Richard Burton (Roy Kinnear) is an airline steward who returns home to find a Dear John (or rather a Dear Richard) letter from his wife. She’s left him for another man, but in-between informing him that his dinner’s in the oven and that his spare uniform is at the dry-cleaners, she goes on to tell him not to “blame yourself in any way for what has happened. You’ve been a good husband and I’ve nothing to reproach you for, which makes it even harder to do what I’m doing.”
This is an obvious blow and he desperately needs to find somebody to pour out his troubles to. The problem is that nobody’s interested – as his so-called friends seem to regard him as something of an encumbrance, to put it mildly. After finding no useful information from his mother-in-law, he calls “good old Harry, one of the best.” Harry desperately conjures up an excuse to avoid talking to him – Richard seems like a nice enough fellow, but Harry gives the impression that he’s a crashing bore that no-one wants to spend any time with.
Possibly part of the reason for his lack of social success is his complete inability to appreciate the problems of others. Later on, we seem him conducting a lengthy conversation on the phone with another friend, Jack, who he’s stunned to discover is burying his wife the next day. He then remembers that Jack did mention this fairly important fact earlier on (Richard’s call has lasted over an hour) but Richard’s so wrapped up in his own world of pain that he has little empathy for anybody else’s grief.
Encounters with a barman (Robert Gillespie), a vicar (Frank Gatliff) and a phone-in host (Alan Freeman) don’t go well either and it seems that nobody wants to listen to him. He then receives a call from a man in a phone-box (John Clive). This is the man who his wife was originally going to run off with (which raises the interesting question as to how many men she was seeing!) and he’s just as upset as Richard to find she loves another. Richard cams him down and tells him to pour out his troubles – as it’s good to talk these things through.
Naught for Thy Comfort operates in familiar Galton and Simpson territory. Burton, like Hancock or the Steptoes, is something of an outsider from the normal run of society. And like them, he’s not always the most sympathetic of characters, although this changes right at the end when, ironically, he takes a great interest in the welfare of his wife’s former lover. Is this because he understands the pain that occurs when nobody will listen to you and therefore he’s able to derive some comfort by offering a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, even when it’s for a man who’s cuckolded him?
Roy Kinnear was something of a British comedy legend and his casting certainly gave the episode a lift. There’s not many belly-laughs here, but it does raise a smile or two.