Queen Elizabeth I: Yes I heard that too...
Carry On Laughing! is a British TV comedy series released in 1975, which was intended to bring the Carry On franchise to the small screen at a time when the films were declining in popularity. Several long-time Carry On regulars appear, alongside team members who joined later in the film series' run (and who are given more prominent roles here). Notable absences are Kenneth Williams, who declined to appear, and Charles Hawtrey, who had been dropped from the team after Carry On Abroad due to a dispute about billing order.
As with some of the "Carry On" films, the episodes are parodies of other films, TV shows, books or periods of British history, with episodes inheriting many tropes from their source material. The format falls mid-way between a series and an anthology - while the stories and settings from each episode are generally unrelated, the same setting is sometimes used for two or three non-consecutive episodes.
Not to be confused with the stage play of the same name.
Carry On Laughing! provides examples of:
- Affectionate Parody:
- "The Prisoner of Spenda": The Prisoner of Zenda.
- "The Baron Outlook": medieval England and the wars with France.
- "The Sobbing Cavalier": the English Civil War. The title is a reference to Frans Hals' painting "The Laughing Cavalier".
- "Orgy and Bess": the court of Queen Elizabeth I. The title is a reference to the musical Porgy and Bess, but otherwise has absolutely nothing in common with it; "Good Queen Bess" was a nickname given to the Queen.
- "One in the Eye for Harold": the run-up to the Battle of Hastings.
- "The Nine Old Cobblers", "The Case of the Screaming Winkles", "The Case of the Coughing Parrot": Lord Peter Wimsey.
- "The Nine Old Cobblers" spoofs both the title and plot of the Wimsey novel "The Nine Tailors".
- "Under the Round Table", "Short Knight, Long Daze": Camelot and the court of King Arthur.
- "And in My Lady's Chamber", "Who Needs Kitchener?": Upstairs Downstairs.
- "Lamp Posts of the Empire": African exploration/Doctor Livingstone.
- Camp Gay: Sir Gay at the court of King Arthur; Sir Walter Raleigh at the court of Queen Elizabeth I.Sir Walter Raleigh: If you weren't a man I'd hate you...
- Artistic License History: Common in the historically-themed episodes, e.g. a medieval minstrel playing a modern guitar, or King Harold wearing an acrylic helmet, generally due to Rule of Funny.
- Double Entendre: A staple of Carry On.
- Fake Nationality: Any of the various foreign characters appearing throughout the series, all of whom are played by British actors.
- Card-Carrying Villain/Faux Affably Evil: Duke Boris, the Crown Prince's cousin who wants the throne of Pluritania for himself.
- Closet Shuffle: Both Arnold and Count Yerackers dive under a table when Boris and Nickoff arrive at Madame Olga's.
- Dirty Coward: When the Crown Prince exhorts Colonel Yackoff and Count Yerackers to follow him into battle against Duke Boris' regiment, they linger behind, whistling to themselves. They do, however, eventually follow him when each implies that the other is a coward.
- Idiot Hero: While practising swordfighting without wearing his glasses, Arnold manages to accidentally kill one of Duke Boris' spies.
- Imposter Forgot One Detail: Not so much "forgot" as "couldn't help". Arnold is extremely short-sighted and has to wear glasses; alas, the Crown Prince has perfect eyesight. Arnold therefore has to go without his glasses when impersonating the prince, even while learning swordfighting. Hilarity (and a lot of damaged furniture) ensues.
- Mistaken Identity: The Crown Prince's supporters actively encourage this - he has at least four identical lookalikes (all of whom have been captured by Duke Boris), with Arnold Basket being the fifth. Then again, Arnold is implied to be closely related, as in the original novel. Additionally, Vera has an exact double in the Grand Duchess Ingrid of Corovia, the Crown Prince's fiancée - they are lookalikes for the same reason that the Crown Prince and Arnold are.Arnold: I heard a lot about [Pluritania] from my mother.
Vera: Oh, why, has she been there?
Arnold: No, but when she had that boarding house in Brighton, she had the old Grand Duke staying there.
Vera: Oh, do you remember him?
Arnold: No, he left nine months before I was born.
