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Super-agent Beryl Vertue: 'People don't give British comedy a chance'

Comedians Eric Sykes, Ray Galton, Spike Milligan and Alan Simpson with Beryl Vertue
Comedians Eric Sykes, Ray Galton, Spike Milligan and Alan Simpson with Beryl Vertue

She represented Spike Milligan, Tony Hancock and Frankie Howerd. But Beryl Vertue refuses to believe that comedy's best days are behind us.

For several years in the Sixties, Beryl Vertue was Spike Milligan’s agent. She recalls a moment when the manically depressed comic, in a slough of despair, locked himself in his office for three days, pulled down the blinds and refused to come out.

“I kept worrying that he hadn’t got anything to eat, and so on the third day, I knocked on his door. He told me to go away. I asked him to let me in and eventually he did. I was carrying

a pot of primroses. ‘It’s spring,’ I said, and Spike lifted up the blind so the sun could shine on them. He came out after that…”

This anecdote says a lot about Vertue. By gentle persuasion and unassuming determination, she has become one of the driving forces of British television. She is known as the queen of the format deal,...

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