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What's the secret to Morecambe & Wise's staying power?

With a new tribute on the West End and a BBC1 documentary, Eric and Ernie rival comedy duos Laurel and Hardy or the Marx Brothers for their afterlife. Why do they continue to inspire?

Morecambe & Wise came out of live theatre; the comedians learned their craft on the variety and music-hall circuit in the 1940s and 50s. And though both men died long ago, they seem to have a hard time staying away from it. Eric and Little Ern, which opened in the West End last week, is the third hit drama in little more than a decade to recreate and annotate some of the duo's best-known sketches.

This theatrical afterlife began in 2001 with The Play What I Wrote – devised by Hamish McColl, Sean Foley and Eddie Braben – which was such a success in London that it transferred to Broadway. (Perhaps over optimistically, as Eric and Ernie, to their regret,
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Eric and Little Ern – review

Vaudeville, London

It's hard not to warm to the sweet silliness of Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens's tribute to Morecambe and Wise

"Where would you be without me?" asks Eric Morecambe. "Be a comedian," replies Ernie Wise. It's an exchange that gets to the heart of one of British comedy's greatest partnerships, Morecambe and Wise, who kept British TV audiences chortling and for three decades brought a little sunshine to their lives. Twenty-eight million people tuned into their 1977 Christmas special to watch them play out a relationship which was as long and intricate as any marriage. No modern comic would have such reach or longevity.

Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens's two-hander is not the first stage show to try to recapture the amiable genius of the duo, which was amply celebrated in the surreal whimsy of Sean Foley and Hamish McColl's The Play What I Wrote. But
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We created the hope of a better Britain. But what remains of the Olympic magic?

A year ago, the man who penned the script to the opening ceremony wrote euphorically in the Observer about the spirit of the Games. We should not despair, he says, if that spirit has come up against harsh reality

I'm ridiculously proud of being a writer. When strangers ask me what my job is, I say "writer", very much in the manner of Matt Damon saying "Texas Ranger" in True Grit. They then inevitably spoil my moment with: "Written anything I might have read?" And I'm left to mutter: "I'll get my coat", very much in the manner of Mark Williams's socially gauche Brummie in The Fast Show.

This past 12 months, it's been different. For the last year, I've been able to answer with a modest smile: "Actually, I was the writer for the 2012 London Olympic Games opening ceremony." I use the full title just to make it last,
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Lena Dunham lashes out against porn

The Girls creator hits back at a porn parody of her comedy show, Doug Stanhope wades into the Oklahoma God debate, and Dutch TV is slammed for satirising the Woolwich murder

This week's comedy news

In a week when Jerry Lewis told the world that female comedy "bothers [him]", two tales of fightback – of a sort. Girls creator Lena Dunham has criticised news of a pornographic parody movie of her hit HBO comedy. "Most TV shows have been turned into gross and weird porn parodies," the Splitsider website tells us, but Dunham isn't prepared to shrug this one off. "Girls is, at its core, a feminist action while [the XXX film's producer] Hustler is a company that markets and monetises a male's idea of female sexuality," wrote Dunham. And also, "a big reason I engage in (simulated) on-screen sex [in Girls] is to counteract a skewed idea of that act created by the proliferation of porn."

Meanwhile,
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Lena Dunham lashes out against porn

The Girls creator hits back at a porn parody of her comedy show, Doug Stanhope wades into the Oklahoma God debate, and Dutch TV is slammed for satirising the Woolwich murder

This week's comedy news

In a week when Jerry Lewis told the world that female comedy "bothers [him]", two tales of fightback – of a sort. Girls creator Lena Dunham has criticised news of a pornographic parody movie of her hit HBO comedy. "Most TV shows have been turned into gross and weird porn parodies," the Splitsider website tells us, but Dunham isn't prepared to shrug this one off. "Girls is, at its core, a feminist action while [the XXX film's producer] Hustler is a company that markets and monetises a male's idea of female sexuality," wrote Dunham. And also, "a big reason I engage in (simulated) on-screen sex [in Girls] is to counteract a skewed idea of that act created by the proliferation of porn."

Meanwhile,
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Letter: Eddie Braben on the unveiling of a seaside statue with a difference

Eddie Braben was on the prom in July 1999 when the Queen unveiled a statue of local son Eric Morecambe in the Lancashire seaside town whose name he borrowed. It was a day of total warmth and affection and Braben caught the mood with the kind of precision that characterised his scripts for Eric and Ern. "You see statues to people on horseback with swords or rifles, people who killed people," he said. "Here's one being unveiled of a man who made people laugh. That to me is a wonderful thing to see."

ComedyComedyTelevisionDavid Ward

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Eddie Braben: friends and fellow comic writers pay tribute

David Baddiel among those praising screenwriter who 'played all the right notes, in the right order, all the time'

Friends and fellow comic writers paid tribute on Tuesday to Eddie Braben after his death at the age of 82.

His manager, Norma Farnes, who announced his death, said: "It was Billy Cotton Jr at the BBC who recognised the brilliance of Eddie's writing was the ideal marriage that would guarantee the success of Morecambe and Wise.

