We Interview Eddie Braben
InterviewEddie Braben is synonymous with Morecambe & Wise. His writing skills took their natural warmth and brought it out for everyone to see. His skill with words, matching them perfectly with Eric and Ern brought in the largest viewing figures ever, and made icons of Britain's best loved comedy duo.
In June 2007, we asked him for an interview and he very kindly agreed.
When you first saw Morecambe & Wise, we understand you didn’t like them, is this true?
I first saw when I was in my teens, so I suppose they were in their early twenties. I saw them at the Liverpool Empire, quite accidentally because I hadn’t gone to see them, nor had anybody else for that matter. It was a packed, enormous Liverpool Empire theatre and they had all gone to see the top of the bill, Lena Hall.
Before we got to Lena Hall, these two boy came on the stage and nobody knew them or heard of them, and they were painful. They were awful.
Many years later when I was working with them, I spoke about this and they said “yes we were”. They were learning and they were very very young. Every time they went on they learned something, they were building experience. Everything has to have a beginning, no matter how humble.
My first jokes were awful. I used to write five hundred a week but anyone can write five hundred awful jokes a week. You had to do that to learn experience and it was the same with Eric and Ernie.
You were working for Ken Dodd before Morecambe & Wise and he used to use a lot of jokes quickly, five hundred wouldn't go far.
I worked for Doddy for 15 years and the rate was something like eight per minute, they were fast.
That’s different from the style of Eric and Ern, they were more laid back in delivery.
Yes they were. But the way Doddy worked was very very quick. That was his style, and still is today.
When you first saw Morecambe & Wise, did you ever think they had a future, or that you would be part of it?
No. I never thought I’d see or hear of them again but they proved me wrong. They proved a lot of people wrong. Years later, maybe four or five, heard them on radio and they were far better. They were resilient and they were learning all the time. When I heard them, I though what a difference, because they had great radio voices. They came across very well on radio and then they moved on to television and the early days weren’t very good.
Was that Running Wild or the early ATV shows?
I never saw Running Wild. It was the ATV shows, written by Hills and Green.
What did you think about it?
Not a lot. I told them this when I met them for the first time at the invitation of Bill Cotton. He asked if I would like to write for Eric and Ernie and of course I said yes I would. I told him they were not really my style after 15 years with Doddy.
Was that the first time someone had approached you about doing something different than the Ken Dodd material?
No, I had a quite a few offers from television before then, but this was Eric and Ern. They were stars already thanks to Hills and Green. Credit were credit is due, they were stars.
I was asked to go and meet them in two days time and I agreed.
I went into Bill’s office and the meeting lasted for about three hours. I think it took about ten minutes though for me to realise that something magical had happened between the three of us. What it was I don’t know, but there was something there, something inexplicable.
Did they recognise it as well?
Yes. The meeting continued and I watched the two of them, the way they spoke and the way they behaved and the way they were with one another. I knew then what was missing from the Eric and Ernie I had watched on television.
Were you nervous at that first meeting?
No not really. I had been with Doddy for 15 years and worked with the big stars, so it didn’t really effect me.
Were you looking for something, something that you could maybe use during the meeting?
Well I’m a writer so I’m always looking for things all the time, and watching and listening. What I see and what I hear is what I write about. Once something comes into my imagination, one thing triggers off another.
It must have been a big difference writing for them rather than Ken Dodd.
It wasn’t really. You would have thought so on the face of it but it was something natural, something that was fated to happen.
Did you see it as a gamble moving to Morecambe & Wise?
No. I never thought of it that way. I was there with these two men in Bill Cotton’s office and I saw what was missing; it was warmth.
There was a big difference in the way you wrote for them compared to Hills & Green.
They did ask me about that and I agreed. What was missing was the genuine and honest affection that they had for one another, but we never saw this on television. I wanted to bring that out.
Were you worried at all that you were going to change what was then a successful format?
Yes. The outcome of that meeting was for me to go away and write something that I thought was right for Eric and Ernie. I did say to them at the time that it wouldn’t be like anything they’ve done before. It would be the way I see them.
I went home and I had to be back there in seven days time with something. That was probably the most frantic weeks writing I have ever done in my life.
I went back the following week with what must have been twenty foolscap pages. It was the complete show the way that I saw it.
There was an opening, a couple of quickies, and a sketch that took place in the flat.
They read it, and they laughed, and they got to the end and said they couldn’t do it.
Well they said they hadn’t done anything like it before, they had never worked like that before or used words like that before.
Bill cotton said he thought they were wrong, but I kept quiet – you don’t argue with the comedians. Bill said let’s give it a try on BBC2; there’s only about 37 people watching BBC2 so it wouldn’t do any harm.
They did it on BBC2 and we all know what happened after that.
© morecambeandwise.com 2007