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
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
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
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
"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
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