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Yes, What? - Dr Pym (Rex Dawe)

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Rex Dawe as Doctor Pym   Rex Dawe wrote, produced and starred as the crotchety old school master, Dr Archibald Percy Pym. Rex had originally intended to become a lawyer. In fact, he'd already been admitted to the bar, and was just establishing in practice when the chance to write an episode of Yes What led him to abandon his career in law and take up broadcasting.
Some of his inspiration for the show no doubt came from his eight years as a boarder at Prince Alfred College.

   In 1939, three years after it had started, Rex was quoted as saying, "Writing that first episode was a fairly simple procedure. But it was astonishing to me when, told that it had been a success, I was asked to write a second. My ideas usually fizzle out after the first pop!
   "I thought it would be quite beyond me to write a second, and as it had been listed in the programmes I was obliged to do so. Well, after that, I was more than ever convinced that that was the finish, and I forthwith forgot about it.
  "Next I knew was that a series of twenty-six episodes had been sold! I nearly died! Twenty six. However could I write them? But it's marvellous what you can do when you really try.
   "At the end of twelve months, I found myself in the rather delicate position of having to make the most important decision of my life - the decision of whether it would be best to stick to law or to enter radio. For I found that it was scarcely possible to act the part of such a confounded ass at night and expect people to believe that my gravity in court on the following mornings was not also assumed! It wasn't easy to make the choice either. In fact, it took me six weeks to decide to throw in my career with broadcasting, for better or worse."

So how did he keep on writing episode after episode?

"Now that the whole thing is on an established basis I work according to a plan. I keep a digest of past episodes, you see, and arrange each one to a sort of scale. Nevertheless, I have never been able to rid myself of the terrible feeling that hangs over me each morning: the knowledge that before I do anything else I must get another episode written."

When asked where is inspiration came from, he replied,

"I draw on my own past. I was at boarding school for eight years, and then there were my 'Varsity days. I've had to strain my memory to recapture those good-old, bad-old days, but gradually it has all come back to me with a wealth of detail. In fact, many of the incidents in Yes What are simply transplanted holus bolus from my own experiences at school and at college. They are slightly caricatured, of course."

When asked how long it took to write each episode, he said,

"Anything from an hour and a half to four hours."

Did he regret leaving the law?

"Not in the slightest. Nor do I regret the four years spent swotting for it. I don't think any education is ever really wasted."

Why has "Yes, What?" been so successful?

"Darned if I know. It beats me. Although I suppose people are apt to look back to their school days with a lenient attitude, and they laugh easily at being reminded of the pranks that they themselves have played often enough."
Rex Dawe was 24 years old when the series started. After Yes What, he became one of the regular comics for the Colgate shows during and after the war, and continued to write comedy.
In the 1950s, he moved to Spain, where he died on October 8, 1972, aged 60.


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