We Interview Eddie Braben - page 2
At that point, after you did the first show, did you know you would be given the others?
No. I was given one show to see what happened and luckily it worked. After that they asked me to do the rest.
Were you there for the recording of that first show?
Did you feel it was going well during the recording?
I’ve no idea. I was outside in the corridor. This show was so important. It was Eric’s first television since his heart attack.
In the studio that night they were probably four or five hundred people. You could feel the tension, you could really feel it. It was their first time back after a long layoff and everybody was thinking was it going to work with the new writer. In fact one lady said “I hear Eric hasn’t been well; he’s got a new writer!”
Everyone wanted to know, was it going to work. Well they got the answer that night.
I heard the laughter through the doors and pluck up the courage to go inside the studio. I stood there opened mouthed… I was so overjoyed that it had worked.
That first episode, the first line had to be good, and it was. Eric came out, looked at his heart and said “Keep going you fool”. Did you write that or was it an adlib?
No, that’s a very old joke. It was a very old joke that was right for the occasion. Walking on and looking at his chest… even Doddy used to do that joke. Where he got it from I don’t know.
It was so right for the occasion. What it did was it relaxed the audience because Eric laughed at his own setback. It did the trick opened the way for the rest of the show. It was a very memorable occasion.
Did you watch the show on television later?
I remember watching it on BBC1 later because it was the one with Peter Cushing on. I remember Peter because he was such a lovely lovely man. What cemented our friendship was that we had the same, rather unusual hobby. We both collected cigarette cards and spent many an hour talking about them.
When you wrote the show, did you know the guest would be Peter Cushing?
I always knew before hand who the guest was going to be, and that was a big help.
So you could tailor the show, the gags and the play for each guest?
Yes. There was only one particular line I remember from the first show and that was during the King Arthur play. Peter was King Arthur, Ernie was Merlin and Eric was Lancelot.
Eric came in and Peter said “What news of Carlisle?”, Eric replied “When I left they were losing 2-1”
And why that should stay with me I really don’t know. Saying “What news of Luton” wouldn’t have meant anything, but Carlisle was right because it was historical. When you write a line like that, you think… “What news of….”, which place… which place.. not Luton, not Peterborough.. not Birkenhead… Carlise…. Carlisle was right because of the historical connotations. There is a lot of though goes into a funny line.
A joke is a small play. It’s got a beginning, it’s got a middle and it’s got an end. “What news…”, that’s the beginning. “What news…”, yes.. go on… what news… “of Carlisle…” now there’s the middle bit. The end bit of course is “When I left they were losing 2-1.”. So each joke is a very small play.
In your book ‘The Book What I Wrote’ you describe how Eric and Ern worked for twenty minutes on just one line.. trying to make it better and better. The amount of effort is incredible, but it makes the joke.
Oh yes. The line was a very, very difficult line. Normally I don’t use very wordy lines, I like to stick to short one-liners. Eric was saying something about Ernie’s hair, and Ernie replies saying it was not a wig. Eric then had to say, “How is it then, that sometimes it moves up and down like badly fitted lino in a draughty kitchen.”
Now that was a very, very difficult line and he did have to work very hard on that to get it absolutely right. It was the pauses Eric added that made that joke, just the right length in the right places. You can’t write pauses.
Saying that, one of the things they read and found difficult was something I wrote with long pauses. I am a great believer in very long pauses in some situations. For example there was a sketch which took place in the garden on a summer afternoon. Now music plays a great part in my life and music plays a great part in entertainment.
I had this Delius going round in my head, First Cuckoo In Spring, and you just have to listen to this music and you are there. When that music plays, you almost feel the sun on your back. I thought I’d do a sketch about a summer afternoon in the garden with this music playing. Ernie was sitting in the garden with the radio on and Delius playing. It was absolutely perfect. He was half asleep in the chair with his shorts on and Eric walked on wearing the shorts and the obligatory suspenders. He stood for a moment.
Remember they were long pauses between these lines…
Now when they saw this on paper they couldn’t see it working. I said try with the music playing, which they did and that’s the way it went. Remember the long pauses.
Eric: Who’s it by?
Ern: Delius, that’s the mans name…
Eric: Oh……… was he British?
Eric: Was he British?
Ern: Born in Scarborough.
Ern: Oh! I could have sworn he was British…
© morecambeandwise.com 2007