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Thursday, July 2, 1998 Published at 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK


BBC fooled into giving Bob his big break

The BBC is to screen a Bob Monkhouse birthday special

Waiting for your big break can make you desperate. But whoever said desperation was a bad thing?

It certainly wasn't for TV presenter and comedian, Bob Monkhouse. It was the cheekiest gag of his career that set him on the road to a glittering career in showbiz.

So says Mr Monkhouse, who is celebrating his 70th birthday with a special BBC 1 programme, Over the Limit. In the programme he reveals he broke the rules to get his first big break.

At 18, Mr Monkhouse was desperate. And so, after writing endless letters and waiting in long audition queues, he decided a different tack.

Mr Monkhouse had been serving in the RAF. As he knew that his Group Captain rarely read letters before signing them, he slyly slipped one of his own under his nose.

Addressed to the BBC, it read: "I cannot be responsible for this man's mental balance if he doesn't get an audition.

"The man is obsessed and part of the therapy I think that Corporal Monkhouse requires is a BBC audition."

The letter, which the captain obliviously signed, also stated that Corporal Monkhouse was a war hero. He never served during the war.

Unbelievably, the BBC bought the story.

"Why anyone would believe that an 18 year-old would have been a hero during the war, I don't know," he said. "But they wrote back at once. I think I jumped the entire queue - I got the audition."

The rest, as they say, is history. Mr Monkhouse has appeared on television screens in Britain ever since, as a host and celebrity guest on a range of chat shows and quiz shows, including Bob's Full House and Family Fortunes.

Over the Limit is scheduled to be shown on BBC 1 on Saturday 11 July.

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