Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Meet Your Maker #3

Without Eddie there would be no parrot sketch – John Cleese

The 'double act' is a predominantly British institution, a term used for describing the comedic tradition of a pair of performers. The two would usually comprise of a 'straight man' or 'feed' and the 'comic', the purpose of the feed being to set up jokes for the comic. This would rely heavily on comic timing. Morecambe and Wise are widely regarded as the greatest British double act. At the other end of the scale were one Sydney Little and Edward Large.

The beefier half of the act, Eddie Large was born in 1941 in a bomb shelter opposite Maine Road Stadium. Fed on lard from an early age due to severe rationing, Eddie was to develop an abnormally sized funny bone, which down the working men’s clubs of Manchester meant he could earn a fair wage in a turn called Who Ate All The Pies? The question would remain unanswered for years to come as Eddie dropped out of school and took his one man turn on the road to the likes of Haslingden, Burnley and Stockport.

The 'Little & Large' duo began in 1963 when they met at Rotherham Working Men’s club. Little had a one man show at that time, singing badly to the electric guitar. During his performance that had already broken two windows and upset a dog Eddie began heckling in a comic manner, saying he could do better himself. Syd called his bluff and invited him to join him on stage, where the two went on to receive rapturous applause from the audience for their unscripted impromptu performance. The fact that most of this involved the striking of Syd with aforementioned guitar was lost on an audience raised upon sadistic violence in the home place. The crowd whooped, the dog yelped and an ambulance was called, but the formula was retained and Little & Large was born.

Praying on the sick and impaired, Little & Large began to appear in many local northern clubs and in an episode that was to inspire many a future Weight Watcher’s wet dream they met up with and worked with Bernard Manning at his legendary Embassy Club. By now their act had evolved into something altogether slicker. The guitar was still there (Syd insisted on it and simply placed it out of Eddie’s fat restricting reach), but now on top of cheeky banter were skits and sketches that would go on to be instantly unforgettable. The fact that they evade my now is neither here nor there.

Television fame came when they appeared on and won in the television show "Opportunity Knocks" in 1977. Hughie Green was later seen to pocket a hefty sum of money, but having blown it on slappers; no one was ever able to point the finger at Eddie and Syd. A nation used to feasting on the delights of Morecambe & Wise were slow to take Little and Large to their hearts. In part this was because they simply wern't funny, but also because Dennis Taylor had already cornered the market on wearing your spectacles in an amusing manner. Foraging off the leftovers of Noel Edmond’s Xmas specials and celebrity Bullseye specials, Eddie and Syd meandered through the 80s and early 90s reaching their nadir when turning down a cameo in a then unknown Pete Kaye programme called Phoenix Nights.

In 2004 the sad news emerged that comedic legends Syd Little and Eddie Large would never work together again. Although no longer ‘larging it’, Eddie has been seriously ill to the point where he endured a recent heart transplant. Syd, pushed for one last gig down Blackpool way, but following Doctor’s advice, the only option was hospitalisation. Syd hung up his guitar and left for a life in Bangkok where he allegedly trawls bars for trannies. Unable and unwilling to join him, Eddie became bed ridden and the jokes, like his bedpan, quickly dried up. In his hey day the likes of Tarby, Brucie and Rogers would have called by to pass on their best before departing for 18 holes, but comedy in the 21st Century is a cruel and forgetful beast. Only Gary Wilmot passed by, asking Eddie if he felt TOP? I can’t repeat Eddie’s retort but a dog was again heard to whine in Rotherham.

On the sunny side, cruise ships up and down the country have seen a subsequent rise in bookings - the case of P&O their head of sales telling me that “never has so little large seen so many more…”.

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