The Monty Python team were really hitting their surrealist stride, Porridge confirmed Ronnie Barker’s place in comedy history and many of us pondered packing it all in for The Good Life.

But British television during the ‘70s had a darker side. This was the period that also gave us The Black and White Minstrel Show, Mind Your Language and Love Thy Neighbour.

“The question I had to ask myself from about the age of ten was how do I fit in here?“ says broadcaster and playwright Dotun Adebayo, 52, who was born in Lagos and moved with his family to Tottenham aged five. “The canon of British comedy is mickey-taking us – do I accept that?“

The Comedians was one of the most popular shows of the era, giving viewers routines from the working men’s club circuit, making household names of Mike Reid, Frank Carson and Bernard Manning.

One stand-up stood out a little more than most. Charlie Williams, the mixed-race Yorkshireman, fast becoming the first black star of British television.

“Unfortunately he also had a line in black jokes, even though people laughed along, for some it was not very comfortable,“ says Dotun Adebayo who has written and stars in a play loosely inspired by his life, Skinteeth. “Going to school on Monday, our white friends used to regurgitate these gags to us. He used to make my life hell with all these racist jokes.

“One of his catchphrases was ’If you don’t behave yourself I’ll move next door to you’. There was this belief that if a black person moved next to you, you would suffer. He pandered to that and that was not in any way helpful. You thought – why are you doing that? Aren’t we under enough pressure already without you having to take the mick like that?

“Many remember him, not with distaste, but discomfort.“

Skinteeth tells the story of Sunshine Charlie, one-time household name and king of the comedy circuit, now struggling to make ends meet in his miserable bedsit. He had been a regular at the Palladium, the pick of prime time television – but the offers don’t come knocking anymore.

Then he meets a woman who could change his life forever – and he’s putting on a show for her. He thinks he’s still got it, he’s piling on the charm, and he thinks he’s getting lucky. He gets a lot more than he bargained for. Who is this mystery woman? And what does she really want?

Dotun, who presents on Radio Five Live and BBC London, penned Skinteeth nearly 20 years ago and the performance at Bernie Grant Arts Centre marks a return to acting after a 25 year break. He stars as Charlie opposite actress Stephanie Charles.

It’s promises to be a challenging piece – does this oldtimer deserve our sympathy? Can justice be done? Should we be laughing at that joke?

“He was a comedian, they have their own schticks, if it works it works and they run with it,“ adds Dotun. “That’s what they make their name on. But I’m incensed that today there are people who would try to excuse it. There are unforetold consequences to how you live your life, you can’t get away from that. You make your bed in a certain way, there are consequences to that, whether it comes back to bite you or not.“

Skinteeth is at Bernie Grant Arts Centre from February 18 to 20 at 8pm. Details:, 020 8365 5450