The death and life of comic Chris Luby

Chris Luby R.I.P

Chris Luby R.I.P

Comedian Chris Luby has died.

He fell downstairs at home and was taken to hospital. There was bleeding in his brain which the doctors could not stop and he died just before noon yesterday morning.

At one time, he was managed by the late Malcolm Hardee and, together, they ran the Wibbley Wobbley floating pub and comedy venue in Rotherhithe until Malcolm drowned there in January 2005.

Chris Luby’s stage act was, to say the least odd.

Malcolm booked him at his Tunnel and Up The Creek clubs and in shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. I think I can do no better than quote what was said about Chris in Malcolm’s 1996 autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake:

Another act who was always popular both at The Tunnel and in Edinburgh was Chris Luby. We had met when we were both in The Mad Show. His act was then – and still is – making noises with his mouth. He does loud oral impressions of wartime aeroplanes, racing cars and the entire Trooping The Colour ceremony. He does machines, drums, military people and that’s his act. It’s 20 minutes long and, really, he’s made a jolly good living out of it, considering.

On stage, he has a military air – a bit Air Force – but he was never in the RAF, only in the Army Training Corps when he was a kid. When I met him, he had been a Civil Servant for about 15 years. A real boring, pen-pushing job. He lived on a council estate in Bromley, South East London.

At the time, he didn’t have a car, so I used to give him a lift home every night after The Mad Show. And, every night, he’d make exactly the same noises. I would start the engine and he would go:

“Chocks away!”

I would put the car into first gear and he would make first gear noises.

We would come to the first bend and he’d do the screeching of tyres and yell out:

“Bank left! Bank left!”

He did exactly the same thing every night for three months and I never hit him once.

On one journey back from Manchester, Arthur Smith actually gave him £50 to keep quiet. Arthur had put up with it for 20 minutes, then he got his money out.

Chris has two children and was married to a very nice Anglo-Indian lady from whom he’s recently split.

It’s a talented act, but limited.

Just before the Falklands Conflict started, he was over there. And just before the Gulf War he went over to Saudi Arabia to entertain the troops. I think he probably started those wars off.

He could have made a fortune just travelling round Army and RAF bases during the Cold War. I tried to get him into that circuit. There was an organisation called CSE (Combined Services Entertainment) run by Dennis Agutter, actress Jenny Agutter’s dad – the only man with bigger testicles than me. The problem is Chris is no stranger to the World of Drink. On stage he’s alright but, after the show, he becomes a bit of a nuisance around a lot of the places.

I think he likes the social life involved in showbiz. I don’t think he has ever thought he would be a star. The night I thought his career might not be a roaring success was the night I saw him drunk at The Comedy Store.

At the time, Wizo was running a ‘Fun Bus’. He had got sponsorship from a lager company and had hired a double-decker bus. Every week during the summer, he got various comics to perform on the bus and they could do whatever they liked. The comics could tell the driver where to go or take the audience off the bus or whatever. He asked me to do it one week and I took Chris Luby along.

The bus was parked near Aldwych and Chris got the whole audience drilling in the street. All in lines. He was shouting:

“Stand by the left! Quick march!” and all that.

Then he got them all shouting like American Marines:

“We-are go-ing on-a bus! We-are go-ing on-a bus!”

The he got them marching at double-quick time. We all got on the bus and he started pretending it was an aeroplane:

“Fasten your seat-belts!”

There was a microphone on the bus and he started doing his World War II aeroplane act, which was good. So I took the bus down to The Montague Arms pub in New Cross, south of the River, where there was a talent competition. I entered the competition – I played the mouth organ – but I don’t know if I won or not because we had to take the bus back to central London. We got back about 10.30pm and, by this time, Chris had been drinking some of the free lager provided by the sponsors. He wanted to carry on celebrating, so we went to The Comedy Store. He got drunker and drunker and, in the end, he was asked to leave. I think he was one of the first comics to be thrown out of The Comedy Store.

It was now about 2.00 in the morning. I was a bit drunk myself, but not as drunk as Chris. We got an N77 night bus which went from Charing Cross to right outside my house in Greenwich and quite close to Chris Luby’s house. When we got on the bus, Chris couldn’t manage to get upstairs, but I did. I went upstairs; he stayed downstairs. After a few minutes, I heard him doing his act again. He thought we were back on the original bus. He was shouting at the bus driver:

“Engage thrust! Bank left! Chocks away!” and all the noises he does.

Eventually, the bus driver and passengers could take no more. We stopped at New Cross and, as I looked out my upstairs window, I saw Chris being thrown out the double-doors and lying flat on the pavement. New Cross is about two miles from where Chris lived.

The next morning, I phoned his wife because I wondered what had happened to him. She said she didn’t know what had happened to him, but said he had given a cab driver a cheque for £83.

