Book review: The Book What I Wrote

Eric, Ernie and Me, by Eddie Braben

Morecambe and Wise was a double act with three members: Eric, Ern and Eddie Braben.

Not that he ever emerged from behind his typewriter to appear with them. Nor, indeed, was he their only writer, as the Sid Green and Dick Hills partnership created as many, if not more, scripts.

But no one understood their interdependence and banter as well as Eddie – an instinctive insight he used to create the layered on-screen relationship so familiar today. It was Eddie who wrote their acclaimed BBC series, including those phenomenally successful Christmas specials that attracted ratings inconceivable today.

And now he’s added to his oeuvre with this memoir, The Book What I Wrote. It’s by no means a definite work of record chronicling his time with Eric and Ern with documentary precision. For that, you can do no better than Graham McCann’s superlative account.

Rather, this is a loose collection of warm memories, both personal and professional, mixed with jokes and fragments of scripts from the time - and which have occurred to him since.

Braben didn’t so much write good comedy, as good humour. Yes, there may have been puns and punchlines, but it was what lay between that so defined Morecambe and Wise. That same mood pervades this book, with a lightness of touch, a generosity of spirit, a flair for the language and affectionate joshing filling every page.

So you get impressions of his working-class roots in Liverpool market and of the rural Welsh idyll where he lives today entirely from anecdotal evidence. Similarly, his time with Morecambe and Wise – and of Ken Dodd before them – is scarce on detail but big on atmosphere.

When he recounts the guest star who showed up drunk to every rehearsal, he demurely refuses to name them; and when a journalist probes him about any tension in the magical M&W relationship, he simply winds her up. No malice here.

Of course, Eric and Ern did disagree with each other – and with him – and Braben self-effacingly conjures up the lot of the comedy writer perfectly; expectantly awaiting the indisputable verdict on the script that had sounded so funny in his head after he had presented it to the stars for the first time.

Braben supposedly never liked his chosen profession much; likening comedy writing to “putting your brain through a mincing machine”. And the pressures of creating shows of the profile of the Christmas specials left him mentally exhausted. The toil never shows, neither in his scripts nor this book – which barely hints at the problems he had.

His curse, of course, is that he was so damn good at it. And this chatty book is as warm and well-written as you expect. Braben clearly enjoys the simpler times of the past, but that never stopped his work appealing to all, even today. Maybe it even helped.

Though light of touch, this book is surprisingly revealing about the character of the man behind this most endearing of double acts. As Eric would have said: “There’s no answer to that.”


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Published: 22 Sep 2006

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