Britain's Most Loved and Best Comedy Double Act

Eric and Ernie bring us joy

2007 Article

Doreen and Joan

Joan and Eric
In their Seventies heyday, Morecambe and Wise were the kings of Christmas telly - pulling in 30million viewers for their festive specials.

It is a crown many would argue they have never lost.

Reruns of Morecambe and Wise classics - on again this Christmas - have become as much a part of the festive period as turkey and the Queen's speech.

So just what is the secret behind their astonishingly enduring popularity?

The comics' widows, Joan Morecambe and Doreen Wise, have a pretty good idea. "I think the reason they keep bringing them back is because there is nothing else worth watching," Doreen announces bluntly.

"They offered something the whole family could enjoy. Comics nowadays are so crude and vulgar. You have to watch old reruns of Rising Damp to get a laugh."

Joan adds: "There is nothing of that type, nothing of their calibre any more. People seem to think they have to go further and further to get a laugh."

Indeed, Morecambe and Wise's cosy comedy seems to belong to a more innocent time when there did not seem anything strange about two blokes sharing a bed or ending their show every week by skipping off stage singing Bring Me Sunshine.

The two women insist that Eric, who died in 1984 and Ernie, who passed away in 1999, would have been delighted that their sketches are still enjoyed by millions around the world.

Joan says: "They would have loved that their memory has continued, and you can't see it stopping. "


"Every year goes by and you think, 'Surely people can't still be interested in Morecambe and Wise?' and every year they are. I still get mail from children who say they love them, which is great. But I suppose if something is funny, it is funny. With Eric and Ernie, people didn't just like them, they loved them."

From the fondness with which Joan and Doreen speak of their late husbands, it is obvious they still miss them terribly.

Eric died aged 58 after collapsing in the wings of a Gloucestershire theatre with his third heart attack.

He had just given seven curtain calls and his final words to the audience were: "That's your lot."

Joan admits: "It has been 23 years but I still miss Eric terribly. There is no replacement and I have never wanted anyone else."

"I just feel that Eric was cheated of so many years because he died so young and suffered such a lot with his health. He always had this tension, this fear that he was going to let the show down because of his health."

Ernie, by contrast, was more laid back, according to wife Doreen.

Always regarded as the straight man of the duo, he too died of a heart attack aged 73 after suffering two strokes in the years prior to his death.

Doreen says: "Ernie didn't mind being seen as the straight man - he always said he had to learn everyone else's lines in case they forgot."

Joan adds: "Ernie wasn't a straight man in the conventional sense.

"A lot of the humour was about Eric bouncing jokes off Ernie and relied on him being funny. But Ernie was more easy-going, Eric was highly-strung."

© The Sun 2007
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