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Oscar Wilde tops Britain's wit list

The Victorian playwright beat Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher to be rated Britain's greatest ever wit in a TV poll.

books Updated: Oct 15, 2007 17:50 IST

He once quipped at an US airport: "I've nothing to declare but my genius", and even managed to mutter on his deathbed: "Either those curtains go, or I do".

Well, Oscar Wilde would not have been surprised to be dubbed Britain's greatest ever wit - he has been rated number one in a poll commissioned by digital TV channel 'Dave'.

The Victorian playwright, who was born in Ireland but lived most of his life in London, gained 20 per cent of votes, just two points ahead of Irish comedian Spike Milligan whose gravestone carries the message - "I told you I was ill".

In the top ten of famous wits, TV presenter and author Stephen Fry made it to number three while fourth-greatest wit was declared to be BBC's Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson whose politically-incorrect one-liners have won him legions of fans.

Britain's wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill made it to number five for his notorious putdowns. Accused by a female MP of being drunk, he had replied: "Madam, you are ugly. But in the morning, I will be sober."

The list also includes noted humourists Noel Coward, the country's late football manager Brian Clough and Oasis lead singer Liam Gallagher.

However, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has been ranked 12th, well ahead of comediennes Jennifer Saunders and Victoria Wood. She had once said: "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."

More than half of the 3,000 comedy fans surveyed - nearly 57 per cent thought that men are wittier than women, clearly reflecting why there are no female entries in the top ten.

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