The Last of the Greats has Gone

Eric Sykes, 1923-2012

Today is a very sad day for British Comedy. One of the all-time greats, Eric Sykes, has passed away at the age of 89, after a very good, very funny innings. His TV sitcoms Sykes and a… and Sykes ran for years in the 60s and 70s, sometimes attracting 20 million viewers; figures only seen at Morecambe & Wise Christmas Specials and the FA Cup Final. His partnership with Hattie Jacques, playing identical twins in both TV series, was one of the most enduring on television, made all the funnier by him being short and thin, and she being, well, it’s not polite to say.

Eric worked with everyone over the course of a very long career; he was the only man that Spike Milligan trusted to write scripts for The Goon Show, and he worked on several occasions with Tommy Cooper (more on that later). One of the most memorable episodes of the 70s-era Sykes was an appearance by the great Peter Sellers, who rehearsed the show properly and then completely reinvented his character and ran riot on stage in the live taping, much to the audience’s delight.

I was very lucky to see Eric live on stage, about 12 years ago, in panto at the Theatre Royal, Windsor. In a sterling cast including Christopher Beenie and Boycie from Only Fools… he was the standout performer. He was mostly deaf and mostly blind, and he came on stage on a unicycle and proceeded to make up his entire part, mixing in bits of his old variety routine. Everyone else had to try and work in pieces of the script around whatever he was doing. I loved that man.

So, I thought it would be a nice tribute to have a special Funny Friday, perhaps entitled Witty Wednesday, to celebrate the man and the legend, with a clip from the original Sykes and a… as well as a skit with Tommy Cooper, and a complete copy of the film that the two made together, the slapstick classic The Plank. Written by Sykes it is a masterclass in comic timing. I hope you enjoy!

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