Where Are All The Double Acts?

Posted by Lord Davidd of Birko on
Category: Comedy23 Comments

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When Bimbo and I were kids, comedy double acts were all the rage. Morecombe and Wise, Little and Large, Cannon and Ball, the list was pretty much endless. However, these days neither of us can name one young TV double act and neither can Barry Cryer – the comedy writer who has written for some of the best comedy acts. In fact, at the start of his career he wrote for the gold standard of comedy duos, Morecambe and Wise. “It’s like telepathy,” Cryer says. “It’s rapport, a chemistry. They feed off each other.” At the height of their powers, Eric and Ernie raked in more than 28 million TV viewers. These days, they’ve overwhelmingly made way for stand-ups or comedy troupes.

“It’s what my generation chose to watch,” a lady waiting for a show to start at the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival says. “Your generation are happy with stand-up.” Her granddaughter chips in: “No offence Nana, but Morecambe and Wise – nobody would watch that nowadays.”

For better or for worse they agree the comic double act is dead.

But this is the largest arts festival in the world. Spend enough time in the sticky beer-smelling student union rooms which have been trussed up as venues, and you’ll find that old staple of British television in rude health. The majority is sketch-based. Duos such as Goodbear or Inside Studio 9. But old style variety has also had a revamp.

Double Denim, comprising of Australian comedians Michelle Brasier and Laura Frew largely consists of games with the audience and group renditions of Shania Twain classics.

Laura Anderson of Hurt and Anderson says double act stock is on the rise. “Double acts mostly work as a sketch or a character comedy thing,” she says. “And as far as I can tell, sketch is getting more and more popular again. It ebbed away but I think it’s coming back.”

When they started in 2011, they say there were almost no female comic duos on the fringe. “Now we’re treading them under foot,” she says. “They’re everywhere!”

“On the circuit. Not the mainstream consciousness,” her comedy partner Georgia Hurt adds.

After selling out their Edinburgh festival debut last year, Barney Fishwick and Will Hislop are back as the double act Giants. For a large proportion of their act they are Norwegian pop sensations. “The EU is a big, beautiful dance floor”, they say. Everyone dancing together, “or as we like to call it, the free movement of peoples. The final product is this year”, Hislop jokes.

They met at four days old and have been good friends ever since.

Why a double act? Fishwick says it allows “for conflict”, adding: “It’s that weird thing where there is this real chemistry, there’s love at the basis of it.”

“There’s also hate”, Hislop interjects.

They say a connection is required, a trust which allows them to veer off in different directions during their act. “We know each other’s rhythms as it were, so we know what we’re likely to think,” Hislop says.

“So if there’s someone in the front row wearing Crocs, I know that Barney finds Crocs really funny so I’ll leave that to him because I don’t have a lot of Crocs material.”

So Bimbo and I don’t always agree on things, although we have lived through many things together we do not always like or dislike the same things. However, there is one thing on which we both agree. When I ask him does he think we might have another Morecombe and Wise coming through the collection of young comedians?

“No chance,” he replies.

I agree!

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Lord Davidd of Birko

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A sad and lonely old man who used to have a life but it has now been taken over by his dedication to the cause of saving Renault Bears. Running Jammy Toast and searching eBay, car boot sales, charity shops, lofts and even under beds for his beloved bears – his life is no longer his own. Awarded an OBE in the 2018 New Year Honours List and an Honorary Doctorate for services to bears.

23 Comments on “Where Are All The Double Acts?”

  1. I know a double act. They are ALWAYS ganging up on me thinking its hilarious, to be fair they are quite funny. I do wish it was at someone elses expense though 😕

  2. …but you ran out of gas
    Down the road a piece
    Then the battery went dead
    And now the cable won’t reach
    It’s your last chance
    To check under the hood
    Last chance
    She ain’t soundin’ too good,
    Your last chance
    To trust the man with the star
    You’ve found the last chance Texaco

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