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The Laughing Policeman (song)

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Wikipedia article

{{Infobox song

| name = The Laughing Policeman

| cover =

| alt =

| type =

| artist = Charles Penrose

| album =

| released =

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| recorded = 1922 (original)
22 April 1926

| studio =

| venue =

| genre = Music hall

| length =

| label = Columbia Records

| writer = Billie Grey

| producer =

| misc =


'"The Laughing Policeman"' is a music hall song recorded by British artist Charles Penrose (published under the pseudonym Charles Jolly in 1922). It is based on a similar laughing song by American singer George W. Johnson with the same tune but different subject matter, recorded in 1898.


A song entitled 'The Whistling Coon', was written in 1878 by Sam Devere.[http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/songster/09-the-whistling-coon.htm 'The Whistling Coon', written in 1878 by Sam Devere] 'The Whistling Coon' was recorded in 1896 by George W. Johnson, and on the back of its success he composed 'The Laughing Song' which he recorded in 1898.[https://archive.org/details/TheWhistlingCoon1891 George W. Johnson's 1891 version of 'The Whistling Coon'] Penrose used its melody for 'The Laughing Policeman', adding his own lyrics.[https://archive.org/details/GeorgeWJohnson Four different (18981902) George W. Johnson recordings of 'The Laughing Song' in Archive.org collection of George W. Johnson's music]

It is thought that the character of the Laughing Policeman was inspired by real-life police officer PC John 'Tubby' Stephens, a popular figure in Leicester.

The song

In June 1922, Penrose made the first recording of this song, which was released on Regal Records G-7816. The version more usually heard was recorded on 22 April 1926 and released on Columbia Records 4014 and later FB 1184.Brian Rust 'British Music Hall on Record', 1979 The composition of the song is officially credited to his wife Mabel under the pseudonym "Billie Grey". The Penroses wrote numerous other laughing songs ('The Laughing Major', 'Curate', 'Steeplechaser', 'Typist', 'Lover', etc.), but only "The Laughing Policeman" is remembered today, having sold over a million copies. Its popularity continued into the 1970s, as it was a frequently requested recording on the BBC Radio 1 show 'Junior Choice'.

New versions

In 1955, Stikkan Anderson gave the song lyrics in Swedish, as "Den skrattande polisen" ("The laughing police officer"), which was recorded and released by Ove Flodin.

A dance mix was made, released on a 10-inch 45rpm disc, resembling an old-style 78rpm record, with the original version on the other side.

Bernard Cribbins recorded a parody version called 'Giggling Gertie the Laughing Traffic Warden', with the laughter provided by Miriam Margolyes.


The song describes a fat jolly policeman who cannot stop laughing and has a chorus in which the sound of laughter is made in a sustained semi musical way by the singer. The first verse is:

'I know a fat old policeman,'

'he's always on our street,'

'a fat and jolly red faced man'

'he really is a treat.'

'He's too kind for a policeman,'

'he's never known to frown,'

'and everybody says he's the happiest man in town.'


:'(Ha ha ha ha ha,'

:'Woo ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha,'

:'Woo ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha,'

:'Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha,'

:'Ha ha ha .)'

In popular culture


*The song is referenced in the 1968 novel 'The Laughing Policeman' by Swedish writers Maj Sjwall and Per Wahl and film of the same name. Fictional Swedish detective Martin Beck gets it as a Christmas present from his daughter Ingrid, but doesn't think it is funny. Beck's first laugh after the murder comes when Stenstrm's death is fully vindicated.


*In 'One Foot in the Grave' episode "The Man Who Blew Away", the Meldrews are constantly kept awake by a late night party across the road, the worst coming when the partygoers join in the chorus of the song.

*In an episode of the BBC police drama 'City Central' criminals steal an officer's radio and use it to broadcast the song continuously, disrupting police communications.

*In the BBC detective drama, 'Bergerac', the episode "Natural Enemies" features the song being played on a gramophone in a children's home, as several children laugh at Charlie Hungerford.

*The song is used as the central theme in the 'Space Pirates' episode "Music that Makes Me Laugh".

*Ken Dodd performed it as part of one of his appearances on the popular BBC variety show 'The Good Old Days', getting the audience to laugh with him.

*The Wiggles did a parody of the song for their album and video "Wiggle House" titled "The Laughing Doctor".


*In the 1936 British film 'Calling the Tune', a fictional story of rivalry in the early days of the gramophone industry, Charles Penrose is seen recording "The Laughing Policeman" and performing the complete song.

*This song inspired the Telugu language song "Vivaha Bojanambu" in the Indian movie 'Mayabazar.'

Postage stamp

* In 1990 the Royal Mail of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland issued a 20p greeting stamp entitled The Laughing Policeman which bore an illustration based on the song.


* The song was formerly used as the outro song in YouTuber GradeAUnderA's videos, but was changed due to copyright issues.


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