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Obituary: Neil Shand – ‘one of the most successful comedy writers of the past half-century’

Neil Shand spoke about his career at an event during Hull's City of Culture 2017 arts festival. Photo: Jerome Whittingham Neil Shand spoke about his career at an event during Hull's City of Culture 2017 arts festival. Photo: Jerome Whittingham

Neil Shand was one of the most successful comedy writers of the past half-century, the joker of choice for successive generations of presenters and comedians from David Frost and Spike Milligan to Kenny Everett and Russ Abbot.

Born in Luton the son of a car factory worker father and dressmaker mother, he left school to work for the Luton Gazette and began moonlighting for national titles in Fleet Street. He subsequently worked for the now defunct Daily Sketch and the Daily Mail before being fired, as he later recalled, “for being drunk once too often”.

A chance encounter with producer Michael Ingrams led to a short, ill-fitting spell in television documentary before he was introduced to the actor and comedian Bernard Braden, to whom he sold his first joke for £3.

Spotted by David Frost, he was enlisted as a production associate on The Frost Programme (1967). The partnership continued for more than 20 years with Shand following Frost to the US as the satire boom took hold there, collaborating most recently on The Strategic Humour Initiative in 2003.

Shand was a regular contributor throughout star-impressionist Mike Yarwood’s television career, having originally collaborated on the 1967 sketch show Three of a Kind.

He was equally at home collaborating with the anarchic Spike Milligan in the comic’s Q series (1969-80) and 1975 Comedy Playhouse, The Melting Pot, or contributing to ITV’s less sophisticated but hugely popular The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club (1974).

Significant among many long-standing partnerships were those with Bob Monkhouse (for whom he also scripted The Monkhouse Archive on BBC Radio 2 in 2001) and Ned Sherrin, which produced television’s Song by Song (1977-80) and The Sloane Ranger Revue, based on the book by Peter York and Ann Barr, at the Duchess Theatre in 1985.

Other notable credits included co-writing 24 episodes of the US comic Kelly Monteith’s eponymous BBC series (1979-84), The Kenny Everett Television Show (1986) and contributions to The Two Ronnies (1976), Larry Grayson (1977) and the Les Dennis Laughter Show (1987-88).

From 1985-87, he was married to Judith Keppel, who later became the first contestant to win the £1 million prize in ITV’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 2000.

Neil Hodgson Shand was born on March 3, 1934 and died on April 14, aged 84.

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