When Two Quarters Make A Whole
The trick is to stop them talking about cricket. Then anyone can interview Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. It’s a trick all right. About as easy as producing an elephant from a top hat.
Wise’s wife Doreen gave up long ago. “You know what men are,” she said, “just like boys really. Joan Morecambe and I usually along when they play cricket, just to see they don’t get into any trouble.”
“What we never understand is why Eric and Ernie never seem to get the other lot out. No matter who the other lot are.”
It was a woman’s comment on a man’s game, and Morecambe and Wise treated the comment with massive dignity.
They said tersely: “Anyway, if it were not for cricket when would we find time to knit our socks?”
This posed a fascinating which I did not propose to answer. So I tried, in my simplicity, to change the subject from cricket.
“What,” I asked, “about this new television series?” My manoeuvre failed.
Morecambe, the one who wears the glasses, the one who thinks for both, the one who takes the wide world as his potato and carries a chip on his shoulder, undertook the reply. It was strictly about cricket.
“What,” he said, “do you think about Hampshire?”
I wasn’t thinking about Hampshire. After all, it was October. There was beginning to be a nip in the air – and what, in any event, was Hampshire to do with the new television series?
“Hampshire!” exploded Wise. He comes from Yorkshire (deposed county cricket champions). Wise is normally the cheerful partner. He looks like a multi-coloured ball.
If there were a chip on his shoulder he would toss it up in the air and catch it in his mouth. But “Hampshire” seemed written on his heart.
Then Morecambe took up the theme again. He’s a Lancashire lad.
“Hampshire,” he said, “Hampshire, champions! Led by a chap with a name like Ingleby-Mackenzie!”
“What sort of name is that for a cricketer in Hampshire?”
I had tact enough not to mention A.C. Maclaren of England or even R.C. Robertson-Glasgow of Somerset. I simply agreed the Hampshire situation seemed terrible and pressed my point about the new television series.
“Ah yes,” bubbled Wise. “I’ve got hundred of new ideas for that. And Morecambe has one or two. He gets so angry if he doesn’t get a line now and again.”
Morecambe said bluntly: “We’ve got an absolutely new idea for a two man show. Wise is going to have a quarter. I’m going to have a quarter. Only I can have in my quarter just what he wants me to have.”
And he looked at me through his glasses as though I was supposed to understand.
“A quarter and a quarter make a half.” I said.
“He’s bright” said Wise. “Sharp.” And he grabbed me by the shoulders and waltzed me round the room humming an unidentifiable tune which probably started life as a drinking song in some obscure cricket club in the wilds of Yorkshire.
“The other half?” I asked. “What about the other half?”
“Yes, well,” said Morecambe. “Well the other half, ah yes. Tell me, do you thin there is a Colosseum in Karatchi? Or a New Dominion Theatre in New Delhi? Or a Belle Vue in Bombay?”
He had that look in his glasses again. Weekly, very weekly now, I asked “Why?”
“It’s obvious,” said Wise, “The MCC are touring India and Pakistan this winter. We wondered if we could go along on a sort of working holiday. Playing the provinces in India.”
“We did it during the last tour of Australia.”
Morecambe and Wise have played most of the important theatres in Britain and they are Royal Command Variety Show choices.
Apart from all this – and cricket – they like sitting in front of the fire, with their families. Morecambe in Herpenden. Wise in Peterborough.
“Seriously,” I said to the pair for the last time,” what about this week’s show?”
“The man wants seriousness. That’s not in our contract.” roared Wise. “All right. Seriously, there will be an opening, an ending and a middle bit in the middle.”
“We hope to be funny when we come on. And when we go off. And in the bit in the middle. Honestly, all we are going to do is to try to be funny, just light entertainment with music.”
“I’m a trad man myself and Eric likes a bit of singing and we are both going to have the guest artist we like.”
“We have no theories about this and we don’t go in for situation comedy, so we can’t tell you what the situations will be. Just so long as everyone is standing at the end.”
“Cheering,” said Morecambe, “not walking.”
© TV Times 1961