Think of British comedy double acts and chances are the first names that will come to mind are Morecambe and Wise. Their shows, particularly the Christmas specials, pulled in millions of viewers, so when they left the BBC to go to ITV it understandably left a big hole in the BBC’s comedy programming.
So who did the BBC get to plug this hole? Well, they already had The Two Ronnies, and Cannon and Ball were signed to ITV, so they were left with Little and Large. Oh, and Les Dennis and Dustin Gee, until Dustin died from a heart attack in 1986. The Two Ronnies did well for the Beeb, both at the time and later when they’re shows were put out again and again in slightly modified repeat formats.
Little and Large however, didn’t quite manage to stand the test of time so well, despite featuring all the classic double act features. Eddie Large (real name Edward McGinnis) was the “funny one”, with a range of impersonations and put downs to “straight man” Syd Little (real name Cyril Mead), who always tried to sing a song, but kept getting interrupted by his cohort. For some reason Eddie always introduced Syd as Supersonic Syd Little, but I never quite understood why.
Depending on how you looked at it the Little and Large monikers were possibly the wrong way round, since Syd was taller than Eddie – but then Eddie was more rotund than Syd, so they must have been measuring themselves by width, not height.
Despite drawing in impressive viewing figures for their early evening comedy shows, Little and Large are, perhaps unfairly, thought of as being a bit on the terrible side. One reason for this is a lack of memorable sketches or characters. I certainly remember watching their shows and enjoying them as a kid, but I don’t remember any particular sketches – in fact all I really remember of them was them doing the classic double act routine of having Syd try to sing a song, but keep being interrupted by Eddie, which is another reason why they are considered also-rans.
Eddie tended to be perhaps a little too eager to interrupt and put down Syd, which he often did by just being quite loud and not really very funny. A lot of his interruptions took the form of an impression, which took the form of Eddie standing with his head held back a little and shaking his head and body whilst speaking in a funny voice which only sometimes sounded like whoever he was supposed to be. This was the typical Eddie Large impersonation, which always seemed a bit too much like an over excited school kid.
The first series of The Little and Large Show aired in 1978, and they stuck around for the entire eighties, disappearing in 1991 as their form of comedy became less and less popular with audiences. They ended up in pantomime every year from then on, and eventually split when Eddie had to give up comedy after a heart transplant operation. They both still perform, separately, today, with Syd Little working on cruise ships and holiday park entertainments and Eddie as an after dinner speaker.