Morecambe and Wise

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Morecambe and Wise as Holmes & Watson

Morecambe and Wise [1] are one of the best known of all British Comedic Double acts of the 20th Century. During the 1970s and the 1980s their shows achieved viewing figures that were the envy of other broadcasters and their Specials were eagerly anticipated as the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day. [2]

Lately there has been a re-evaluation of their contribution, with the rumours circulating after the death in 1999 of Ernie Wise of his enduring relationship with Eric Morecambe [3]. This has led some literary and media academics to re-interpret their work, and in a spate of recent papers, there has been an increasing trend to view their on-screen banter as a ‘jocular homo-erotic manifestation of something much deeper”. [4]

In retrospect, and viewed in this light, much of their work can clearly be construed to have dubious meanings: Eric would always refer to Ernie as the one with ‘short fat hairy legs’; privately Ernie would confide that he was the butt of Eric’s jokes “…and other things”. The comedy record made in the 1960’s “Bum oooh! Ya ta ta!” , seemed an innocent enough title at the time, but such a record would now be seen for exactly what it is, a thinly veiled musical analogy in which four men circulating their musical parts within the same passage, echoing what is called in some circles a ‘Daisy Chain’. [5]

A pervasive and recurring ‘untold’ joke, which appears throughout their TV work, is a reference to “two old men sitting in deck chairs”. In fact this joke was often told to live audiences, and is very simple but illuminating: “Nice Out” says the first man. “Think I’ll get mine out” says the second. Eddie Braben (their script writer) is quoted as saying that such veiled references on TV had a triple meaning [6]. On the surface this is a simple ritornello device, used to keep audiences amused and guessing; for those who had attended live shows, this was an ‘in-joke’ meant as a reward; however, the two of them used it at a much deeper level to cement their relationship, as it was clear that both of them manifested such exhibitionist tendencies in private, and this was put in for their own amusement. [4]

In many of their comedy sketches, there is a clear indication that Eric and Ernie live together, and that the relationship is dominated by Eric, and Ernie is the one who has feminine tendencies. Clearly those scenes, which show them in bed together, cannot now be seen as innocent, nor can the most famous of their comedy sketches, the ‘morning after’ sketch where they are preparing breakfast to the sounds of David Rose’s “The Stripper”. During this sketch a number of different elements are intensely suggestive: for example the way that Eric takes a sausage from Ernie, and the manner in which Ernie holds Eric’s chopper. [7]

Apparently when Eric died in 1984 , Ernie was inconsolable. [7]


  1. Official website at
  2. <
  3. for a full analysis of this topic see Jane Morgan's Blog at
  4. 4.0 4.1 Arndale, C. , 2001, "Bringing us Sunshine: Re-evaluating a cultural phenomenon". Journal of Interpretive and Cultural History, Vol 3 No 2, pp 23-31
  5. Vendura, D., (2006), "Homoerotic musical references in well-known popular songs", Musical Symbolisim and Semiotics , Vol 1 no, 1, pp 30-35
  6. Braben, E. , 1994, quoted in "Writing a Legend" , article the Guardian Newspaper , 24th May 1994.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Holberg, D., Mandinka, R and Graham J., (2004) , "A radical interpretaion of some media icons", the , Journal of Creative Counselling and Psychiatry, vol 34, no 3, pp 18-40.