Comedians: From the 1940s to Now

  • Russell Brand

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_63_x131761.jpg

    by Karl J. Kaul, 2006 © Karl J. Kaul

    Russell Brand
  • Rob Brydon

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    by Trevor Leighton, 2008 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Rob Brydon
  • Simon Pegg

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    by Jillian Edelstein, 2007 © Jillian Edelstein / Camera Press

    Simon Pegg
  • Gina Yashere

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    by Sal Idriss, 2002 © Sal Idriss / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Gina Yashere
  • Meera Syal

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    by Jason Bell, 2002 © Jason Bell

    Meera Syal
  • Ricky Gervais

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    by Spiros Politis, 2001 © Spiros Politis

    Ricky Gervais
  • Vic Reeves (Jim Noir)

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1999 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Vic Reeves (Jim Noir)
  • Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1999 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage
  • Bob Mortimer

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1999 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Bob Mortimer
  • The League of Gentlemen

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1999 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    The League of Gentlemen
  • Lee Evans

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_55_x88391.jpg

    by Trevor Leighton, 1999 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Lee Evans
  • Harry Enfield

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1999 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Harry Enfield
  • David Baddiel & Frank Skinner

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1998 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    David Baddiel & Frank Skinner
  • Julian Clary

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1998 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Julian Clary
  • Paul Whitehouse & Charlie Higson

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1997 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Paul Whitehouse & Charlie Higson
  • Bernard Manning

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_50_x126063.jpg

    by Trevor Ray Hart, 1997 © Trevor Ray Hart / Getty images

    Bernard Manning
  • Ben Elton

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1997 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Ben Elton
  • Joe Cornish & Adam Buxton

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    by Honey Salvadori, 1996 © Honey Salvadori / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Joe Cornish & Adam Buxton
  • Joanna Lumley & Jennifer Saunders as Patsy and Edina in 'Absolutely Fabulous'

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1996 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Joanna Lumley & Jennifer Saunders as Patsy  and Edina in 'Absolutely Fabulous'
  • Jack Dee

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    Jack Dee by Trevor Leighton, 1995© Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Jack Dee
  • Victoria Wood

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_45_x88397.jpg

    by Trevor Leighton, 1994 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Victoria Wood
  • Paul Merton

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1994 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Paul Merton
  • Jo Brand

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_43_x87432.jpg

    by Trevor Leighton, 1993 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Jo Brand
  • Sir Norman Wisdom

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    by Trevor Leighton, 1992 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Sir Norman Wisdom
  • Gregor Fisher

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    by Chris Clunn, 1992 © Chris Clunn Archive

    Gregor Fisher
  • Hugh Laurie

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_39_x35307.jpg

    by Trevor Leighton, 1990 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Hugh Laurie
  • Dawn French

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_38_x34814.jpg

    by Trevor Leighton, 1990 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Dawn French
  • Jenny Eclair

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    by Barry Marsden, 1990s © Barry Marsden

    Jenny Eclair
  • John Cleese

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    by Annie Lebovitz, 1990 © Annie Lebovitz

    John Cleese
  • Jennifer Saunders & Dawn French

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_35_x47380.jpg

    by Trevor Leighton, 1989 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Jennifer Saunders & Dawn French
  • Marti Caine

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_34_x77062.jpg

    by Trevor Leighton, 1989 © Trevor Leighton / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Marti Caine
  • John Sessions

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    by Steve Speller, 1988 © Steve Speller / National Portrait Gallery, London

    John Sessions
  • Stephen Fry

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    by Steve Speller, 1988 © Steve Speller / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Stephen Fry
  • Rowan Atkinson

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    by Alistair Morrison, 1988 © Alistair Morrison

    Rowan Atkinson
  • Julie Walters

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    by Alistair Morrison, 1985 © Alistair Morrison

    Julie Walters
  • Billy Connolly

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    by John Swannell, 1984 © John Swannell / Camera Press

    Billy Connolly
  • Alexi Sayle

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    by Alistair Morrison, 1984 © Alistair Morrison

    Alexi Sayle
  • Max Wall

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    by Prudence Cumming, 1982 © National Portrait Gallery, London

    Max Wall
  • Monty Python

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    by David Appleby, 1982 © David Appleby

    Monty Python
  • Frankie Howerd

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    by Vincent Gillett, 1980s

    Frankie Howerd
  • Les Dawson

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    by Eric Watson, 1980s © Eric Watson / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Les Dawson
  • Eric Morecambe & Ernie Wise