- Pie in the Face: Count Yerackers gets a whole cake in the face when Colonel Yackoff has a turn after drinking the café's shandy, knocking the cake off a waiter's tray. However, Yerackers behaves with aplomb and simply continues to smoke his cigarette.
- Ruritania: The nations of Pluritania and Corovia.
- The Evil Prince: Duke Boris.
- The Usurper: The overall plot, inherited from the source novel.
- The Oldest Profession: Madame Olga's "tearooms", advertising "Tea and crumpets".Arnold: That is very misleading!
- Wild Card: Madame Olga.Count Yerackers: So, now you are on our side?
Madame Olga: [having been bribed] With all my heart! I am noted for my loyalty.
Count Yerackers: What about your loyalty to Duke Boris?
Madame Olga: I am also noted for my treachery.
- Chewing the Scenery: Sir Simon de Montfort, when Baron Hubert has not only persistently ignored de Montfort's shouted requests for entry into the castle, but also assumed that he's a wandering minstrel.De Montfort: How dare you, Baron. Have you any idea who I am?
Hubert: Don't you shout at me or I'll have that trumpet right up your...
De Montfort: [exasperated] I am Sir Simon de Montfort. Inspector General of royal castles!
Hubert: ...and it could be very painful... you're... you're who?
De Montfort: Inspector General of royal CASTLES! [bashes fist on table, causing bits of ceiling to drop on him]
- Disguised in Drag/Sweet Polly Oliver: The French knight Sir Gaston de Lyon and Marie swap clothes at the start so that Gaston can escape. Hilarity Ensues.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Baron Hubert Fitzbovine de Outlook, "Fitzbovine" meaning "son of a cow".
- Male Gaze: De Montfort, when Marie (masquerading as Sir Gaston) has drunk Friar Roger's "cold remedy":Marie: Ooh, I am so hot! [laughs maniacally and undresses] Have I come up in a fever?
De Montfort: [male-gazing] You have come up in all sorts of things!
- Only Sane Man/The Woobie: Poor Ethelbert - morose, put-upon by Hubert, and having to milk cows that are thinner than the milking bucket.Hubert: I can't help feeling there's something peculiar about him...
Lady Isobel: Oh, he is very peculiar - he's the only one around here who does any work.
- Parody: When the castle's inhabitants sit around having a good sing-sing, the song they sing is a parody of "Greensleeves":I loved a knight who was brave and bold
And he bought me a bracelet of shining gold,
But when it rained then its colour changed
And now everyone's calling me Greensleeves.
Greensleeves they call me now,
Greensleeves and a stupid cow,
Thought it was chewing a holly bough
But it found it was chewing my Greensleeves.
- Pit Trap: An unintentional one befalls Sir Simon just after he's agreed (having accepted a substantial bribe) that the castle is in "excellent condition - first-rate".Hubert: No holes anywhere!
De Montfort: No holes anywhere! [takes one pace and falls into a hole covered by a rug]
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: On the castle inspector's invitation, Baron Hubert convinces the inspector that his decrepit castle is in "excellent condition" via repeated bribery.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: When Marie starts to undress so that she and Sir Gaston may change clothes, Sir Gaston get a little... overexcited, whereupon the camera changes to show the outside of their tent while we hear Marie's protestations that "there is no time for that!".
- Show Some Leg: Done by Rosie, the attractive young "goose girl". De Montfort is inspecting Friar Roger's room, discovers Rosie, and makes it plain that it is his duty "to report all cases of black magic and immorality". Roger claims that she's there to have a thorn removed from her foot - Rosie misunderstands Roger's request to show de Montfort "what you were showing me earlier".Friar Roger: [pointing to Rosie's thigh] It was just about 'ere...
Hubert: [quietly] Must have been a bloody long thorn if it went up that far!
- The Pig-Pen: Sir William is not exactly the model of a chivalrous knight. He, like Sir Pureheart in "Under the Round Table", refuses to take of his armour, on the basis that if he's entitled to wear it, he should do so at all times.Sir William: I've never 'ad it off!
Sir Simon: That I can believe.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Said when Sir Simon (lying in bed with a broken leg) has passed responsibility for Sir Gaston over to Baron Hubert:Sir Simon: [once Hubert has signed the paperwork] Now if anything happens to him it's your responsibility.
