A page from an autograph album signed by Arthur Askey (1900-1982) the prominent English comedian and actor. Askey's humour owed much to the playfulness of the characters he portrayed, his improvising, and his use of catchphrases, which included "Hello playmates!", "I thank you all" (pronounced "Ay-Thang-Yaw'll"), and "Before your very eyes". Askey had served in the armed forces in World War I and performed in army entertainments. After working as a clerk for Liverpool Corporation, Education Department, he was in a touring concert party and on the music halls, but he rose to stardom in 1938 through his role in the first regular radio comedy series, Band Waggon on the BBC. Band Waggon began as a variety show, but had been unsuccessful until Askey and his partner, Richard Murdoch, took on a larger role in the writing. During World War II, Askey starred in several Gainsborough Pictures comedy films, including Band Waggon (1940), based on the radio show; Charley's (Big-Hearted) Aunt (1940); The Ghost Train (1941); I Thank You (1941); Back Room Boy (1942); King Arthur Was a Gentleman (1942) and Bees in Paradise (1944). When television arrived, he made the transition well; his first TV series was Before Your Very Eyes! (1952), named after his catchphrase. He also made many stage appearances as a pantomime dame.
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