English actor John Inman died this morning. Now I must admit that his name didn't ring a bell immediately when I heard the news. Mr Inman was much better known as Mr Humphries, the queeny Head of Men's Wear in "Are you being served?", the excellent British TV comedy show from the 1970's and early 1980's. His catchphrase "I am free" was one of the many highlights of the show.
'I'm free!,' shrieks Mr Humphries from menswear as, tape measure in trembling hand, he makes a beeline across the shop floor towards an unsuspecting male inside leg; meanwhile Mrs Slocombe, sporting an outrageously dyed bouffant, wonders aloud whether anyone has seen her pussy (she was, of course, referring to her cat) - and the British nation knew what it was in for: half an hour of sub-Carry On innuendo, sauntering alongside rather than attached to the accompanying plot. Broad, rude, crude and offensive were just a few of the criticisms levelled at this scatological sitcom, but the show had the perfect response to such highbrow jibes: ratings. It was loved by the public and they watched it in huge numbers, culminating in over 22 million viewers for a 1979 episode. To date, it remains phenomenally popular in re-runs.
I am a great fan of English humour in general, and English comedy shows in particular. They are so much funnier than their American counterparts. I have watched so many episodes of Are you being served?, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Dad's Army, Blackadder, Yes Minister, Absolutely Fabulous, Little Britain, 'Allo 'Allo, Mr Bean, Keeping Up Appearances, Man About the House, George and Mildred, and I am sure I forget a few.
Mr Inman was gay, but unfortunately never came out during his lifetime. Mr Inman's partner of more than 30 years is said to be devastated at his death. May Mr Inman rest in peace.