Hubert: What could possibly happen to him?
Sir Simon: How should I know? I've only been here a couple of hours and look what's happened to me!
- Closet Shuffle: Lovelace has to hide under a table while the Roundheads are searching the house for him. Cue nervous whistling from everyone else.
- Disguised in Drag: Lovelace, when he's masquerading as the attractive young cook.Oliver Cromwell: How long have you been employed here?
Lovelace: [in a high-pitched voice] Oh, for years - ever since I was a boy...
Cromwell: [taken aback] Ever since you were a what?
Lovelace: Ever since I was a... boisterous young girl of sixteen.
Cromwell: How long ago was that?
Lovelace: Ooh, five or six years - I can't count really...
Roundhead captain: No you most certainly can't!
- Lethal Chef: Lovelace, when he has to do the cooking because he's disguised as the cook. This doesn't stop Cromwell from taking him with them due to a shortage of cooks in the Roundhead army.
- Morton's Fork: Sir Jethro finds himself at the rough end of Morton's Fork when reading the missives from the two sides in the civil war, both threatening death to anyone who supports the opposition.Sir Jethro: They've got me both ways!
- Shout-Out: The scene where Oliver Cromwell is interrogating Sir Jethro evokes William Frederick Yeames' painting "And When Did You Last See Your Father?". Cromwell even asks him when he last saw his brother(-in-law).
- Affectionate Nickname/Shout-Out: Bess tells Sir Francis Drake to call her "Maj", just like King Henry VIII tells Bettina to do in Carry On Henry. Sid James plays the male role on both occasions.
- Big Beautiful Woman:Sir Francis: [sailing en-route back to England] We've got to get to London with all speed to report to Her Majesty.
Crow's Nest: AVAST, BEHIND!
Sir Francis: I know she has but she's still the Queen!
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Miranda Letchworth talks to the camera during the plot to discredit Sir Francis. Naturally, he overhears her and asks her who she's talking to.
- Nothing Personal: Said by Lord Essex after remarking to Sir Walter that "all my plans have gone 'poof'".
- Prince Charming: King Philip of Spain wants to marry Elizabeth.Philip: [passionately] I am a man... You are a woman...
Bess: [disappointed] Oh what a shame we've got nothing in common...
- Really Gets Around: Miranda Letchworth, a lady-in-waiting who tries to discredit Sir Francis by seducing him.Lord Essex: You are familar with the fetching, comely Miranda Letchworth?
Sir Walter: Oh, well... yes, in a manner of speaking. She's a lady-in-waiting.
Lord Essex: Yes, and never for long I hear.
- World of Pun: This episode stands out in this regard - barely a sentence goes by without a pun.Lord Burleigh: Your Majesty, I got a little epistle last night...
Sir Walter Raleigh: I know, I carried him home.
Bess: I heard you sank the Spanish flagship bearing 300,000 doubloons. What happened to that fortune?
Sir Francis: That's a good question - a very good question. [beat] Next question please...
Bess: [bewildered] That money was destined for the treasury! What will become of the nation's coffers?
Sir Francis: Well, don't look at me - [pointing at Sir Walter] he brought back tobacco!
King Philip: Let us get married without ado!
Bess: Oh we've got to have a do, you can afford it!
King Philip: Please say yes - 'tis most meet I should marry.
Sir Francis: And this is the most meat anybody can marry!
- Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: The "old hag" (who is presumably Nellie's mother), who positively delights at the prospect of being ravished by either Normans or Saxons (she really doesn't mind). It's a shame the heroes leave just before Nellie herself appears, though...Nellie's mother: The battle's over - now we can get on with the atrocities!
- Black Cloak/In the Hood: The Norman spy.
- Clue, Evidence, and a Smoking Gun:Ethelred: What makes you think it's a French arrow?
Brother Athelstan: Oh, I don't know, Sergeant, it's this funny feeling I've got... unless of course it's the feathers, or the design, or where it says "Made in Normandy"...
- Femme Fatale: Else, the seductive, second Norman spy who tries to get Brother Athelstan to spill the beans when he's drunk. Too bad he's faking his drunkenness, and knows exactly what she's up to, causing Else to open the flask of "bird-powder" next to a lit candle...