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_21_P150(42).jpg

    by Arnold Newman, 1978 © Arnold Newman / Getty Images

    Eric Morecambe & Ernie Wise
  • Ken Dodd

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    by Michael Ward, 1977 © Michael Ward / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Ken Dodd
  • Richard Murdoch

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_19_x35154.jpg

    by Bob Collins, 1957 © estate of Bob Collins / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Richard Murdoch
  • Eric Sykes

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    by Godfrey Argent, 1970 © National Portrait Gallery, London

    Eric Sykes
  • The Goons

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    by Bryan Wharton, 1968 © Bryan Wharton

    The Goons
  • Peter Cooke & Dudley Moore

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_16_x76922.jpg

    by Lewis Morley, 1968 © Lewis Morley Archive / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Peter Cooke & Dudley Moore
  • Beyond the Fringe

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    by Lewis Morley, 1961 © Lewis Morley Archive / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Beyond the Fringe
  • Spike Milligan

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    by Angus McBean, 1960 © EMI Music Archive

    Spike Milligan
  • Kenneth Horne

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    by Lewis Morley, 1960s © Lewis Morley Archive / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Kenneth Horne
  • The Establishment

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_11_x125249.jpg

    by Lewis Morley, 1960s © Lewis Morley Archive / National Portrait Gallery, London

    The Establishment
  • Sid James & Tony Hancock

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_10_x45334.jpg

    by Bob Collins, 1959 © estate of Bob Collins / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Sid James & Tony Hancock
  • Benny Hill

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_09_x35152.jpg

    by Bob Collins, 1958 © estate of Bob Collins / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Benny Hill
  • Kenneth Williams

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_08_x76113.jpg

    by Anthony Buckley, 1957 © Kenneth Hughes / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Kenneth Williams
  • The Crazy Gang

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    by Cecil Beaton, 1952 © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby's London

    The Crazy Gang
  • Sid Field

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_06_x75964.jpg

    by Anthony Buckley, 1949 © Kenneth Hughes / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Sid Field
  • Elsie Waters; Doris Waters

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    by Francis Goodman, 1947 © reserved; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

    Elsie Waters; Doris Waters
  • Max Miller

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_04_P351.jpg

    by Russell Westwood, 1930s © estate of Russell Westwood / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Max Miller
  • Arthur Askey

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_03_x75897.jpg

    by Anthony Buckley, 1939 © Kenneth Hughes / National Portrait Gallery, London

    Arthur Askey
  • Sir Charles Chaplin

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_02_P281.jpg

    by Homer Peyton, 1929 © Homer Peyton / Kobal Collection

    Sir Charles Chaplin
  • Sir George Robey

    http://cmd.npg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/slideshow/images/com_01_x45299.jpg

    by Henry Walter Barnett, 1910 © National Portrait Gallery, London

    Sir George Robey

 

My life is just a series of embarrassing incidents strung together by telling people about those embarrassing incidents.

Russell Brand

The Comedians exhibition puts the spotlight on popular British comedians of the last 70 years. Britain is known for its sense of humour throughout the world, and comedy is a valued part of British culture. The selection of photographs was made from the collection at the National Portrait Gallery and includes stars of stage, radio, film and television. It reveals the public and private faces of people who make us laugh.

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For Comedians we wanted to bring the exhibition alive by including a film at the start of the exhibition with a British comedian introducing the show and talking about the history of British comedy. Paul Merton was the obvious choice as his portrait featured in the show and he’s a great historian on comedy. Watch the film above and listen to a longer podcast interview below.

Paul Merton podcast    Download (18mb)

Paul Merton podcast

Marketing

Lee Evans photo How do you create a successful campaign? Take a look at the marketing of Comedians. Who is the target audience? Get hints and tips from marketing professionals and create your own campaign.

Design

3D model of exhibition space What makes an exhibition space work? Find out how Comedians was displayed in different gallery spaces. What is the role of the exhibition designer? What choices do you need to make when creating your own exhibition?

Selection & Display

Comedians exhibition in Sunderland Look at the images chosen for Comedians. Each was chosen for a reason. How do you choose what to show and what to leave out? What story do you want to tell? How do the choices you make affect the audience interpretation?

Events

Live performance in a gallery space Museums and galleries offer fantastic performance spaces. Comedians inspired many different events. What do you need to consider when staging an event within an exhibition space?