Barry Took

Barry Took
Born (1928-06-19)19 June 1928
Wood Green, north London, England
Died 31 March 2002(2002-03-31) (aged 73)
Occupation Scriptwriter
Nationality British
Period 1957–99
Genre Radio, television
Notable works The Army Game (1957–61), Bootsie and Snudge (1960–64, 1974), Round the Horne (1965–67), One-Upmanship (1976–78)

Barry Took (/ˈbæri ˈtʊk/, 19 June 1928 – 31 March 2002) was an English writer, television presenter and comedian. His decade and a half writing partnership with Marty Feldman led to the television series Bootsie and Snudge and the radio comedy Round the Horne and other projects.

He is also remembered in the UK for presenting Points of View, a BBC Television programme featuring viewers' letters on the BBC's output,[1] and the BBC Radio 4 programme The News Quiz.

Early life and education

The son of a manager at the Danish Bacon Company, Took was born in Muswell Hill[2] or Wood Green,[3] north London and brought up there during the war, running away from the home in Wisbech to which he had been evacuated.[4] He attended Stationers School[5] but quit school at age 15.[2] His older brother Philip would eventually work for the US Space Program before dying as a young man.[3]


With his limited education, Took found work as an office boy for a publisher and a cinema projectionist.[3][6] During his period of National Service in the RAF in which he played the trumpet,[3] he began performing and later worked as a stand-up comedian, eventually becoming a West End revue performer, working on For Amusement Only and For Adults Only.

In terms of his comedy writing, Took's best work was written in collaboration with Marty Feldman, whom he first met in 1954.[7] The two men wrote for several television shows in the 1950s and 1960s, including The Army Game and its spin-off Bootsie and Snudge. He co-wrote Beyond Our Ken for two series (1958–1959) with Eric Merriman for BBC Radio before leaving after a disagreement with his fellow writer. With Marty Feldman he wrote most episodes of Round the Horne; the intermittent partnership between them continued until 1974.[7]

In the late 1960s Took became comedy advisor to the BBC and was responsible for bringing together the performers who formed Monty Python's Flying Circus, before moving to the USA to work briefly on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In.[6] He returned to the UK in early 1970, was involved in setting up the BBC series The Goodies, although he had returned to take up the position of Head of Light Entertainment at London Weekend Television. He resigned from this position when Stella Richman, his superior and the Director of Programming, was dismissed.[4] On the Move (1975–76), a programme linked to a national campaign against adult illiteracy, was written by Took and featured Bob Hoskins and Donald Gee. He was involved in two further television series on the issue, Your Move and Write Away.[6]

In 1977 Took hosted his own comedy sketch show, Took and Co. Also featuring Robin Bailey, Chris Emmett, Andrew Sachs and Gwen Taylor, the series ran for seven episodes late at night on ITV.

In 1979 he became chairman of The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4, a role he filled for the next 17 years. In the same year he became a presenter of Points of View, staying with the programme for 7½ years.[6]

Took also hosted the BBC Radio 2 comedy panel game The Impressionists, which included Peter Goodwright, Roger Kitter, David Jason and Dave Evans and, in 1998, the single-season revival of Twenty Questions titled Guess What?.

He had seven books published, including his autobiography and several histories of comedy.[6] He also wrote Kenneth Williams's life story for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in 1996.[1]

Personal life and final years

During his time with the Royal Air Force he met his first wife, Dorothy "Dot" Bird, who was serving in the Women's Royal Air Force.[2] They married in 1950[4] and had three children (Barry, Susan and David), but were later divorced. In 1964[3] he married Lynden "Lyn" Leonard, this second marriage resulting in a daughter named Elinor. The couple separated in 1999[8] and eventually divorced.[2] Took was a self-confessed alcoholic, and later acknowledged its detrimental effects on his personal life and career.[3] He also spoke publicly about his experiences with depression and undergoing extensive psychotherapy for several years.[2][3]

After suffering from bladder cancer for a period during the 1970s,[3] in 1999 he was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus,[8] and suffered a stroke four weeks after undergoing major surgery.[9] He died at age 73 on Easter Sunday, 2002 in a nursing home in Enfield, Middlesex.[10]



  1. 1 2 Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 370. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Martin, Douglas (14 April 2002). "Barry Took, 73, Father of Monty Python, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Barry Took", The Scotsman, 1 April 2002
  4. 1 2 3 Obituary: Barry Took,, 2 April 2002
  5. Gifford, Dennis (1 April 2002). "Barry Took". Obituary. Retrieved 24 November 2009.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 "Barry Took". The Telegraph. 2 Apr 2002. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  7. 1 2 John Oliver "Took, Barry (1928–2002)", BFI screenonline
  8. 1 2 Purser, Philip (1 April 2002). "Obituary: Barry Took". The Guardian.
  9. "Comedian Barry Took dies". BBC News. 31 March 2002.
  10. Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006

External links

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