- Follow the Chaos: Brother Athelstan's explosive powder, which he names "bird-powder" (because he plans to use it to scare away birds from crops), and undoubtedly the reason why his monastery can't wait to see the back of him.
- Harmless Villain: The (first) Norman spy, who tries all sorts of things to defeat the heroes, only to end up Hoist by His Own Petard every time.
- Instantly Proven Wrong: Brother Athelstan when he confidently announces (having just caused a major explosion in the monastery) that "The Abbot would never let me go.".Brother Athelstan: [despondently] This is your lucky day! [a sack of his belongings is thrown at him] The Abbot has finally persuaded me to travel with you!
- Mad Scientist: Brother Athelstan, although he's more "slightly loopy scientist" really.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The "secret weapon" suffocates King Harold, which the protagonists then cover up by sticking an arrow in his eye.
- Pit Trap: Set up by the Norman spy, who watches as his targets walk clean over it, prompting him to test it, whereupon he plummets straight into it.
- Sound-Only Death: Poor Else, even if she was a spy...
- Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!:Messenger: O Gracious Majesty, King of all the Saxons, Prince of all the Angles, Lord of all the Marches...
King Harold: [interrupting] ...and Queen of all the Fairies, yes, yes I know who I am!
- Awful Wedded Life: King Arthur and Guinevere seem to have a rather strained marriage.Sir Gay: Sire, why don't you go and see Merlin..?
Arthur: [indignant] I don't want to go and see Merlin!
Guinevere: [excited] Well why not come along with me and have a nice lie down?
Arthur: [beat] I think I'll go and see Merlin...
- Black Knight: Challenges King Arthur and his knights to jousting. Literally the "black knight", played as he is by Trinidadian actor Oscar James.The Black Knight: I am the greatest... I am the fastest... and I am... the prettiest...
Sir Gay: [dismissively] Ohhhh, wanna bet?
- Butt-Monkey: King Arthur's various misfortunes drive both plots, coupled with the fact that absolutely no-one has the slightest bit of respect for him.
- Decadent Court: King Arthur's knights are a slovenly bunch who seem to spend all their time bickering and drinking, to say nothing of collectively doing a runner when asked for money for the kitty.
- Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: Done in literal form by the Black Knight, who tosses a coin and cleaves it in two while it's in the air so that both faces land uppermost:The Black Knight: Heads and tails!
Sir Pureheart: Ah. Best of three?
- Knight in Shining Armor: Sir Pureheart - what he lacks in personal hygiene he makes up for in bravery and chivalry (much to the annoyance of the rest of King Arthur's rather cowardly knights).Sir Pureheart: I swore to wear this armour until I become the greatest knight in the land. I haven't had it off for eight years!
Guinevere: I know exactly how he feels.
- The Pig-Pen: Having not taken off his armour for so long, Sir Pureheart is extremely odiferous.Sir Gay: [writing in the register] Sir Pureheart... the unapproachable knight.
Sir Pureheart: Not "unapproachable" - irreproachable.
Sir Gay: After eight years in that armour you're unapproachable!
- Adventurer Outfit: Willie is still wearing his explorer outfit when he returns home from the Amazonnote .
- Butt-Monkey: Clodson the butler.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Sir Harry Bulgen-Plunger, the family patriarch - an old warhorse who seems to be decidedly senile.
- Funny Foreigner: Otto Klanger, the footman and "jolly fine English vurking chap", and definitely not a German spy.Klanger: [with a thick German accent] Good morning, Herr General. [he nods and clacks his heels together] Foosman first-class Otto Klanger for duty reporting and at your zervice himzelf is plazing. [he nods and clacks his heels again]
Sir Harry: [taken aback] Klanger..? Klanger... Otto Klanger? You're not some kind of dashed Bosch, are you?
Klanger: Ach, Gott in Himmel! Nein, your Eggzellency! [nods and clacks heels, and speaks innocently] I am in Schvitzerland geborn, from vere is coming der big cheese und der clocks cuckoo. But I am now zince long time in England living. Indeed, I am out-taking my zitizen papers und getting myzelf nootralised.
Virginia: [upset, puts hand on heart] Oh, you poor man! Was it painful?
Clodson: I think he means "naturalised", miss.
