Eddie Braben, the man behind many of the brilliant line delivered by Eric and Ernie, has died at the age of 82. He is one of the many figures that are often forgotten in comedy – the writers.
Without Eddie Braben it’s fair to say that Morecambe and Wise would not have been as big as they were. He wrote all the big Christmas specials they are remembered for and provided the British public with lines that are still quoted today. The thing is he could have walked down the street and no-one would have noticed him. These great writers are hidden away in their offices churning out comedy gold for the performers to deliver. Often without that great backbone of good writing acts flail and struggle to hit heights. We saw Steve Coogan in Aberdeen once and without the brilliance of a Armando Iannucci script to support him he didn’t really succeed.
From the team of writers on “Have I got news for you” and “Russell Howard’s Good News” to the individuals behind the great sitcoms of the 60s and 70s like “Steptoe and Son”, “Are you being Served” and “Porridge” we have enjoyed the work of these men and women for years. Reading Norma Farnes’ biography of Spike Milligan it must have been an amazing time in the 1960s to be a comedy writer and performer. The offices that Spike, Eric Sykes, Galton & Simpson, Johnny Speight, Terry Nation and many others all shared produced radio and TV scripts for everyone from Tommy Cooper and Frankie Howerd through to their own shows like “Hancock’s Half Hour”, “The Goons”, “Sykes”, “Til death do us part” and dozens more. This was an office full of writers all churning out material for audiences of over twenty million. Most though could not be identified by the public as they worked behind the talent and didn’t stray in front of the cameras often.
It is because of the marriage between great writing and great performers that so many of these big names became household stars. And today is no different with panel shows having writer’s rooms, sitcom writer’s name that are known but the faces aren’t, even some of the big stand up acts have few writers adding to the sets. There are not as many writers who aren’t also performers these days and obviously if you are writing it many also want to perform as well, but there is a skill to writingfor other people and it’s be good to see more people getting into good old fashioned gag writing again. The team at Have I got News for You has a great list of writers like Simon Blackwell, Kevin Day, Dave Cohen, Ged Parsons, Colin Swash and Mark Burton are all or have been part of the team of writers. The biggest issue for them is that they write reams of material for each show but sometimes only 30% of it is used because of the ad-libs and interaction between the panelists. It’s that combination of good writing and great minds like Paul Merton and Ian Hislop that make HIGNFY such success after twenty three years.
So hats off to the writers, while we may praise and reward the performers very often if it weren’t for the funny people behind the scenes you wouldn’t have the success front of house.