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Dorothy Paul opens comedy greats exhibition at Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh
John Byrne, Billy Connolly, b. 1942. Entertainer. Oil on canvas 54.00 x 39.00 cm. National Galleries of Scotland.

EDINBURGH.- A fascinating new exhibition which celebrates 75 amazing years of Scotland’s entertainment history opened at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Tickling Jock: Comedy Greats from Sir Harry Lauder to Billy Connolly shines the spotlight on Scotland’s unique contribution to the world of comedy in the twentieth century.

Made possible by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Tickling Jock: Comedy Greats from Sir Harry Lauder to Billy Connolly tells the extraordinary story of Scottish comedy between 1900 and 1975, charting the careers of performers who went on to become world-renowned superstars and national treasures. Reflecting the comic traditions of the period, the exhibition features 50 stars of music-hall, stage and gramophone, as well as the ‘new’ media of radio, cinema and television, including Sir Harry Lauder, Ivor Cutler, Rikki Fulton, Andy Stewart, Anne Fields, Una McLean and Stanley Baxter. The exhibition combines portraits, photographs and caricatures from the Gallery’s own rich holdings with loans from private collectors, the Scottish Theatre archive and venues including The King’s Theatre Glasgow and The Citizens Theatre.

Christopher Baker, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery said: “We are delighted to be opening this new exhibition with such a vibrant mix of portraits, archive footage and recordings of Scottish comedy greats. We hope that Tickling Jock will trigger many happy memories for visitors and at the same time introduce the comedy stars featured to a new generation. It’s a show that should generate a lot of laughter! ”

The exhibition is funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, who have raised over £23m for charities and good causes to date. People's Postcode Lottery Head of Charities Clara Govier added: “We are really looking forward to Tickling Jock, which we are sure will bring a smile to all its visitors – both young and old. We’re delighted that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are giving their support to an exhibition that is both full of fun and time-honoured community spirit.”

Free exhibition Tickling Jock also features gramophone recordings and archive film and TV footage from the Scottish Theatre Archive, (University of Glasgow Library), BBC Motion Gallery, British Pathé and STV. Highlights include rare films of music-hall and variety performers such as Sir Harry Lauder and Will Fyffe; Stanley Baxter as his most enduring creation The Professor, performing Parliamo Glasgow; Renée Houston in That Was The Week That Was as the irrepressible ‘Costa Clyde’ landlady; Ronnie Corbett in a 1966 edition of The Frost Report performing the celebrated ‘Class Sketch’ with John Cleese and Ronnie Barker; rounding up with Billy Connolly’s 1975 appearance on Parkinson, when he memorably remarked, before telling a joke steeped in dark Glasgow humour, ‘I hope I can get away with this, it’s a beauty’.

For every star who topped the bill, however, there were numerous performers whose great acts have been largely forgotten: Tickling Jock also features comments and memories from members of the Living Memory Association who have worked with the Gallery to paint a rounded picture where footage or recorded material has been lost, from seeing Johnny Victory live on stage in Edinburgh, to memories of Andy Stewart performing in San Francisco in the 1960s in a kilt.

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