The Barry Took Archive

Scope and Content

Personal scrapbook containing news clippings, playbills, programmes, reviews and correspondence from Took’s early career, 1957-1958; press cuttings, 1960-1998; draft articles for Punch Magazine and The Radio Times, 1971-1973, 1975-1979; publication proofs and related promotional material, 1970s, 1985; correspondence, 1959-1998, including letters from Marty Feldman, Alan Whicker, Les Dawson and Denis Norden; scripts for productions written by Barry Took and in collaboration with Marty Feldman, Eric Merriman, Stephen Potter and Simon Welfare, including ‘Carroll Levis Cavalcade,’ 1954, ‘Pertwee’s Progress,’ 1955, ‘Beyond our Ken,’ 1857-1958, ‘Marty Feldman Show,’ c.1968, ‘Marty,’ 1968, late night revues by Rogers and Starr, 1972, ‘Up Britannia or Howerd’s History of England,’ 1974, ‘Oneupmanship,’ 1978, ‘Joke by Joke,’ c.1979-1980, ‘Just Williams’ a commemorative broadcast for Kenneth Williams, 1988, and assorted draft sketch scripts, 1965-1988; VHS video tapes of programmes relating to Took, including episodes of ‘Points of View,’ 1979-1986, and ‘Funny You Ask,’ n.d; compact audio cassettes of programmes relating to Took, including ‘The News Quiz,’ c.1981-c.1996, ‘Guess What,’ n.d., ‘Took’s Tour,’ n.d.,and others.

Administrative / Biographical History

Barry Took was born in London on 19 June 1928. Educated at Stationers School, Took left school at 15 and worked as a cinema projectionist and stand-up comedian before he was discovered by Carroll Levis through a radio talent show and made manager and compere of the ‘Carroll Levis and his Discoveries stage show.’ From this he graduated to a long-running West End revue, ‘For Amusement Only.’

It was on the variety circuit in 1954 that Took met his future writing partner Marty Feldman. In the 1950s Took had worked on a number of television shows, such as ‘The Carroll Levis Show,’ the variety show ‘Round About Ten,’ and the chat show ‘Extra Late,’ but his first successes came when he and Feldman began writing together in 1959, initially for radio but from 1960 also for television.

Took and Feldman worked together on ITV’s ‘The Army Game, 1957-1961, and its spin off ‘Bootsie and Snudge,’ 1960-1963. In 1965 the two created the popular weekly comedy show ‘Round the Horne’ for BBC radio. Featuring Kenneth Horne and Kenneth Williams, the show drew large audiences and ran until 1968. In 1968-1969 Took collaborated with Feldman on ‘It’s Marty,’ a vehicle for Feldman that earned both Took and Feldman awards from The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and The Society of Film and Television Arts in 1969.

In the late 1960s Took also held the role of comedy advisor for the BBC and was involved in launching both ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus,’ 1969-1974, and ‘The Goodies,’ 1970-1980. In 1969-1970 he moved America to write for NBC’s sketch comedy show ‘Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In,’ but returned in 1970 to take up the post of Head of Light Entertainment at London Weekend Television, overseeing the launch of the popular sitcom ‘On The Buses.’

After only a short time at LWT Took returned to the BBC where he wrote and produced ‘But Seriously – It’s Sheila Hancock,’ 1972-1973, and ‘One-Upmanship,’ 1974-1978, based on the work of Stephen Potter. From 1975 he was also involved with the BBC’s adult literacy work, contributing sketches to their television programme ‘On The Move,’ and its successors, ‘Your Move’ and ‘Write Away.’

In 1979 he became chairman of radio 4’s ‘The News Quiz,’ remaining with the programme for seventeen years. In the same year he also became presenter of ‘Points of View,’ the BBC’s weekly round-up of viewer’s letters, and from 1989-1994 he presented the review series, ‘TV Weekly’ for ITV.

Took was the author of seven published works, including histories of British comedies, works based on his series ‘Round the Horne’ and ‘The News Quiz,’ and his autobiography, ‘A Point of View,’ which was published in 1990.

Barry Took died 31 March 2002 at the age of 73.

Conditions Governing Access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Acquisition Information

The archive was deposited at the Borthwick Institute in 2008. A further addition was made to the archive in 2011.

Note

Barry Took was born in London on 19 June 1928. Educated at Stationers School, Took left school at 15 and worked as a cinema projectionist and stand-up comedian before he was discovered by Carroll Levis through a radio talent show and made manager and compere of the ‘Carroll Levis and his Discoveries stage show.’ From this he graduated to a long-running West End revue, ‘For Amusement Only.’

It was on the variety circuit in 1954 that Took met his future writing partner Marty Feldman. In the 1950s Took had worked on a number of television shows, such as ‘The Carroll Levis Show,’ the variety show ‘Round About Ten,’ and the chat show ‘Extra Late,’ but his first successes came when he and Feldman began writing together in 1959, initially for radio but from 1960 also for television.

Took and Feldman worked together on ITV’s ‘The Army Game, 1957-1961, and its spin off ‘Bootsie and Snudge,’ 1960-1963. In 1965 the two created the popular weekly comedy show ‘Round the Horne’ for BBC radio. Featuring Kenneth Horne and Kenneth Williams, the show drew large audiences and ran until 1968. In 1968-1969 Took collaborated with Feldman on ‘It’s Marty,’ a vehicle for Feldman that earned both Took and Feldman awards from The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and The Society of Film and Television Arts in 1969.

In the late 1960s Took also held the role of comedy advisor for the BBC and was involved in launching both ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus,’ 1969-1974, and ‘The Goodies,’ 1970-1980. In 1969-1970 he moved America to write for NBC’s sketch comedy show ‘Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In,’ but returned in 1970 to take up the post of Head of Light Entertainment at London Weekend Television, overseeing the launch of the popular sitcom ‘On The Buses.’

After only a short time at LWT Took returned to the BBC where he wrote and produced ‘But Seriously – It’s Sheila Hancock,’ 1972-1973, and ‘One-Upmanship,’ 1974-1978, based on the work of Stephen Potter. From 1975 he was also involved with the BBC’s adult literacy work, contributing sketches to their television programme ‘On The Move,’ and its successors, ‘Your Move’ and ‘Write Away.’

In 1979 he became chairman of radio 4’s ‘The News Quiz,’ remaining with the programme for seventeen years. In the same year he also became presenter of ‘Points of View,’ the BBC’s weekly round-up of viewer’s letters, and from 1989-1994 he presented the review series, ‘TV Weekly’ for ITV.

Took was the author of seven published works, including histories of British comedies, works based on his series ‘Round the Horne’ and ‘The News Quiz,’ and his autobiography, ‘A Point of View,’ which was published in 1990.

Barry Took died 31 March 2002 at the age of 73.

Other Finding Aids

This material has not yet been catalogued. A partial box list is available for consultation, please contact the Borthwick Institute for more information.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Includes VHS video tapes and compact audio cassettes. Access to audiovisual material may be restricted due to technical requirements, please contact the Borthwick Institute for more information.

Archivist's Note

Created 15.05.15. Extent and medium checked 25.04.16.

Conditions Governing Use

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Accruals

Further accruals are not expected.

Additional Information

Published

GB 193