Once, Chris was supposed to be doing a gig for me, but it turned out he had to go to court accused of groping a woman’s bottom on a train. He had been arrested by the Transport Police. I went on the second day of the trial to give him a character reference if he was found guilty. But he was found Not Guilty. He was very pleased when he was acquitted.

The next day, the Daily Mirror published a picture of Chris Luby and his agent Malcolm Hardee but they got the names transposed so it looked like I had been the bloody person accused of being a groper. I had a suit on for the court appearance; I can look remarkably normal if I put my mind to it.

After the court case, he took voluntary redundancy. He’d been in the Civil Service for years so he got quite a huge chunk of money.

One night after that, Chris, Mark Hurst and Brenda Gilhooley were all booked to appear at The King’s Head (in Bungay, Suffolk) and they drove up separately from me. I had gone up with Pip for the weekend and Paul Fitzgerald was going to provide us all with a big meal before the gig. I told Chris Luby to ring up when he arrived at the pub and I’d give him directions to get to the cottage. He rang me up at about 5.30 in the afternoon and I gave him instructions for the six mile drive.

The meal was ready at 6.30pm – no sign of Luby.

At 7.30pm – no sign of Luby.

The gig was due to start at 8.00pm.

At 8.00pm – no sign of Luby.

So we went off to the gig. On the way, we found him. Between the pub and the cottage, Chris had spotted a private Aeroplane Museum where this mad bloke collects aircraft and has put them in the back garden of another pub. Chris saw missiles and old aeroplanes, stopped and went in the pub. He was in Heaven. He had aeroplanes and alcohol and wasn’t interested in the meal.

In the end we virtually had to drag him to the gig.

The King’s Head is one of those old-fashioned pubs with a courtyard where they used to put the coaches. The landlord had about five kids between about the ages of 8 and 12. After the gig, at about midnight, I looked out a window and Chris Luby was drilling all these kids with broomsticks over their shoulders, getting them to march round the courtyard:

“Eyes right! Quick march!”

R.I.P. Chris Luby.

A character.

So it goes.


Filed under Comedy

15 responses to “The death and life of comic Chris Luby

  1. Ah thats sad to hear, i was proud to get Chris Luby on at our Cracking Night Out at The Empire, i must have told him it started at 7 and he turned up on time but told me it was the 2nd time he had been there that day as he had already been knocking on the stage door at 7 in the morning as thats the time he thought we meant!? the cleaner told him to go away and he came back across london 12 hours later for 7 in the evening . . .

  2. A week to the day after Malcolm’s memorial birthday, how sad. I will never forget the time I had Chris and Malcolm in the back of my car on the way back from a gig in Birmingham. They were so distracting that at the roundabout at Hammersmith flyover I pranged another car. Luckily Malcolm was a brilliant witness and pointed out that it was the other car’s fault, which it was, but I would have anticipated him if they hadn’t been so noisy! Farewell Chris, a kind, sweet, generous,
    often annoying, and noisome man.

  3. Oddly I was bringing him to mind only the other day as we are in a ‘flight zone’ for the RAF Memorial Flight and they often fly their Spitfire over our place on the way to gigs and I thought how smashing it would be to get him to come up to see us this summer and I would take him up to the base at Conningsby and introduce him. I met Chris twice when he was doing his act on ‘Prove It’ for TVS light years ago, once for the pilot and oncc the actual show but the second time he had broken his leg and lurched onto the studio floor dressed in a Colstream Guardsman uniform plus busby with his leg all done up but he was still brilliant despite this minor upset – a real trouper or should that be trooper?… I shall miss him for a number of reasons, mainly for his sense of humour. RIP and hope he keeps ’em laughing in the ‘hanger in the sky’.

    • We had a 3 hour car journey with Chris a few years ago. To keep us entertained he did a quiz… all the way to the gig. We were exhausted by the time we got there. On the way home he did another quiz – with exactly the same questions. Apart from his quizzes he was one of my favourite people. RIP Chris we’ll miss you x

  4. Ann

    Sorry to say I don’t know you or him but followed Alan Davies’ Tweet link to this. Laughed til I cried and very nearly choked while reading it. Thank you both and may he make the angels laugh as much as I just did.

  5. I remember him at Malcolm’s funeral. Well done Chris and RIP.

  6. John Caddick

    I knew Chris from his days in the Civil Service. I gave him loads of bookings and he would always turn up, do his act, and then get roaring drunk. He was very likable because in over 30 years I have never seen him become aggressive. He was a good bloke. In the early nineties, I got him to enter the Worthing pier talent show which went on all summer. He easily won his heats and the semi final and was beaten into second place in the grand final by Lee Evans!
    Another time, I booked him for a gig. At the end, the bar was about to close and the audience were leaving. Chris surveyed the tables, spotted a glass with a bit of coca cola left in it. He picked it up. “shame to waste it” he said, and then went to the bar and ordered a treble rum to go with it!

