Actor, comedian and comic creator Bob Monkhouse (1st June 1928 – 29th December 2003) died from prostate cancer, a disease that it’s estimated kills one man every hour in the UK – and in 2007, he was “recruited” for a fund-raising campaign to help combat the deadly disease.
Shockingly, although it’s almost as common as breast cancer, yet gets a fraction of the research funding, prompting Bob’s return from the grave in 2007, in an ad for the Prostate Cancer Research charity’s “Give A Few Bob” campaign, made with the full support of Bob’s family.
Ad makers The Communications Agency took archive footage of Monkhouse and blended it with shots of a body double, taken in a graveyard in Surrey, creating a campaign that cost £50,000 to make but gained Prostate Cancer Research donations of over three million pounds when first released, according The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, the flagship programme offered by UK registered charity, The SOFII Foundation.
Released in 2007, the script in the ad is spoken by a soundalike and begins with Monkhouse saying: “Just when you thought it was safe to turn on your TV again, here I am. Gosh, four years already, doesn’t time fly.”
He goes on to tell one of his favourite gags: “I wanted to die like my father, quietly, in his sleep – not screaming and terrified like his passengers.”
And he says: “What killed me kills one man per hour in Britain. That’s even more than my wife’s cooking. Let’s face it, as a comedian, I died many deaths. Prostate cancer, I don’t recommend.”
When the ad was first released, Bob Monkhouse’s widow, Jackie told The Sun: “When I was approached about the Give A Few Bob campaign I felt it would be a great honour for my husband.
“Bob would love this ad. It’s funny but has a serious message about the threat of prostate cancer.”
The Communications Agency came up with the idea after seeing the Radio 2 promotional film in which Elvis Presley appeared on stage with the Sugababes and Noel Gallagher.
Monkhouse was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001, but kept quiet about it and continued working. He died in his sleep at home in December 2003. It’s estimated the campaign was seen by over 80 per cent of the UK population, and raised significant sums for Prostate Cancer Research.
Before becoming an actor and comedian, while still at school, Bob Monkhouse wrote for The Beano – confirmed the team on the comic revealed, back in 2011 – and The Dandy – and drew for other comics, including Hotspur, Wizard and Adventure, noted in to Dennis Barker’s tribute in The Guardian in 2003.
He established a comics writing and art partnership with Dulwich schoolmate (and, later, comics archivist) Denis Gifford and the pair formed their own publishing company in the early 1950s. The UK Comics Wiki notes that after leaving school, he drew strips including “Sam the Salesman” in Comic Adventures (1946), “Luke the Lumberjack” in Funny Tuppenny (1947), “Dippy the Duke” and “Stanley the Student” in Okay Comic (1947), “Ivor Dimwitt” in Crash Comics (1948), “Beanbrain” in Jolly Arrow (1948), “Fun and Games” in Jolly Chuckles (1948), “Western Roundup” in Jolly Cowboy (1948), “The Tornado” and “Stuporman” in Oh Boy! Comics (1948-51), “Pat Peril” in Modern Comics (1949) and “Scampy” in Super Jolly Roger (1949).
Other titles he drew for include All Fun Comic (1946-48), All Star Comic (1946), Bimbo Goes to the Moon (1946), The Winner Comic (1947-48), Smasher Comics (1947), Amazing Comics (1949) and Super Star (1949).
He was an inveterate collector of comics, comic art, film and TV memorabilia and more, and very supportive of some new comics talent in later years, including Eagle and DC Thomson artist Alan Burrows.
In 1981, Arrow Books published The Book of Days, “a whacky day-by-day guide to history’s strangest facts” written and illustrated by Bob, proving, as cartoonist Lew Stringer noted here, that, despite moving away from comics, he definitely still had his artistic talent.