I’m really a song and dance man

By the time Ernest Wiseman was seven, he was joining his dad on stage at working men's clubs in his hometown of Leeds, as Carson and Kid.

When Ernie first ran into another young northern wannabe performer Eric Bartholomew at a local talent show, the pair became firm friends.

That was in 1940. Over the next 44 years, the duo would transform comedy history not as Bartholomew and Wiseman, but as Morecambe and Wise.

After serving in the Navy during the Second World War, Ernie and Eric began working again on what had been a burgeoning double act as youngsters.

It was a slow rise to the top. The comedy partnership’s first stab at TV in the Fifties flopped dramatically. One critic’s verdict was cruel: “Definition of the week – TV Set: The box they buried Morecambe and Wise in.”

But the duo were not finished. In the 1970s they returned to TV in triumph.
Eric was renowned for his enormous comic charisma. In contrast, Ernie was usually seen as the straight man. But Ernie had considerable comic gifts too.

“As far as the show goes I think you could say that Eric’s definitely the end product and I sort of project him,” he reflected in an interview in 1979.

“But we’re more like Laurel and Hardy now... I mean both funny men, rather than Abbott and Costello, where one was a definite comedian.”

Just as Stan Laurel had done when his dear pal Ollie died, Ernie did not perform again in public after Eric’s sudden death in 1984.

After Ernie died, his widow Doreen said he’d been unaware just how much he’d been loved by fans. But as one half of one of the greatest comedy partnerships of all time, Ernie, teased by Eric for his “wig” – it was his own hair – and supposedly “short fat hairy legs” will always be fondly remembered.