  7. john caddick

    Chris had an act that was truly original. His many sound impressions were spot on and his re-enactment of a bombing run, using only his voice, was deadly accurate, apart from the time he let the bombs go too early and blew up an orphanage.

  8. Robin Hull

    I grew up in Bromley, Kent, knowing Chris. He was an officer in the Air Training Corps, where my dad was a Warrant Officer.

    He was an incredibly funny and very intelligent man. As I grew up Chris became a good friend. I often shared a pint in the Baring Hall Hotel pub on my way home from work in London.

    Nearly on every occasion I left him after a few beers doing his act to anyone who cared to listen.

    I last saw him about 5 years ago. He looked dreadful and he was very worse the wear for drink. If I remember rightly, it was about 10 in the morning!

    People like Chris don’t come along that often.

    God bless you mate.

    Spread those newly gained wings and fly with the angels!

  9. Michelle

    To all who know Chris Luby his funeral will take place at Honor Oak Crematorium at 1.45pm on the 4th of February. Then there will be a gathering at the Wibbley Wobbley Rope St London SE16 7SZ.

  10. Alan Deane

    My eldest son asked me to book Chris for his 21st birthday party. We had put up a marquee in the garden, had a band and disco, pig roast etc Chris came on at about 10pm announced that he was going to take off in a bi-plane, when there was a huge bang and all the lights went out! Fortunately the sound still worked, so Chris, undeterred, in the dark,said,” all right, it’s a night flight” He performed brilliantly and we got the lights back up as he went into a modern version with Harrier jet, we all looked up, it was impossible not to do so, an incredible sound, and at the party were…two Harrier pilots! They booked him straight away for a show at their base, said he knew all the buzz words!
    Later Chris and I relaxed in the house and tied a few on, we must have become great friends, because we invited each other to all sorts of ridiculous scenarios! Never saw him again, of course!. My son Jason, 44 this week, and I, were discussing him only last month, That was a very special evening Chris, we won’t forget you .
    Is that a heavenly chorus! ..Nah… that’s Chris’ new routine!

    Bless him

  11. Stephen

    I knew Chris very well, but sadly lost touch with him. He lived with this Mum in Downham (near Northover for any Downham people) and I lived with my parents a few hundred yards away. As I had a car and didn’t drink, I became a full time chauffeur to Chris. This was way before our Chislehurst days.Our pub of choice was the Golden Arrow in Beckenham or the Golden Arse**** as Chris called it. I was a bit of a petrol head and Chris was ecstatic when we left the pub one night and I showed him my convertible messerschmitt bubble car. Chris was in 7th heaven and stood up the whole way home shouting at pedestrians and passing cars in a Nazi accent. I could barely drive for laughing. The next time I gave him a lift I had a (Triumph) Spitfire, so we had a repeat performance but this time he played the Biggles role.
    I went to Chris and Fay’s wedding and we all hoped that marriage might settle him down. No such luck. Perhaps death might, but I doubt that very much either. Chris came to my wedding and did his routine which, as always, brought the house down. I loved Chris and I am very sad he gone.

    If when my time comes and I arrive at the Pearly Gates, I’ll listen out for the sound of a spitfire starting and know eternity will be fun!

  12. Samfairyanne

    I knew him when he was still a civil servant. He was exactly the way he has been described above. He lightened every day, playing his brass band up and down the corridors. When he met a new female colleague, he would take their hand, exaggeratedly kiss their hand and continue all the way up their arm, then turn his head away almost in disgust and appear to spit repeatedly saying, SPIT OUT THE LUMPS! He took me to see a film on Mahler and was completely enraptured, just like the private aeroplane museum. He told me the Luby was because he was part Russian. There was never anything contrived about him, he was consistently mad, but in a gentle kindly way, eg Wibbly Wobbly pub. It nice to know that everything continued the same after I ceased to know him!

  13. Bill

    I was a regular at the Golden Arse***** in the early 70’s and the first time I ran into Chris was when I heard a large jet flying through the lounge bar. I could not believe that anyone could be that loud without a microphone.
    He was regularly in attendance at events in the social scene I was involved with at the time and was always great fun. I vividly recall a party in the Seven Dials club in Covent Garden and the consternation he cause at 2am in Cambridge Circus dressed in a Nazi SS officers uniform.
    Lost contact with him years ago occasionally hearing of his antics but only found out recently that he had died. RIP Chris he planet is worse off without you.

  14. Keith

    I new Luby for a few years in the late 60’s. then I left for Australia in 1971 would take him to Biggin Hill Air port for private lessons. He liked his drink and was a funny guy. I still have his first recording on tape. My thoughts are with you Chris.

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