Britain's Most Loved and Best Comedy Double Act

Eric and Ern Abroad

Feature from 2009

Bad film review

Beatles steel the show

Strange acts
Morecambe and Wise have been in the nations hearts since the 60’s, when their second attempt at breaking into television with ATV’s Two Of A Kind, sent them soaring into the top ten most popular shows.

Since then, a mere mention of their names can cause a smile on the generation that refuses to where hoods unless they are in the Antarctic, and who know which way round to wear hat.

Take a long step across the watery stuff, in any direction, and our national treasures blend into a heaving throng of other wannabes, all striving to make a name for themselves in far off lands.

Even today some of our comedians leave them baffled while some strangely hit the right note and are launched into sitcoms, one-mans shows and movie roles.

Back in the 60’s, Eric and Ernie wanted to reach out, in particular Ernie, who’s dream was Hollywood. Eric, on the other hand was not all that impressed, and was even more caustic about foreign audiences when they returned from America.

In a Parkinson interview when asked what he thought about American audiences after Morecambe and Wises’ Ed Sullivan appearances, he replied; “I like them... I like them because they’re over there. I will not say sidealk or garbage... Its pavement and rubish.”

Was it all that bad abroad? Did those nations really struggle to understand the humour, and did Eric and Ern talk to fast for them?

Some of the answers can be found in newspaper cuttings from the time, and in our on-going research we plucked out a few cuttings from America and Australia that give us a taste of how they were received.

Away from our shores they are just another act, from some other country telling jokes and doing routines in a style that is often unfamiliar. Just more names in a list of many; for example Comedy World that was broadcast at 10pm on 6th June 1974 in Florida listed the clips as;

“Jud Strunk displays hometown humour, beanpole Jimmy Walker provides samples of ghetto humour, from London there is broad slapstick by the Monte [sic] Python Flying Circus, Andy Kaufman and his Mouse, and the team of Morecambe and Wise.”

Notice how Morecambe and Wise are the only one’s not to have a description alongside their names; and who can compete with Andy Kaufman and his Mouse?

When the Beatles appeared on the ATV show in 1964, the Australian press seemed to shove Eric and Ernie to one side, giving them only a brief mention in their own show;

“The Beatles – singing three numbers, and joining in a routine with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise – feature in the Morecambe and Wise show – Two of a Kind…”

“The Beatles will be seen and heard in a TV version of their phenomenal hit record I Want To Hold Your Hand, plus two of their own compositions – This Boy, and All My Lovin.”

“They join with Morecambe and Wise in a comedy routine to sing a final number, Moonlight Bay.”

“Sydney Beatles-lovers who saw the show last week are reported to have received it most enthusiastically. The ABC hopes Melbourne fans will find the show entirely to their liking. Hitherto Beatles performances on Melbourne TV have been short.”

Not only the television shows and appearances get the cold shoulder, the Rank films also come in for some undeserved acidity.

The films were not their best work by a long way, but the review in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper on January 16th 1967 went a bit over the top.

“The climax of That Riviera Touch involves its funniest people – not the mediocre TV and music-hall comics Morecambe and Wise, but some unaccredited stuntmen who stand in for them to perform acrobatics with water skis and a helicopter.”

“There is also Suzanne Lloyd, a charming heroine-villainess worthy of better partners.”

“That Riviera Touch, which does battle over stolen jewels in the south of France, is an improvement in script and direction on Morecambe and Wises’ first film.”

“It is still encumbered with routines of the kind acceptable only to fanatical fans and tolerant juveniles.”

It’s no wonder Eric preferred the hometown audiences when confronted by this type of journalism!

Morecambe and Wise had spent longer getting to the top than many acts lasted the course, which meant when they finally hit it big in the 60’s, they were ready.

Years and years of working with British audiences, failed TV shows and blinkered critics before they could finally enjoy their success.

Eric knew it would be hard abroad, and knew it would mean going back 30 years. Re-building or at least re-modelling the act for this new audience. Would it all be worthwhile? Especially in the late 60’s and early 70’s when they were topping the bill at every venue and getting huge viewing figures.

Despite Ern still yearning for Hollywood I think they made the right decision. Remain where they are loved and where they knew the audience inside out. History tells us they were right, and thank goodness they made the right choice.

© 2009

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Eric and Ern decide to try their luck in America, but things did not go to plan.