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The Funniest Man in London

The Life and Times of H.G.Pélissier

By Anthony Binns

Harry Gabriel Pélissier was an Edwardian satirist and composer who transformed British entertainment in the early 20th Century. The Follies, his ground-breaking act, paved the way for the modern revue. Performer to King Edward VII and admired by J.M. Barrie and George Bernard Shaw, his risqué shows were banned by the Censor’s office. His marriage to Compton Mackenzie’s teenage sister, the actress Fay Compton, shocked London society

© JG Pélissier

Recommended in The Times Writers' Favourite Books of 2022 by Quentin Letts

"Few will have heard of H.G.Pélissier, but he was the tireless satirical star of British stage comedy in the Edwardian era, a fore-runner of the Goons who drove censors round the bend.  The quirky biography The Funniest Man in London by Anthony Binns is long overdue."

Price: £20 + £3.50 post & packing

Publisher: Edgerton Publishing Services

ISBN 978-0-9933203-8-5

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What others are saying about The Funniest Man in London


If you are about to read this book, I envy you! It’s well worth the trip.”

Barry Cryer - Writer & comedian

“H.G.Pélissier was a man ahead of his time. He battled the censors and made the world laugh at pious, nay-saying officialdom. We could do with an H.G.P. today.”

Quentin Letts, journalist & theatre critic


"H G Pélissier was among the master spirits of his age, as writer, composer, producer and performer, hugely successful and influential. In Anthony Binns’s biography, he lives again, and can take his proper place in the pantheon of great British entertainers, an example and an inspiration."

Simon Callow, writer, actor & director

“Anthony Binns’s forensic detail about H.G. Pélissier’s Follies in ‘The Funniest Man in London’, is a fascinating exploration into the history and evolution of British popular culture. Such material is often overlooked by academic historiography, yet this volume provides invaluable fresh insight into the ways in which high art and popular performance forms were blended during the early years of the twentieth century. This book is an exciting and timely contribution to our understanding of contemporary culture.”

Dr Tony Lidington, author of Don’t Forget the Pierrots!

“This book is not only meticulously researched and reveals extraordinary knowledge of the subject, but is a fascinating insight into a man who I’d never heard of before. H.G.P is clearly the great-great-grandfather of all the absurdist comedy and satire of our lifetime.”

Jim Piddock, actor & writer

“H.G. Pélissier has proved fortunate in who he chose to be his biographer. He could not have asked for a more eloquent, erudite and enthusiastic champion. It is a relishable book that gets your mind whirring like this. One thing is certain, Harry Pélissier now has a detailed memoir to celebrate his short but gifted life. A bon viveur, he burnt the candle at both ends, but oh, so brightly.”

Eric Midwinter, The Call Boy - Official journal of the British Music Hall Society

An understanding of the stage in the late Victorian and Edwardian period requires a reappraisal of Pélissier who made an enormous contribution to music, comedy and satire. […] The book is written with the passion of an enthusiast who tracked Pélissier over a long period.  Binns has also been assisted by the impresario’s descendants, especially Jaudy Pélissier who contributes a preface. [……]  Binns has been extremely fortunate in his publisher who have provided a lavishly illustrated edition at a very reasonable price.   Given Binns’s research I am not sure there will be another biography of this larger-than-life figure.  Scholars will, however, need to absorb the Follies into their accounts of the period.  Their performances, irreverence and joie-de-vivre (evident in the recordings) offer an important entry into the Edwardian mind.

Rohan McWilliam, Professor of Modern British History at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Former President of the British Association for Victorian Studies. 

Read the full review on the Journal of Victorian Culture


Overall, the Follies are a reminder that the humour we call British has invariably been cosmopolitan in its origins and influences. [……] Anthony Binns has been given access by Pélissier’s grandson to a “battered leather briefcase” packed with photos, diaries and letters. These have enabled him to revisit many old scores – in every sense. The result is a fine example of the kind of independent research, driven by an absolute commitment to its subject, on which performance history continues to depend.”

John Stokes, Emeritus Professor of Modern British Literature at King’s College.

Read the full review on The Times Literary Supplement (TLS).

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Contact Us


To discuss the life and work of H.G. Pélissier and The Follies contact Anthony Binns or Jaudy Pélissier:




m: 07730 920 813

                Follow us on Twitter - @pottedpelissier

Images and reproductions are copyright of Pélissier Family Archive. Musical arrangements copyright of Pélissier Communications Ltd

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