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Friday, January 30, 2009

Make 'em Laugh

Veteran Maltese comedian Charles Clews passed away yesterday at the age of 89. If it wasn't for the fact that I was in London attending a briefing on European research funding at the British Library, I would have probably blogged about his death sooner. Still, Charlie was such an established household name among all Maltese around the world that his passing would barely go unmarked.

I met him many times during the years I worked at Xandir Malta. He would mostly come to visit my office mate Lino Cassar, an old friend of his, before and/or after his weekly recordings at Radio Malta with producer Charles Abela Mizzi. What often struck me is how similar his off air personality was to the way the public knew him. He was surely a gentleman who was most gracious in every way imaginable. I'm not saying this because he's now dead. I'm saying this because he truly was an amazingly wonderful and generous person.

Aside from these candid office meetings, our paths only crossed each others professionally a couple of times. One of these occasions took place in 1990 when I produced a 26-part series marking the end of the cable radio service in Malta. Charles Clews had to be interviewed for such a series, of course. As it happened, he was the second guest on the series; the first was Charles Arrigo. Although the reason to start the series talking about the popular game show 20 Questions was purely personal, it's not incidental that Charles Clews was the second guest on the series, even though he was somewhat associated with it. As the venerable broadcaster Effie Ciantar once put it, it was the Rediffusion cable radio service that made Charles Clews (and his comedy troupe Radju Muskettieri) famous, but it was Clews and the Radju Muskettieri who helped Rediffusion put a cable radio set in almost every home in the 1950s.

To mark the passing of this remarkable man, I've repackaged my interview with him from 1990 as a downloadable podcast. His funeral is being held tomorrow. If I were in Malta I would most certainly be there to pay well-deserved respect to this delightful man who made hundreds of thousands laugh throughout his life.

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