Arthur Bowden Askey CBE (6 June 1900 – 16 November 1982) was a prominent English Comedian and Actor. Askey's humour owed much to the playfulness of the characters he portrayed, his improvising, and his use of catchphrases, as parodied by the Arthur Atkinson character in The Fast Show. His catchphrases included "Hello playmates!", "I thank you all" (pronounced "Ay-Thang-Yaw'll"), and "Before your very eyes".
Arthur Askey was born at 29 Moses Street, Liverpool, the eldest child and only son of Samuel Askey (d.1958), secretary of the firm Sugar Products of Liverpool, and his wife, Betsy Bowden (d.1949), of Knutsford, Cheshire. Six months after his birth the family moved to 90 Rosslyn Street, Liverpool. Askey was educated at St. Michael's Council School (1905–11) and the Liverpool Institute for Boys (1911–16), where he was known for winning an egg and spoon race at a school sports day. He was very small at 5' 2" (1.58 m), with a breezy, smiling personality, and wore distinctive horn-rimmed glasses.
He served in the armed forces in World War 1 and performed in army entertainments. After working as a clerk for Liverpool Corporation, Education Department, he was in a touring concert party and the music halls, but he rose to stardom in 1938 through his role in the first regular radio comedy series, Band Wagon on the BBC. Band Waggon began as a variety show, but had been unsuccessful until Askey and his partner, Richard Murdoch, took on a larger role in the writing.
In the early 1930s, Askey appeared on an early form of BBC television — the spinning disc invented by John Logie Baird that scanned vertically and had only thirty lines. Askey had to be heavily made up for his face to be recognisable at such low resolution. When television became electronic, with 405 horizontal lines, Askey was a regular performer in variety shows. During World War 2, Askey starred in several Gainsborough Picture comedy films, including Band Waggon (1940), based on the radio show; Cahrley's (Big - Hearted Aunt) (1940); The Ghost Train (1941); I Thank you 1941); Back Room Boy (1942); King Arthur Was a Gentleman (1942); Miss London Ltd. (1943) and Bees in Paradise (1944); as well as the popular West End Musical, Follow the Girls. When television arrived, he made the transition well. His first TV series was Before Your Very Eyes! (1952), named after his catchphrase. In 1957, writers Sid Colin and Talbot Rothwell revived the Band Waggon format for Living it Up, a series that reunited Askey and Murdoch after 18 years. He also made many stage appearances as a Pantomime Dame.