Britain's Most Loved and Best Comedy Double Act

The Story of Light Entertainment: Double Acts

On the television...

Eric and Ern on stage

Laurel and Hardy

Abbot and Castello
This one in a series of programmes looking back at light entertainment focuses on double acts and of course the king of the crop is Morecambe & Wise.

Narrated by Stephen Fry, the 60 minute show begins with the old time variety acts and takes us through the ups and downs of their careers, with candid interviews with some of those involved.

After an initial period of introductions with glimpses of all the acts to come, it settles down to tell the storey of the mainstay of British entertainment.

How the double act began life on the variety stage as a means of getting the joke more clearly heard above the audience. One person would say the start of the joke, which was then repeated by the second man and so lead to the punch line.
“I say, my dog has no nose…”
“Your dog has no nose…. “

This leads nicely on to Stan Laurel, who after learning his trade in variety, went on to form one of the most famous double acts of all time, and one that many other acts since have quoted as an influence. From here we jump across to the US for a quick rundown of Abbot and Castello and back to the UK for Morecambe & Wise.

From this point on, Eric and Ern are the act used as a comparison to all that followed.

The programme examines what it takes to be a good double act, how it can affect the lives of the performers and tells some of the harrowing stories of acts now no more. Behind the scene fighting, hate-hate relationships, splits, reunions, fame and mediocrity.

Double acts covered include Laurel and Hardy, Mike & Bernie Winters, Abbot and Castello, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Cannon and Ball, Little and Large, Morecambe & Wise, Newman and Baddiel, French and Saunders, The Two Ronnies, Reeves and Mortimer, Smith and Jones and more.

There are many clips of the acts including the very bad mimicking of Eric and Ern by Reeves and Mortimer that caused Ronnie Barker to leave the studio in disgust.

I would estimate that at least 70% of the show revolves around Eric and Ern, with clips and comparisons. What is does point out, is that double acts come and go, but Morecambe & Wise stayed the course, seeing off all would-be challengers.

Many famous celebrities voice their opinion from Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bruce Forsyth, Jeremy Beagle, Peter Cook, Vic Reeves, Roy Hudd, Mike Winters, Lionel Blair, David Baddiel, Little and Large and Steve Punt to name a few.

Also non-performers add their voices such as Gary Morecambe, Doreen Wise, Joan Morecambe, Eddie Braben, William Cook, Sir Bill Cotton, Graham McCann, John Ammonds, Barry Cryer, Michel Grade and and David Frost.

This is a great programme well worth watching if it ever gets repeated.

© 2008

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The Man Who Made Eric and Ernie
As a tribute to the late great Sir Bill Cotton, the BBC broadcast this fine programme to summarise his outstanding contribution to British variety television.

Morecambe and Wise - In Their Own Words
Broadcast on New Years Day 2008, this one hour special aimed to tell the story of Britain’s best loved double act through their own words.