Entertainment & Arts

Eddie Braben, Morecambe and Wise writer, dies at 82

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Media captionEddie Braben was a big influence on British television, as Lizo Mzimba reports

Eddie Braben, the writer behind comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, has died at 82.

He died on Tuesday morning after a short illness, his manager Norma Farnes confirmed.

He was a key member of their team, and was credited with contributing to their huge success by introducing comic elements of their off-stage relationship into their act.

Braben is also famed for writing for comedy greats such as David Frost, Ronnie Corbett and Ken Dodd.

He started writing with Morecambe and Wise in 1969, when he was invited to work for the BBC by the head of BBC TV light entertainment, Bill Cotton.

Farnes said that Cotton "recognised the brilliance of Eddie's writing was the ideal marriage that would guarantee the success of Morecambe and Wise".

Image caption Braben said he was not a fan of Morecambe and Wise when he first saw them as a teenager

Sir Bruce Forsyth called him the "third man of the comedy", adding: "I wish I could have been doing the kind of shows he had written.

"His jokes and style of writing will be sorely missed in the business," he added.

Comedians have been paying their respects on Twitter including Jack Dee who tweeted: "What a great and lasting contribution Eddie Braben made to British comedy."

David Baddiel called him a "man who, comically, played all the right notes, in the right order, all the time," on his Twitter feed.

Braben became a full-time comedy writer in the 1950s, and produced scripts for many of the comedians of the time, including fellow Liverpudlian Dodd.

He worked with Dodd for nearly 15 years before being being lured to work at the BBC.

His first experience of Morecambe and Wise was as a teenager when he saw them perform at the Liverpool Empire theatre where they were supporting Lena Hall.

"I wasn't a fan when I first saw them," he told the BBC in 2004. "I thought they were too American: Ernie was abrasive and Eric was a bit silly."

Image caption Morecambe and Wise have been hailed for their light entertainment shows and comedy

Speaking to comedian Miranda Hart in March this year, Braben remembered the anxiety of working with the comedy duo at the height of their success.

"The Morecambe and Wise Show became more important than Christmas," he said.

"The real pressure came when I was sat in front of that typewriter with all those blank pages and there was a deadline and there was nothing happening. That's when you realised there were 20 million or 25 million people looking over your shoulder - all saying make me laugh."

Although he kept the burden to himself, Braben admitted that he did "pay a price with health".

Braben, who was born in Liverpool in 1930, sold his first joke to Charlie Chester for two shillings and six pence.

He was a big fan of Arthur Askey, who rose to stardom in the first regular radio comedy series, BBC's Band Waggon.

"As a small boy I stood mesmerised standing in front of that small box called the wireless," said Braben, whose first aim was to be on the radio.

It was not until the mid 70s that he starred in his first radio comedies, including The Show with Ten Legs in which he starred alongside Dad's Army actor Bill Pertwee.

In 2001, Braben collaborated with Hamish McColl and Sean Foley on the Olivier award-winning The Play What I Wrote, a tribute to the relationship between Morecambe, Wise and Braben.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring actor Toby Jones, it opened at the Liverpool Playhouse Theatre before transferring to London's West End.

Braben is survived by his wife Dee, three children and six grandchildren.

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