- Leitmotif: During the Scooby-Dooby Doors scene, each character has a comical leitmotif which plays when they appear.
- Really Gets Around: Lottie, who seems to have had more husbands than most people have had hot dinners.
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: A more sedate version of this appears in the latter half of "And in My Lady's Chamber", the whole scene being a static view along the upstairs corridor, while drunken family/guests wander back and forth along the corridor and in and out of each others' bedrooms seeking a bit of crumpet. Clodson and Mrs. Breeches are trying to discredit Lottie by getting Willie into bed with her - Hilarity Ensues as Willie is insensible and just won't stay still.
- Upper-Class Twit: All the members of the Bulgen-Plunger family qualify, but especially Sir Harry's son, Willie. He returns from exploring the Amazon having found carnivorous fish called "bananas", and then has his army commission bought for him by his father, a responsibility he'd rather not have. Tends to bore everyone stiff while attempting to regale them with tales of his adventures. He's still a jolly nice chap, though.Sir Harry: Willie, you always were the most monumental bore.
- Adventurer Outfit: Professor Bloomers is wearing a safari-style outift.Lord Peter: What's that?
Punter: It's very damp, m'lord. It's some sort of helmet.
Lord Peter: Is it pith?
Punter: No, merely condensation.
- Ax-Crazy: Charwallah Charlie, the infamous "Mysore Chopper".Lord Peter: [reading the solution to an anagram] "Mysore Chopper is now loose"!
Insp. Bungler: Oh is it? And what have you been up to?
- Deadpan Snarker: Both Punter and Insp. Bungler.Lord Peter: [to Insp. Bungler, who is crouched over the outline of a body] What are you doing down there?
Insp. Bungler: [cockily] Layin' lino!
Lord Peter: Is that the outline of the body?
Insp. Bungler: No, the map of Majorca!
- Expy: Lord Peter Flimsy and Punter.
- Fortune Teller: Madame Petra, a.k.a. "Calcutta Kate". Likely a Phony Psychic, as she runs a clandestine bookmaking racket with Potter - she "predicts" the winners and Potter places the bets. This was at a time when betting shops were illegal in the UK.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: Inherited from the Lord Peter Wimsey stories which these episodes parody.
- Haunted House: The chase sequence at the end of "The Case of the Screaming Winkles" takes place in a haunted house amusement.
- Informed Ability: Amelia Forbush is supposed to be "an expert" on jazz (and secret ciphers... and senna pods), but everyone takes a strong dislike to her attempts at playing the drums. Perhaps her expertise lies more in knowledge than ability...
- Kudzu Plot: Squeezing moderately-convoluted murder-mystery plots into episodes of less than half an hour each tends to result in this.
- Left Hanging: Why do the Nine Old Cobblers sound again at the end of the episode? And who causes Lord Peter's car to explode?
- Nepharious Pharaoh: King Ramitupem and his curse.
- Only Sane Man: Punter.
- Show Some Leg: Irma Klein does this twice, when she has "broken mein suspender [again]".
- Significant Anagram: All three plots involve anagrams as clues, some of them absurdly long and torturous.
- Smith of the Yard: Inspector Bungler (of the Yard) investigates all three cases, and Lord Peter Flimsy knows him well.Lord Peter: Well, if it isn't our old friend Inspector Bungler...
Insp. Bungler: [irritated] Lord flamin' Flimsy, it would be you, wouldn't it?
- The Alleged Car: Lord Peter's car has nothing inherently wrong with it - that is, until the repeated sabotage which causes every lever and pedal to break off while in motion, thus putting it firmly into this trope.
- The Oldest Profession: The former occupation of the coffee-stall owner Freda Filey.Lord Peter: Whatever happened to Fred H. Filey?
Freda: Oh, he's retired - but as I was always hanging out here, he gave me the business.
Punter: I, ah... suppose that you were one of his best customers.
Freda: Oh no, ducky... [prods Punter cheekily] he was one of my best customers.
- Vehicular Sabotage: Visited upon Lord Peter's car three times in "The Nine Old Cobblers" (the third instance being in spectacular fashion) - on the first two occasions the saboteur is undoubtedly Colicky Bill, the last... well, who knows?
