Best

  3. Hi Dave,

    Ah... you need to read all the way to the end, right at the bottom alongside the copyright notice, where you'll find that it was your note to me that prompted the quick rewrite! Many thanks for this. I was sure that Varney had appeared before "On the Buses" but I couldn't for the life of me recall where.

    I do like Blogger... I can react quite quickly to clear up errors and omissions. People could almost believe I know what I'm talking about.

  4. Phew! For a minute, I really thought I was losing my marbles there ...


  5. A sad loss - although Varney hasn't done much in later years he is a legend of the British sitcom scene - I still love the old shows.

  6. Very interesting comments all round.

    Just a footnote here on The Valiant Varneys, which was also a half-hour children's comedy series via BBC1 (July-Sept 1964; Apr-May 1965) starring Reg Varney in various roles as his incompetent ancestors (a Foreign Legion one as Beau Varney, a Sherlock Varney, a Dr Henry Varney and Mr Hyde, an so on). All scripted by David Cumming, a TV comedy (Charlie Drake, Dora Bryan) and drama (No Hiding Place, Crane) writer.

    As foggy (after-school) memory serves, Varney was indeed hilarious in daft period costume and wacky characters.

    Tise Vahimagi



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