The timeless ‘Yes, What?’ Radio Show, 1936-1940.

by Andrew Host
Hi, I’m Andrew Host, married to Ros and I have a son, Daniel.
“Yes, What?” was an Australian radio comedy series, recorded in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It was originally known as “The Fourth Form at St Percy’s”.
It is set in a school and features Dr Percy Pym , the school master, who was easily flustered, and incapable of controlling his rowdy students.

The cast of ‘Yes, What?’ The class was improbably small, with only three students, aged fourteen: Bottomly, Standforth, and Greenbottle. Later in the series, after Greenbottle left, de Pledge joined the series. Later still, when Greenbottle returned, there were four students for a while.
The show received its name from the habit of Greenbottle to frequently say, “Yes,” to which Dr Pym would reply, “Yes, What?” from which Greenbottle would launch into some long explanation about something. The class never seemed to learn anything. There was always some distraction. Greenbottle was more often than not late.
Just as Dr Pym was starting to get the class under control, Greenbottle would arrive with some lengthy excuse to delay the proceedings even further.
Guests featured occasionally, such as Bottomly’s girlfriend Daphne, Mr Snootles the caretaker, a policeman, a charity worker, a school inspector, and various others.
The show was produced in the studios of radio station 5AD in Adelaide. The first thirty to fifty episodes were broadcast live to air, and were never recorded.
Journalist Ray Polkinghorne once wrote that Rex Dawe had written 786 episodes.
But recent research puts the number at 520. Radio syndication company, Grace Gibson Productions has 260 episodes in circulation, and another 50 or so are known to exist.

 

The actors were paid two shillings per episode. Rex Dawe, who played the part of Dr Pym, also wrote most of the scripts and produced the show, receiving ten additional shillings per episode. These were the days before residuals.
So although “Yes What” has been repeated hundreds of times on radio stations all over the world through all the decades right up to the present, the actors received only their original fees. Some of the early scripts were written by Maurice Chapman, and Ralph Peterson (who played Bottomly), wrote six of the later episodes.
Recording techniques were primitive. In an interview with the Australian newspaper in 1966, Ralph Peterson said, “We used to stand in front of a huge microphone and bellow our lines into it. We had a total of about three sound effects, too.”
The series is very Australian in style and content, and many of the jokes would go over the head of a non-Australian.
For an Australian, however, much of the humour was timeless.
The first episode of Yes What was broadcast on either Sunday 30 June or Sunday 7 July, 1936 in the studios of Radio 5AD in Adelaide.
The series finished in 1940 when most of the cast joined the armed forces in World War Two.
Source: Yes, What?

2 thoughts on “The timeless ‘Yes, What?’ Radio Show, 1936-1940.

  1. According to Ron Hammence (Hardy), Greenbottle worked at the Old Guv as a Comp. I can remember him saying that they used to rehearse Greenbottles lines prior to a recording. Evidently Greenbottle was one of those blokes who could not keep out of mischief. I believe his name was Jack Gardiner.

    Liked by 1 person

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