I finally watched BBC4’s "Auntie’s War on Smut" just before it expired from my iPlayer download tonight. Afterwards I looked up the little green book, properly known as BBC Variety Programmes Policy Guide, that BBC light entertainment writers had to conform to in the 1940s and 1950s. I found it here, here and here too.
There were to be no jokes about lavatories; suggestive references to chambermaids and lodgers; jokes built around Bible stories; the use of expletives in none dramatic works; No impersonations of amongst others Renee Houston, Nat Mills and Bobbie, Vera Lynn or Harry Hemsley were permitted at their request. I wonder if those without a Wikipedia entry would appreciate being impersonated these days if only because it ment we knew who they were?
Of course these rules did have the knock on effect of forcing some of the greatest British comedy like robbarb to evolve to circumvent it. Where would British humour today be without Round the Horn and the Goons?
A few sections are interesting because, while there are no rules enforcing them, there are topics I doubt you’d ever hear or see on the BBC or most other broadcasters to this day.
However References to and jokes about drink are allowed in strict moderation – a little gest slipped in perhaps? So maybe the author did have a bit of a sense of humour after all.