Sykes and a Day Arena


Sykes and a Day

Writer, performer and director, the late Eric Sykes was the renaissance man of British comedy. This film opens the doors of the room that was his creative home for forty years.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes' office. Good morning.

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Who's calling?

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No.

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Morning, Janet. How are you?

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-Fine, and you?

-Did you have a good night?

-Not bad. And you?

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-Good audience?

-Picking up.

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Good. Glad to hear it.

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-Was Eric all right?

-Yes, fine.

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-Good.

-I'll just get your tea.

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HATTIE JACQUES: 'You know that one three down, five letters, brother and sister born at the same time?

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'That was "twins".'

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LAUGHTER

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ERIC SYKES: 'I put that in.

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'No, you put "twits".'

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LAUGHTER

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'I was thinking of us.'

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MALE VOICE: 'It's all done with mirrors.'

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KNOCK ON DOOR

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< Hi, Eric!

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Morning.

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-Morning, Janet.

-Hi.

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TOMMY COOPER: 'To look at me, you wouldn't think I've had the flu.

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'I was in bed with 104.

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'That's a lot of people in one bed.'

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LAUGHTER

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Every morning, Eric has his cup of coffee.

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And this is the mug that Norma gave him - "Golfaholic".

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Plus he always has his four ginger nuts.

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Not three or five - four.

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If there's too little, he asks for more, and if there's too many, he just doesn't eat them.

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No, not in a couple of days' time.

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Eric's in the West End at the moment in Caught In The Net.

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No, I'm sorry. Really, he's absolutely...

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OK. Thank you. Bye-bye.

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Next week, rehearsals(!) They're all mad.

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WOMAN'S VOICE: 'The biggest majority of Lancashire girls for cotton.

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'We all had to go to the mills. They were weaving, winding, reeling,

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'blanket seller, picking the cops. They were everything.

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'I was brought up in a world of cotton mills. Cobbled streets, rows of identical houses

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'differing only in numbers.

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'Early memory - used to lie in bed and hear the sound of clogs like giant ratchets

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'as sleepy workers streamed down Ward Street in the darkness to the factories.

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'Ten minutes of endless clop-clopping, the cacophony of clogs and a sudden petering out.

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'A silence broken only by the mournful factory hooter.

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'It's then I waited. Seconds, minutes I stared at the dark ceiling

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'and waited.

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'And, eventually, the scrambled, frenzied panic-stricken clack-clack

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'of the one who was going to be late.

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'Whether it was the same person every day, I don't know.

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'But he was the one I will remember.

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'That pitiful slockering of clogs as he made his way to the implacable iron gates of the factory.

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'I know now why I'll never forget him -

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'it was me, and is.'

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MUSIC: "Clair De Lune" by Debussy

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'May 1923 was a very momentous year.

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'In the British Empire in that year, cotton was king and my father was working in the cotton mills.

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'The Duke of York was married.

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'He became King George VI,

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'and his wife, the Queen Mother, is still alive, God bless her.

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'The Communist Party hold a mass rally in Hyde Park - one of the first ever.

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'We had a new prime minister - Stanley Baldwin.

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'And of course, the year 1923 was the first Cup Final at Wembley Stadium,

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'when it is in history books about the policeman on the white horse and spectators invaded the pitch.

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'Incidentally, it was Bolton against West Ham.

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'But the most momentous thing about May 1923 -

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'I was born.

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'Well, it was important to me!'

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If I want to write something, it seems to be here.

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The minute I come in through the door there and I close it,

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then I'm in MY world...

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of creation.

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I can't tell you how many shows I've written here,

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or how many films, and everything I've learnt.

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I used to have the floor above, the office above, but now I've got the ballroom suite!

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It's got icing on the ceiling. You wouldn't believe it was derelict.

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All of the photographs that I have around

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depict my life from almost when I started.

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See, my comedy is 1,000 years old.

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Comedy is what you laugh at. If you laugh at it honestly, it's funny.

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If it's funny, it's comedy.

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I didn't know I could write.

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A fortune teller - this was when I was in my first revue in Swansea, opening night.

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She came to the digs where everyone was staying.

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She told my fortune and she said,

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"Your mother's dead, isn't she?" I said, "Yeah."

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She said, "She's been dead a long time." I said, "She died at childbirth. I never knew her."

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And she said, "Do you ever feel that someone's walked over your grave, like a touch on the shoulder?"

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I said, "Yeah." I didn't, actually.

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But I didn't want her to feel unhappy.

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And then a few weeks after that, I felt something like that.

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The same day, I wrote a very funny thing.

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And then I started to write other funny things for other people.

