Property’s king of comedy...

This business is no stranger to cultural landmarks, but they are usually of the bricks-and-mortar variety.

Even the industry’s most ardent fans might be surprised to hear that one of their number can claim responsibility for the invention of the sitcom. Or at least for the first-known use of that term in the UK.

Larry Stephens - who in the early 1940s worked as an estate agent’s clerk for Grimley & Co (now GVA) before hitting the big time in the 1950s as co-writer of radio comedy The Goon Show with Spike Milligan - penned a radio play called Vacant Lot based on his experiences.

Featuring a blundering auctioneer and estate agent (shurely shome mishtake?), Vacant Lot was snapped up by the Beeb, which described the 1952 pilot as “a gentle situation comedy”.

It was all set to be a hit but vacillations by the BBC resulted in the script being put on the shelf, where it remained for the next 65 years.

Unearthed by Stephens’ biographer Julia Warren, the show made its much-delayed debut at last weekend’s Funny Things Festival in Wolverhampton.

So the truth is out - an ex-estate agent not only came up with the first sitcom; he also co-wrote The Goons. It’s not such a leap from agent to goon though, is it?

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