Hale and Pace

 

Highlights

  • Gareth Hale & Norman Pace
  • Big break began with three TV appearances in ‘The Young Ones
  • Their most famous comic creations are the bouncers ‘The Two Rons’
  • Started the careers of (amongst others) Ainsley Harriot and Harry Enfield
  • Famous for having a musical number during every TV show.
  • Had a UK #1 hit single in 1991 for Comic Relief with ‘Stonk’

 

Hale and Pace were an English comedy double-act that performed in clubs and on radio and television in the United Kingdom in the 1980s-1990s. The duo was made up of Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, with the Hale and Pace television show running for ten years and 66 episodes, between 1988 and 1998.

Gareth Hale (born 15 January 1953) and Norman Pace (born 17 February 1953) met at Avery Hill teacher training college in Eltham, South East London. They discovered much in common, particularly humour, and began playing clubs in a comedy band. One of the clubs that they most liked playing was “The Tramshed” in Woolwich. This developed into sketch writing, with a show entitled Don’t Stop Now – It’s Fundation. Before appearing on TV, they did a series of radio shows for Radio 4 based on their show at the Tramshed. Their early TV breaks came on The Entertainers (1984), Pushing Up Daisies (1984) and they went on to appear in the Channel 4 sketch show Coming Next (1985) and the Saturday Gang (1986). They also appeared in The Young Ones three times, in the episodes “Flood”, “Nasty” and “Time”.

After a single one-off special for London Weekend Television in Christmas 1986, they were given a full series in 1988. The first series won the Silver Rose of Montreux, as well as the Press prize. Their relationship with ITV lasted a decade, with most of their programmes going out around 10pm on a Sunday. Their most famous comic creations are the stone faced bouncers The Two Rons – also known as The Management, who include the phrase ‘I do Ron, Ron’ in their stilted conversations in a reference to the song “Da Doo Ron Ron” by The Crystals. They are also famous for their ever-smiling and colourfully dressed children’s TV presenters Billy (Hale) and Johnny (Pace). A number of their TV sketches caused controversy, especially the sketch in which they pretended to have microwaved a cat. This clip got them onto the top 50 on “50 most shocking comedy moments” and they believe that the sketch gave them the notoriety that kept them in work for all the successive series. They went one-up on this sketch in the first episode of the second series where Norman holds a baby and they both move aside to show the microwave behind them. Gareth flips a coin, then the baby upstages them (assumedly unscripted) by vomiting over Norman’s arm. Other sketches were heavily criticised for being perverted or almost pornographic. One sketch showed a British couple staying with a Swedish couple. The Swedes were nudists who were constantly naked, with the man (Hale) constantly asking for very intimate details of their sex lives. Although the British couple are clearly shocked and offended, they finally claim that their Swedish hosts are boring. At one point, the Swedish couple are filmed with full frontal nudity. Their genitals are only hidden by the very close positioning of the British couple’s heads.

The series was also notable for its amount of musical numbers; every episode featured at least one original song performed by Hale and/or Pace.

Hale & Pace’s characters “The Two Rons – also known as The Management” also had a spin-off series of their own called The Management which included a number of their regular cast in permanent positions and ran for a total of 6 episodes. This series was also released on video. They also made several specials, such as the 1996 Showcase Hale & Pace Down Under from Australia and April Fools’ Day.

From the first series, Hale and Pace had stars in their show. Initially, these were (then) little known performers such as Ainsley Harriot, Annette Badland and Harry Enfield. Once Hale and Pace became more well known, more widely known stars appeared in their shows, and the snooker players Steve Davis and Jimmy White even played foil to the two cabbies in one episode.

In 1991 Hale & Pace released a charity single in aid of Comic Relief. “The Stonk”, based on a fictitious dance craze, was co-written by Hale and Pace along with Joe Griffiths. The single was produced by Queen guitarist Brian May, who was also featured on the track. Other musicians performing on the single, besides Brian May playing keyboards and guitar, were David Gilmour and Tony Iommi on guitar, with Neil Murray on bass guitar. Cozy Powell, Roger Taylor and Rowan Atkinson – appearing as his character Mr. Bean – performed on drums. Joe Griffiths and Mike Moran contributed on keyboard. A UK number-one single for one week in March 1991, it is their sole chart single but raised £100,000 for Comic Relief. The B-side was entitled “The Smile Song”, which was written and performed by the comedian Victoria Wood.

As well as their 1991 single “The Stonk”, the duo also appeared as their characters “The Two Rons” in a firework safety campaign run around Guy Fawkes Night, in trailers that were run for several years in the late 1980s/early 1990s, in slots often directly after Children’s BBC, but also occasionally during ITV commercial breaks.

Hale and Pace continued their charity work with a 1992 stint as spokespersons for the National Egg Awareness Campaign. They moved across to the BBC in 1997 and starred in the three-part series, Jobs for the Boys, a non-comedic show in which they took on a variety of employment challenges. One of these challenges was to write the UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. They were advised/mentored by Rick Wakeman, Bruce Welch (from The Shadows – UK entry 1975), Lynsey de Paul (UK entry 1977), Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson (UK entry 1959), Cheryl Baker (from Bucks Fizz – UK entry 1981), Lee Sheriden and Nicky Stevens (from Brotherhood of Man – UK entry 1976), Björn Again, former Eurovision presenter Katie Boyle, Johnny Logan, Katrina Leskanich (from Katrina and the Waves – UK entry 1997), songwriter Don Black (lyricist), and radio presenter Ken Bruce.

The duo also appeared, briefly, as shop-keepers Harvey and Len, in Part One of the 1989 Doctor Who story Survival. This gave them the distinction of appearing in what turned out to be the last ever story in the show’s original 1963–89 run.

A hybrid variety/comedy/quiz/people-show h&p@bbc (1999) was a flop. Similarly, their dramatisation of the Dalziel and Pascoe detectives for ITV in 1994 did not lead to success, and the BBC later attempted the serialisations with more success, with Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan in the title roles. They appeared working in a shoe shop in episode two of The Armando Iannucci Shows (2001). They appeared in the Christmas Special of the Gervais and Merchant show Extras, broadcast in December 2007.

They appeared in several episodes of the 2018 season of Benidorm, playing a pair of financial fraud investigation officers tailing transvestite hotel employee Les (Tim Healy).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.