For 4 weeks in March and April 1973 what appears to have been a quite astonishing radio comedy was aired (on Radio 3 of all places) which I've only recently learned about (initially from a letter of complaint in The Listener).
The series- 'Topping Wheeze' seems to have been based around a remarkably dark concept. As far as I can glean, it deals with a murderous comedian Maxwell Armley (played by Jake Thackray!) who having once accidentally laughed a man to death and being touched by the beatific sight of the corpse's smile, for some reason embarks on a killing spree determined to capture the sound of people's souls being released in their dying last gasps on tape. Don't ask me why, it seems to be a sort of macabre audio play on Powell's 'Peeping Tom'.
The accessible documentation surviving in the BBC Written Archive at Caversham (it looks possible there's more that's as yet deemed unreleasable) suggests that he eventually plans and stages a live wireless sketch show full of tightly timed catchphrases and reincorporated gags building in crescendo to a finale with an unbearable(!) 8 jokes a minute which causes mass asphyxiation amongst its studio audience, and presumably listeners at home (it's unclear). However angry listener correspondence in the same programme folder claiming the show defames Tommy Handley and offensively parodies Roman Catholic doctrine suggests the series may have strayed somewhat from this initial outline.
Unsurprisingly, no tapes survive, unless you know better...
Anyhow from contemporary listings we can also glean this-
The show aired at around 9.15pm (though Radio 3 timings are notoriously prone to slippage) on the 24th March to 14 April 1973 also featured Ron Pember and Margaret Westbury and was written by Bob and Barbara Boulton and produced by Paul Bradley (not the one who later went on to play Nigel in EastEnders).
The Radio Times plot precises also give us the following tiny hints.
Part 1- Corpsing. Maxwell Armley is an unhappy comedian, weary of life until he accidentally hits on the perfect joke.
Part 2- Die Laughing. Max hits trouble in a northern Working Man's Club when the rattle-gag fails.
Part 3- Killing Joke. The great broadcast begins to take shape, but Maxwell faces danger in the shape of a investigating policeman with no apparent sense of humour.
Part 4- Reincorporation. A last gasp return for the departed leaves Maxwell questioning his calling. Is surviving on tape the key?
Anyone remember this one at all? I think there might be an interesting article for comedy archivists in it. I reckon if we manage to piece enough facts and obscure details together this previously unheard of piece might well be reappraised as a lost classic.