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Back in the 80s if you told me that I would have been more affected by the death of Eddie Large than say, the awfully premature death of Mel Smith, I would have said you were insane. Not to say I was not affected by Mel’s passing, just that, at a surprise even to the 52 year old me, Eddie’s death was a bigger punch in the guts.
As a kid I’d absolutely loved the old-school antics of Cannon and Ball, but by the time Little and Large broke on to the scene, performing their unashamedly old school double act I was a teenager and considered myself too sophisticated for braces snapping (C&B) or a serious song being interrupted by an incongruous Deputy Dawg impression. One of the first sketches I performed with Stew at University was “Triple Act” with a trio called Knife, Fork and Peterson in which I was the “funny” man who held up a pair of braces in his hand and occasionally twanged them, Stew was the straight man who tried to sing a serious song and Mike Cosgrave was Peterson, a man who sat in a chair, drinking beer and doing nothing else.
Look at us, cleverly dissecting comedy and showing how much more sophisticated we were - I mean, not much has really changed, apart from he realisation that you can coat something in irony but that doesn’t necessarily make you superior. Well one of us has realised that at least.
The older I get the more I appreciate the work of nearly every comedian (even if it’s not my cup of tea) but also come to enjoy the anarchic silliness of those old school acts. There was nothing more to them than just having a laugh at someone being ridiculous. Eddie Large was a good impressionist, but there’s something joyfully simple about his basic bullying of the feckless and seemingly awkward Little (whether by accident or design this still makes him a perfect straight man). Cannon and Ball still remain the kings of this kind of humour for me, because there was a real unpredictable madness behind Ball, but the tug of pain I felt at the death of Eddie came from the genuine affection that I held for him. I watched all their shows, sometimes sneering and affecting superiority, but actually secretly enjoying myself.
In one of those weird showbiz crossovers Stew and I attempted to write for Little and Large back in 1990 or 91. Even though we had taken the piss in that sketch, when the chance came to make some money and get a job we didn’t really hesitate. We scuppered (and amused) and tried to cover our hypocrisy by writing parody Little and Large sketches, but nonetheless ones that we hoped would still get made. I remember it being a day of laughter for us, as we came up with increasingly stupid ideas. The sausage in the snorkel gag, subsequently used by Stew on his TV show (with no payment to me, obviously) was the highlight. I discussed it and my weird relationship with Little and Large in 2019 here
I was thrilled to share a box with Syd when at the Slapstick Festival
, the veneer of irony fell away and I was gutted not to get a photo with him. It was a shame I missed Little and Large in conversation and I am kicking myself for not thinking of asking Eddie to do the Bristol RHLSTP last year.
But I had met him a couple of times as he used to come and see my shows at the Tobacco Factory - the last time (I think in the Oh Frig I’m 50 tour) he came up to chat to me as I signed programmes and apologised for not using our sketches in their show. I hope I apologised for our rudeness in writing them. I was astonished that he’d want to come and see me perform, but correctly in awe of him. By all accounts he was a charming and lovely man and not many old school comics would know I existed or be interested in seeing what I had to say, so it meant a lot to me that he’d made that effort.
Gutted that we’re losing the Edinburgh Fringe, along with all the other work that was going to make 2020 special for me (but at least I am not dead, hey? Not yet). Not having much luck getting the money I stupidly paid Ian advance for accommodation. The letting agency recognise that they should pay us back but have no funds to do so and the hotel are being cagey. It will probably be OK in the end. I’ve had worse Edinburgh Fringes.