A new book, Sunshine and Laughter, celebrates the comedy genius of the BBC’s most popular double act, Morecambe and Wise. Their success didn’t come early. Ernie Wise, in fact, started in a different double act – Carson and Kid – with his father, a Leeds railway porter, he told Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs in 1990. He first took to the stage, aged seven, in red clogs, singing I’m Knee Deep in Daisies. The pair doubled the family income by performing at Labour clubs on weekends. When education authorities in Leeds threatened to prosecute his father for child exploitation, they simply moved to Bradford.
Wise, known for his “short, fat, hairy legs”, was in fact taller than Eric Morecambe when they first met in 1939. The two sang, danced and joked together for more than 40 years, and at the height of their fame in 1977 drew a television audience of 28 million. They even went down well at the Glasgow Empire, whose audiences didn’t take kindly to English comedians. After Morecambe died following a heart attack in 1984, Wise was reminded of words from a song his partner used to sing: “I’m not all there, there’s something missing.”