The Lads Who've Got Nothing To Lose
Morecambe and Wise, the young comedians from the North, have gained a big reputation on radio. Tonight they begin a new comedy series on TV.
Thinking of a new gag
Ever since it was announced that a new fortnightly comedy series starring Morecambe and Wise was starting, the two bright lads from the North have been receiving good advice from their colleagues and friends.
“You keep off TV – it’ll do you no good,” was the general burden of their advice.
But Eric Bartholomew, who comes from Morecambe (hence the name), and Ernie Wiseman, who claims Leeds as his native town, think differently. After no fewer than forty-five appearances in Variety Fanfare, and their own weekly variety series You’re Only Young Once, they have no doubts about the power of sound radio to help an artist on his way.
And whatever the dismal Johnnies may say about the dangers of a TV series that gets panned by the critics – well, Morecambe and Wise just aren’t worrying.
“The way we look at it is this,” said Morecambe (he is the tall one with glasses), “TV has come to stay and we’ve been given our big opportunity. We’d be daft if we didn’t take it with both hands. You see, we’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
“It isn’t as though we were at the end of our careers,” added Wise (the small one with the fair hair). “You’re only young once, that’s quite true. But we’re young now, both of us. I’m 28 and Eric is 27. And I’d say we’ve got a few years to go yet.”
A radio series too.
“If the public don’t like us on Wednesday, that’s just too bad. But it won’t mean we’re finished. Why, we’ve hardly started yet!”
“And there’s another radio series starting in May to keep the wolf from the door.” said Morecambe.
“Not that we’re going to flop,” put in Wise, touching wood and stroking the nearest black cat. “We’ve had our TV flop already, years ago, in – what was the show called, Eric?”
“Shh!” said Morecambe, quickly. “You know we never talk about that one.
Still, there was one good thing about it. Our producer on that occasion was good old Bryan Sears – “ here they fell to their knees and touched their foreheads to the ground – “and it’s Bryan who’s going to put us across in this new series.”
I tried to find out something about the new show.
The two boys looked at each other, scratched their hair and seemed a little embarrassed. “Well, it’s a comedy show – we know that much. And it’s a revue – there’s no harm in telling you that. But as for what it’s going to be – look, why don’t you watch it and find out.”
“That’s what we’re going to do.” Said Morecambe, changing the subject.
Bryan seems a lucky name in the story of Morecambe and Wise. It was another well known Bryan – Michie this time – who first discovered the pair at a juvenile talent contest. That was in 1939, when Eric and Ernie were in their very early teens.
Two years later they were touring with Bryan Michie in his road show. In 1943 they went into Strike a New Note at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London – with that great comedian Sid Field.
That’s where they were when calling-up time came. Ernie went off with the Merchant Navy; Eric went down the mine, surely the only west-end comedian to become a Bevin Boy.
The war over, back they came to the halls, touring here, there and everywhere – and only just out of their teens! Then came a broadcast from Manchester in Variety Fanfare. And another. More followed. Finally they notched up that record of forty-five Fanfare appearances since the end of 1951.
“But you’d better not put that in,” advised Morecambe, “we’ve always depended on the fact that Ronnie Taylor, the producer, can’t count. If he reads that, he won’t book us again.
When I could get them talking seriously I got some pretty definite opinions out of Morecambe about this new TV series. “It’s like this,” he said, “No one, with the possible exception of Arthur Askey, has yet managed to bring off a TV series with any real success.”
“Now don’t imagine that we’re comparing ourselves with Askey – we don’t wear the same size in combs. But we’re prepared to look on TV as a completely different medium. We’re ready to change our approach and our styles as much as is wanted.”
It is my opinion that they will be a big success.
© TV Mirror Magazine 1954