Denise Coffey, the actress, director and playwright who has died aged 85, was best known to TV viewers as the only female member of the comedy cast of Do Not Adjust Your Set, the ITV series whose surreal, anarchic humor Monty anticipated Python.
Tiny and eccentric, she starred alongside three members of the future Python gang — Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin — along with David Jason performing satirical sketches interspersed with musical interludes by Vivian Stanshall’s Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and later bizarre animation by Terry Gilliam.
In a popular series of mini-adventures, Denise Coffey played Mrs Black, “the baddest woman in the world.” — Nemesis of David Jason’s parody superhero Captain Fantastic. Jason brandished his gadget-packed umbrella and bowler hat while Denise Coffey clutched her “awful purse” and plotted world domination.
In a Christmas special Don’t adjust your stockingShe appeared in a feather boa, sequins and Thora Hird glasses to introduce Terry Jones, who played an imitation of the London Symphony Orchestra going up the Zambezi in a storm. Although designed for children, Don’t customize your set gained an adult following and ran from 1967 to 1969.
Denise Coffey continued to enjoy a modestly successful career on television, although she became better known in later life for her radio work, including two series by Sue Limb. She played Dorothy Wordsmith in her parody of the Lakeland poets The Wordsmiths in Gorsemere (Radio 4, 1985-87) alongside Geoffrey Whitehead as William Wordsmith, Tim Curry as Lord Biro and Simon Callow as Samuel Tailor Cholericke.
She later teamed up with Miriam Margolyes Alison and Maud (Radio 4, 2002-04) as two sisters who started a random bed and breakfast in Norwich. Joss Ackland played her irascible, bedridden father. As a playwright, Denise Coffey has collaborated with Scottish comedian Rikki Fulton A little touch of classTranslation by Molières Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme to 19th-century Glasgow, in which they also played.
It was a huge hit at the Edinburgh Festivals in 1985 and 1986 and was celebrated in the US telegraph as “Knockabout Tartan-and-Hogmanay hype”.
Denise Dorothy Coffey was born on 12 December 1936 in Aldershot, Hampshire to Denis Coffey, an RAF officer, and Dorothy née Malcolm.
She began a career as a representative and then worked as a BBC radio interviewer. She played Lynn Redgrave’s girlfriend in it Georgy girl (1966) and the following year appeared in John Schlesinger’s Hardy adaptation Far from the crazy crowd. She has been a member of the Young Vic Repertory Company, has written screenplays for children’s shows and has toured in various roles.
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In addition to supporting roles in film, she appeared regularly on television Stanley Baxter Show, while in the ITV sitcom girls about the city (1970–71), she and Julie Stevens appeared as bored housewives trying to get their husbands to pay more attention to them. In the children’s slapstick sitcom Hold the front page (ITV, 1974), which she wrote, she was Gloria Glamorsox, an investigative journalist on the hunt for Mr Big.
After a role in The Burkiss Way, a BBC Radio 4 comedy sketch series in which she appeared in 1979 end of the first part, LWT’s television version of the series. In 1998 Sayle’s she was the repulsive Edna, manager of Alexei Sayle’s Scouse comic Bobby Chariot carousel. She has also appeared on game shows such as I’m sorry I have no idea and Just a minute.
As a vegetarian, Denise Coffey refused to appear in commercials, believing it was wrong to persuade people to buy things they didn’t need. Unmarried, she retired to Salcombe, Devon, where she enjoyed fishing from her small boat.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/obituary-denise-coffey-actress-and-writer-famous-for-the-anarchic-comedy-do-not-adjust-your-set-41514504.html Obituary: Denise Coffey, actress and writer best known for the anarchic comedy Do Not Adjust Your Set