Eddie Braben

From Academic Kids

Eddie Braben is a comedy writer and performer who is most famous for having worked with Ken Dodd and Morecambe and Wise.

He was born in Liverpool, in the north-west of England. As a child he was entranced by radio comedy and particularly that of Arthur Askey. After school, which he left with a handful of qualifications, he followed his parents into market trading, manning a fruit and veg stall. In spare moments he wrote jokes, frequently on the back of the brown paper bags he used to package his goods.

Although shy, he sent jokes off to whichever comedians were appearing in Liverpool at the time. His first joke was sold to Charlie Chester for 2s 6d, but his first major success was with Ken Dodd, who he went on to work with for 12 years. Dodd's style was good training for Braben because his relentless delivery averaged around seven jokes each minute. Writing a five or 10 minute set was hard work.

Braben's ultimate success was to come when the BBC lured Morecambe and Wise from ITV. Bill Cotton, then in charge of Light Entertainment at the BBC, was looking for a writer and asked Braben if he'd like to try. Braben had seen Morecambe and Wise some years previously in music hall and thought they were terrible. In the intervening years, the duo had polished their act significantly and were using Dick Hills and Sid Green to write their scripts. They had ended-up with on-stage personas Braben says he didn't like - Morecambe was "gormless" (a northern England phrase meaning stupid and unworldy), whilst Wise was smart and hard-edged (they were not dissimilar to contemporaries Abbott and Costello in this sense).

Braben's first trick when writing for the duo was to alter their characterisation. Wise became more naive and egotistical whilst Morecambe became more worldly-wise, although still retained an child-like innocence. After meeting the duo, Braben had noticed their warm friendship and aimed to bring this out, whilst at the same time adding-in enough jokes to make it funny. He invented the concept of them sharing a bed, for example, which became a regular feature of their TV shows.

Morcambe, Wise and Braben formed what came to be known in the television industry as "The Golden Triangle". Together they won the Society of Film Television Artists 1973 award for Outstanding Contribution to Television. Braben himself won the Best British Light Entertainment Script award from the Writer's Guild of Great Britain in 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1973.

Braben found writing for Morecambe and Wise a trial, particularly the pressure he was under to produce the Christmas Specials. To this extent he suffered nervous illnesses, including hallucinations.

In the 1980s, Morecambe and Wise were lured back to ITV but Braben didn't go with them because he felt that the feature films they planned to make, as part of the ITV deal, wouldn't work. Instead he wrote and appeared in a number of comedy radio shows, including A Show With 10 Legs and The Worst Show On The Radio.

In 2001, a stage play paying tribute to Morecambe, Wise and Braben, The Play What I Wrote, opened in London's West End. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh.


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