"Eddie was a very humble man, a very quiet man and a very private man. He had a lot of integrity, which is in short supply in this business.

"I have to say – and he would have disagreed with this – that writing came easy to him, even on bad days, when he was writing Christmas shows for Eric and Ernie and he was under great pressure."

Miranda Hart, who interviewed Braben for a BBC1 documentary
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How Eddie Braben saved Morecambe and Wise's careers

The comedy duo looked uncomfortable on television until Braben came on board. But how did he turn them into comedy legends?

In his memoirs The Book What I Wrote, Eddie Braben, who has died at the age of 82, reports a conversation with the Duke of Edinburgh at a showbiz event. When Braben mentioned that he wrote the scripts for Morecambe & Wise, the Queen's consort snorted: "I thought they just made it up."

Prince Philip's comment reflects a common confusion among comedy audiences – and some comedians do indeed write or ad-lib their own stuff – but, with Braben and Morecambe & Wise, it was more the other way round: in a crucial sense, he made them up.

In 1968, Braben, a Liverpudlian who had become a gag writer for acts including Ken Dodd, was approached by the BBC to take over as lead writer on the Morecambe & Wise Show, which had been poached from ITV.
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Eddie Braben obituary

Scriptwriter behind the Morecambe and Wise television shows

The scriptwriter Eddie Braben, who has died aged 82, was best known for his outstanding 14-year association with the television comedians Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. It was thanks to him that Wise started talking about the plays "what he had wrote – sometimes 26 in one day". Celebrities infrom other spheres were ready and eager to take part, especially in the Morecambe and Wise Christmas specials, which became part of British life in the period.

It was Braben who scripted Glenda Jackson to appear in "Ern's" Antony and Cleopatra and gave her the grandly uttered line: "All men are fools, and what makes them so is having beauty like what I have got." André Previn was the long-suffering conductor of Morecambe's account of the Grieg Piano Concerto, "the right notes – though not necessarily in the right order", and Yehudi Menuhin was told he could
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Eddie Braben was Morecambe and Wise's secret weapon

The Thick of It, Veep and Peep Show writer Simon Blackwell on how the beautiful rhythms of Braben's jokes made him the comedy writer's comedy writer

Eddie Braben's work for Morecambe and Wise ranks among the best and funniest of any British comic writing because in many ways it defines it. Braben's rhythms are the quintessential rhythms of British comedy – the comedy of bathos.

Eric and Ernie began their careers trying to imitate the smart cross-talk and rapid one-liners of Us double acts such as Abbott and Costello. This is still evident in much of their 1960s work, scripted by Dick Hills and Sid Green. But it's Braben's tumbling lines, with Eric puncturing the pomposity of Ernie, or their celebrity guests, that we think of when we recall probably the most-loved comedians of the last 50 years.

When Eric, as the Duke of Wellington, lies on a bed with Vanessa Redgrave
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Eddie Braben, Morecambe and Wise writer, dies aged 82

Legendary comic writer Eddie Braben, who worked with acts such as Morecambe and Wise, Ken Dodd and Ronnie Corbett, has died aged 82.

Braben's manager Norma Farnes confirmed that the writer had died this morning (May 21).

In a statement, Farnes said: "The writer Eddie Braben, the third man behind the success of Morecambe and Wise, died this morning at the age of 82 after a short illness.

"It was Billy Cotton Jnr at the BBC who recognised the brilliance of Eddie's writing was the ideal marriage that would guarantee the success of Morecambe and Wise.

"He is survived by his loving wife Dee, three children and six grandchildren."

Braben started working with Morecambe and Wise in 1969 and was regarded as a key member of their writing team and one of the most gifted comic talents of his era.

In recent years, the writer has revealed how he suffered from stress and nerves
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Morecambe and Wise writer Eddie Braben dies

Eddie Braben, the comedy writer best known for his work on the Morecambe and Wise show, has died after a short illness, aged 82.

Braben, who also wrote material for BBC radio comedy show Round the Horne, Ken Dodd, David Frost and Ronnie Corbett, died on Tuesday morning, his manager Norma Farnes announced.

"The writer Eddie Braben, the third man behind the success of Morecambe and Wise, died this morning at the age of 82 after a short illness," Farnes said.

"It was Billy Cotton Jr at the BBC who recognised the brilliance of Eddie's writing was the ideal marriage that would guarantee the success of Morecambe and Wise.

"He is survived by his loving wife Dee, three children and six grandchildren."
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My Hero – TV review

Miranda shows plenty of Hart in her homage to Eric Morecambe, but do we really need to see her supporting his football team?

Miranda Hart is at the seaside with Eric Morecambe. She rests her head against his shoulder, rather sweetly. Not the real Eric Morecambe, of course – that would be unhygienic – but the statue on the seafront of the town that gave him his first home and last name. This is My Hero (BBC1), and he's hers.