- Wicked Weasel: In "The Nine Old Cobblers", a real-life "dancing weasel" brings about the downfall of the villain, "Colicky Bill" by scurrying up the inside of his trousers. Well, that and being hit over the head with a large plastic fish....
- Adventurer Outfit: Of the "safari" variety, naturally.
- Batman Gambit: The whole point of the protagonists doing what they're doing. They claim to need specific ingredients to free them from the witch-doctor's curse. However, the otherwise-generous man listening to their story balks when it comes to handing over five golden guineas, having stated earlier that he's happy to oblige any requests other than those for money.
- Con Man: Stanley, although it's possible that he really does need the items for the spell to reverse the curse.
- Crazy-Prepared: The businessman who listens to the tale just happens to have all the three items for which he's asked.
- Embarrassing Nickname:Richard Darcy: How d'you do? My friends call me "Elephant Dick".
Lady Mary: Really? May I ask why?
Richard Darcy: I don't know - I'm a butterfly man myself... perhaps it's because I've got a very long... memory?
- Glass Cannon: Darcy, on his encounter with the witch-doctor Yoranutta:Darcy: I'm here to put a stop to your naughty doings! And, if you cast any more spells, I shall...
Yoranutta: [holding a knife to Darcy's throat] You shall what?
Darcy: I...I...I...I... well, if ever you come to the Todmorden working men's club...
Darcy: ...I shall have you blackballed.
- Informed Ability: Richard Darcy.Lord Gropefinger: I suggest you take with you our guest speaker for this evening - a great white hunter, whose name is a byword for trustworthiness and reliability.
Stanley: Well where is he?
Lord Gropefinger: He hasn't turned up yet...
Lady Mary: Oh dear, this whole expedition has been a disaster from the beginning. Forty native porters and they all deserted us on the first day.
Darcy: A lot of explorers lose their porters on the first day.
Lady Mary: Not in Victoria station!
- Prehensile Tail: Subverted - the tails provided by the curse aren't useful for anything - all they do is get in the way.
- Lady of Adventure: Lady Mary, who also has something of the Wild Card about her when it comes to relationships.
- Leg Cling: A desperate Lady Mary does this to Doctor Pavingstone, having implored him to "enjoy her company" after having been away from women for so long.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Doctor Pavingstone.
- Running Gag: Stanley gets very upset when anyone utters the variant of his real-life counterpart's infamous phrase. Naturally, someone always quotes it before he does. Even the sign outside Doctor Pavingstone's hut says "Doctor Pavingstone, you may presume".Stanley: I think the five of you know to whom I am referring.
Lord Gropefinger: Ah, Doctor Pavingstone, I presume?
Stanley: I 'wish' you hadn't said that - I was going to use that line later!
Stanley: Lady Teazel, by all that's wonderful!
Pavingstone: I beg your pardon?
Stanley: Well you can hardly expect me to say "Doctor Pavingstone, I presume?" 'cause everybody else has said that!
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: When Lady Mary is desperately trying to seduce Doctor Pavingstone:Pavingstone: I've tried doing it for myself but I just can't seem to get the hang of it. [hysterical] Only a woman can put me out of my misery!
Lady Mary: Oh, ask me, ask me, ask me!
Pavingstone: Every time I get my hands on it I get all flustered and my eyes go funny!
Lady Mary: Oh try me!
Pavingstone: It's not very long, I'm afraid... but I'm sure you'll fix that.
Lady Mary: [climbing on top of him] Oh, I will, I will, I will!
Pavingstone: Right - d'you think you could finish this knitting for me?
- The Ditz: Most members of BUGS (the Bermondsey Universal Geographical Society) seem to fall into this category:Lord Gropefinger: [opening the AGM] It has not been a good year for BUGS. The expedition which we sent off to find the true source of the Nile got on the wrong ship at Dover and is now working its way back on a tramp steamer from Witley Bay. Our Arctic Circle Mapping Survey all came down with chilblains three miles north of Watford. The silver collection on the door tonight has amounted to just under three half-pence...
Lady Mary: A fine geographical society this is, where even the treasurer gets lost between here and the bus stop!
- Witch Doctor: Dr. Yoranutta. Tends to curse people, giving them long, furry tails when angered. However, he ends up Hoist With His Own Petard.