We're Giving TV A Rest
Morecambe and Wise, television’s funniest cross-talk comics, have decided to give TV a rest. They are walking out on the small screen this winter.
After a 25-year partnership, TV sent them to the top of the bill – their TV series won them recognition from the ITV Producers Guild as Best Entertainers of 1963.
Everyone expected the series to return this season but Messrs. M&W have decided otherwise.
Instead they have signed with the Rank Organisation for their first film “Intelligence Men”.
Associated Television wanted them back after Christmas but the comics announced “We want to be off for at least a year.”
Their summer has been spent at Great Yarmouth where they have been playing twice nightly on the wellington pier – to capacity audiences.
For television has made the 38-year old comedians the hottest box-office proposition in the country.
“And that’s why we’re not going back yet.” Said Eric Morecambe (the one with the glasses). “We are giving it a rest while they still like us. We’re not fools.”
Ernie Wise (the one with the short, fat hairy legs) put it like this; “We don’t want to do too much. Right now, we’re at the peak, but you’ve got to make it last as long as you can. You can’t last for ever and we haven’t always been so lucky on TV.”
“You know what happened to us that other time,” said Morecambe, “It was a national disaster.”
“It was when Ronnie Waldman was Head of BBC-TV Light Entertainment. He thought we were great,” said Wise.
“Unfortunately, he was the only one. The critics slayed us. Waldman wanted to keep us going but we quit.”
It was agent Billy Marsh of the Bernard Delfont office who got them on TV again.
That was in 1961. Since then, they have done four TV series of forty-eight shows, plus two Palladium appearances.
Both admit they owe much of their TV success to the scriptwriting team of Sid Green and Dick Hills.
Sometimes the writers get an original base idea, sometimes it is the comics. Either way it is the job of Sid and Dick to write the lines.
“We’ve been called ad-lib comics,” said Wise, “It isn’t really that. It’s just that we rehearse Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And when we put the show together on Saturday we still don’t know it that well.”
Morecambe added; “Yes, those pauses... we’re really thinking of what we are supposed to say next. The programme is often quite different from rehearsals – we’ve forgotten the script.”
In their summer show the M&W brand of comedy is pretty basic. At one point a straight man pretends he is a late arriving member of the audience.
“My seat’s at the back.” Says he. Standing in the stalls.
“So’s mine.” Quips Morecambe from the stage.
That’s the kind of comedy the holidaymakers expect in a summer show, the pair explained.
“We wouldn’t do this sort of stuff on TV.” Said Wise.
“Wouldn’t we?” said Morecambe, “Oh, I don’t know...”
Maybe after sixteen weeks on wellington pier, its just as well they aren’t returning to TV just yet...
© Daily Mirror 1964