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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