The Clitheroe Kid was a long-running BBC radio comedy show featuring diminutive Northern comedian Jimmy Clitheroe in the role of a cheeky schoolboy, who lived with his family at 33 Lilac Avenue in an unnamed town in the North of England. The pilot show, pilot series, and 16 subsequent series totalled 290 episodes in all, broadcast between April 1957 and 13 August 1972.
Apart from Clitheroe, the show's stars included Peter Sinclair playing Clitheroe's Scottish granddad, Patricia Burke as his mother (in some early shows the part was played by Renée Houston), and Diana Day as his long-suffering sister Susan . The Oldham comedian Danny Ross played Alfie Hall, Susan's daft, tongue-tied boyfriend, who was often drawn into Jimmy's reckless schemes and never learned to steer clear of him. Finally, Tony Melody played Mr Horatio Higginbottom (his first name was rarely used), a 6'4 taxi driver, Granddad's drinking buddy, and father of Jimmy's "pal Ozzie"; he was always threatening to give Jimmy a good hiding for things he had done to Ozzie. Ozzie was rarely heard, though his muffled voice features in the episode "Trouble with Higginbottom" when he is ejected from a bus by the conductor.
In the pilot series other members of the cast included John Broadbent, Violet Carson, Fred Fairclough, Fred Ferris, Tom Harrison, Jack Howarth, Shirley King, Eddie Leslie, Tony Melody, Bob Monkhouse, Herbert Smith, Brian Trueman, Jack Watson, Patrick Wells, Leonard Williams and Rosalie Williams.
Jimmy Clitheroe was 35 when he started playing the part in 1956, but he could pass as an 11-year-old boy because he had never grown physically beyond that age, though in later years his face gave his real age away. The series was made with a studio audience and there were frequent gales of laughter at Jimmy's schoolboy humour, as well as at Alfie Hall's mangling of the English language as he tried to explain something and made it worse.
Jimmy wore a schoolboy's blazer and cap even for radio recordings, to maintain the appearance that he was 11 years old. Real children never appeared in the show, as this would have given away that Jimmy was an adult acting a part; so he talked of his pal Ozzie and his friends in the "Black Hand Gang" (who would punish any member caught in the company of a girl) but they never actually appeared.
The show (apart from the pilot series) was written by James Casey and Frank Roscoe, and produced by James Casey.
The BBC preserved the series on vinyl discs intended principally for overseas sale by their commercial arm, BBC Enterprises (now known as BBC Worldwide), to English language radio stations.
Read in the cold light of day, the sharp humour could seem rather harsh; this was because it was supposed to be the humour of a schoolboy, so the audience accepted it with roars of laughter.
Jimmy referred to his teachers by nicknames such as "Umm-ya Pete" and "Tick-Tock Tillie". His grandfather's Scottish ancestry was endlessly mocked, with talk of haggis and bagpipes, and he was portrayed as someone who only lived for his beer. Jimmy's sister Susan was usually referred to as "Scraggy-neck", "Sparrow-legs" or occasionally "the Octopus" (for her clinches with boyfriend Alfie), though she often had a go at her "little brother" (Jimmy was only 4'3). In 'Enough to Make a Kitten Laugh', Susan tricked Jimmy into buying back a lost kitten that he had sold to Ozzie, by offering a big reward in the local newspaper for its return (under an assumed name). She warned Mr Higginbottom that Jimmy wanted it back, so Jimmy had to pay double what Ozzie had paid him for it. When Jimmy discovered the trick, he turned the tables on her by selling the kitten (at a profit) to a man at the newspaper, who then turned up at the Clitheroes' to demand the reward she had offered.
Alfie was mocked endlessly also; he often countered with "I'll thump you!" Mr Higginbottom was also mocked whenever he appeared: among other things, his house was said to be a rat-infested dump. But Jimmy was very careful about this as Higginbottom had a hair-trigger temper. Higginbottom's son, the much-maligned Ozzie, was a fat kid whom Jimmy called his best friend...while frequently thrashing him, mocking him, and involving him in his wild schemes.
The one person who escaped Jimmy's quick wit on the radio was his mother. In real life his father had died and he was devoted to his widowed mother, so he wouldn't stand for either his real or his fictional radio mother being mocked.
Jimmy's radio character frequently listened at keyholes, where he usually misheard or misunderstood the situation. Even when he tried to do good, as when he thought his granddad had stolen some money from a local shop (but which Granddad had actually been given to look after), he usually messed things up, with the help of Alfie Hall. After the end credits, Jimmy usually spoke a short piece, tying up loose ends in the plot and reporting that Granddad had spanked him for what he had done.