Suddenly it's all about her, though. We're in her childhood, and her early comedy career, with her sister. Which is interesting, but what's that got to do with Eric? Oh, I see, he was the man who inspired her to become a comedian; he was her touchstone through her difficult entry into comedy, Eric and Ernie got her through difficult times in her 20s.

They had similarly bad experiences on the way
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TV highlights 29/03/2013

  • The Guardian - TV News
The Mystery Of Mary Magdalene | Live Football League | Nile Rodgers: The Hitmaker | My Hero: Miranda Hart On Eric Morecambe | Ancient Egypt: Life And Death In The Valley Of The Kings | Revolution | The Last Leg | Corleone

The Mystery Of Mary Magdalene

12noon, BBC1

Whether one regards the Bible as the dictation of God, or a collection of old fishermen's yarns which have got out of hand, Mary Magdalene is a crucial character: a witness to both the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Melvyn Bragg marks Good Friday by trying to figure out who Mary Magdalene was, and reflecting on her portrayal across the centuries. Bragg has himself made a contribution to her mythology; he wrote the screenplay for the film of Jesus Christ Superstar. Andrew Mueller

Live Football League

5pm, Sky Sports 1

Despite some erratic performances recently, Cardiff City are on the verge of promotion to the Premier League,
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John Ammonds obituary

BBC producer and director with a key role in the success of Morecambe and Wise

John Ammonds, who has died aged 88, was one of British television's finest producer/directors specialising in the field of light entertainment. He shaped countless peak-time shows during the so-called "golden age" of TV; and helped Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise and many other major stars reach the summit of their small-screen careers, setting a standard of quality in terms both of content and form that continues to command respect.

Among his distinctive contributions to the success of the Morecambe and Wise show was the droll little dance with which Eric and Ernie ended each performance (Ammonds got the idea from seeing Groucho Marx do something similar in the 1932 film comedy Horse Feathers), the deployment of star guests as unlikely comic stooges, and Eric's use of the close-up to make conspiratorial remarks to the viewers (a
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UK Comic Actor Eric Sykes Dies At 89

UK Comic Actor Eric Sykes Dies At 89
London — Eric Sykes, the widely-acclaimed British comedy actor and writer, died Wednesday. He was 89.

Sykes was one of the most popular comic actors of his generation, appearing in shows in London's West End into his 80s. He began his career writing scripts for BBC shows, co-writing 24 episodes of the classic radio comedy "The Goon Show" with the late Spike Milligan.

He appeared in the "Sykes and a" sitcom about a brother and sister living together in west London, which ran in the 1960s and 1970s. He went on to write and act in theater shows and movies, including an appearance in "The Others" starring Nicole Kidman and in the Harry Potter film "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Sykes also wrote scripts for Peter Sellers and other major British actors.

Manager Norma Farnes said that Sykes died following a brief illness and was with his family when he passed away,
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Eric Sykes dies aged 89

Comedy writer and actor who starred in 70s sitcom Sykes and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has died after a short illness

From writing a film where the only word uttered is "rhubarb" to creating one of TV's most popular sitcom partnerships, Eric Sykes – who died on Wednesday aged 89 – will be remembered as one of Britain's finest comedy actors and writers.

Tributes came in thick and fast for a man who was seldom off radios, stages or screens in a career spanning 60 years that will spark different memories for different generations.

Some will know him best for writing and directing the silly slapstick film The Plank while others will remember his sitcom partnership with Hattie Jacques, who played his perpetually exasperated sister.

More recently, in the face of near total deafness and blindness, Sykes appeared in the fourth Harry Potter film and, in 2007, the British comedy Son of Rambow.
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Eric Sykes dies aged 89

Comedy writer and actor who starred in 70s sitcom Sykes and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has died after a short illness

From writing a film where the only word uttered is "rhubarb" to creating one of TV's most popular sitcom partnerships, Eric Sykes – who died on Wednesday aged 89 – will be remembered as one of Britain's finest comedy actors and writers.

Tributes came in thick and fast for a man who was seldom off radios, stages or screens in a career spanning 60 years that will spark different memories for different generations.

Some will know him best for writing and directing the silly slapstick film The Plank while others will remember his sitcom partnership with Hattie Jacques, who played his perpetually exasperated sister.

More recently, in the face of near total deafness and blindness, Sykes appeared in the fourth Harry Potter film and, in 2007, the British comedy Son of Rambow.
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Has the curse of ITV struck again?

Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley are the latest stars whose ratings flop after switching from the BBC

Daybreak still watched by fewer viewers than GMTV

In most circumstances, any broadcaster would be happy to be added to a list that includes some of the medium's biggest names: Morecambe & Wise, Michael Parkinson, Esther Rantzen, The Goodies and Desmond Lynam. For Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley, however, it's a roll call to avoid, consisting as it does of BBC stars who have failed to repeat the same success when moving to commercial television. The former co-hosts of the licence fee-funded The One Show qualify through the poor reviews and ratings for their advertising-supported breakfast show Daybreak.

So, as when a number of aeroplanes hit the sea off the same coast or several members of a famous family die young, there is now inevitably talk of a "curse of ITV", an idea that
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