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And I realised that I could write.

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And since then, whenever I've got that thing,

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I know I'm going to do something good or something wonderful will happen. And that is my mother -

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although we never met.

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All I have of my mother is that picture.

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He's very orderly...

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very punctual.

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Likes everything to be exactly as it was.

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Hates change.

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And it's a lot of fun with Eric.

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We've been in the same building since August 1966.

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But I didn't start looking after Eric until '84, '85.

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I was looking after Spike in 1966,

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but it was about '84, '85 with Eric.

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How did that come about that you started to work with Eric?

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Well, we'd always been in the same building, as I say,

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and Eric's manager had a terrible accident.

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He died, in fact.

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And he asked me to sort him out.

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At the time, I said, "I've got enough on my plate with Spike.

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"I'll run the office until you get someone." And it just developed from there.

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When we had an office in Shepherd's Bush,

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I used to go into the Shepherd's Bush market.

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They sold everything.

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And I saw this photograph and it was all burnt round the edges.

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So I had all of that cut off and had it framed.

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So when people come into the office and say, "Who's these two?"

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I say, "Search me. No idea."

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"So why have you got it up there?" I say, "Because aren't they a lovely couple?"

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That's how you used to get married - a carpet in the dirt in the back yard so they don't mess their shoes.

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That's what we were like.

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I got it because I like the people.

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So that was the world that you were a child in?

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Yes, but they were probably a London couple.

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They're still poor.

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You were saying something that Hattie once said that you wanted to be a tram driver as a kid.

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Well, I used that in a TV show with Hattie Jacques.

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She said, "No, you can't come this, Eric, cos your ambition was to be a tram driver."

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I said, "No, not just any tram.

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"It had to be the illuminated tram at Blackpool. Blackpool illuminations."

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And I think that sums it up.

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OK, off you go.

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Have you seen what they've done to 136?

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What, the Sykes? Who else?

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Oh, no!

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Ooh, Mr Parker!

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What have you done to it?

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Just brightened it up a bit.

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Well, get it off. This is a bus, not a mobile nightclub.

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Here, look what I've found!

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Hello, Inspector.

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Seen any lions?

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Upstairs or downstairs, Eric?

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-I think that'll go nicely under the picture of Prince Philip.

-Very nice.

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Ready to roll!

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When I was a child,

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I used to write doggerel verse, five lines - Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah

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nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.

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I was eight years old then.

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I can remember sitting on the cold oilcloth at night

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and listening to my father reading out the poems to his cronies.

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So probably that was when I started being a writer.

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I don't know.

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I did want to do something, but I didn't know what.

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But the world was your oyster, as long as you didn't get rickets.

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"International fishing contest. Bogsea is a resort on the South Coast of England.

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"It wasn't in the premier league of holiday resorts. In fact, if all the resorts were a set of teeth..."

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" ..In fact, if all the resorts were a set of teeth,

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"Bogsea would be the one that had to come out."

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"By a freak of nature, gales lashed other happy places on the coast, but Bogsea would face a hurricane.

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"In fact, it was said in Brighton, some 30 miles away..."

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" ..It was said in Brighton, some 30 miles away,

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"they had most of Bogsea's beach."

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I've got a thing called macular disciform.

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Virtually, they thought... Well, it's incurable.

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But they said it always happened to the elderly.

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It's the back of the eye wears out.

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I still do a lot of writing.

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It might sound odd to you, a man who can't see is doing a lot of writing.

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But then again, you close your eyes and start to write and it probably turns out how you visualise it.

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I remember once I did four foolscap sheets.

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I took them down to Jenny and I said, "Type this."

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Apparently, she went to see Norma and said,

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"I don't know how to tell him." "What?" "There's nothing on these four sheets."

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All there was was the indentation.

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My pen had ran out of ink, that's all.

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A slight mishap.

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I went to a very famous optician.

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And he looked at my eye and the back of the eye where it had worn out.

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I said, "What do you think of the back of the eye?" He said, "It's a bomb site!"

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-PHONE BLEEPS

-Yes?

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Yes.

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Yes, all right, Norma. Well, come up right now.

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OK.

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You are about to meet Norma Farnes, my manager, my mentor, someone who looks after me.

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We get on like a house on fire.

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Anyway...

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Come in!

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Hi, darling.

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Hello, love. Now, then...

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-For you.

-Who am I? I'm Eric!

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Oh!

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Eric!

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There's not too much, Eric.

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I'm trying to keep some of it away from you.

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This is the things I need to know today.

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Your Christmas cards have arrived from the Royal and Ancient, the golf club.

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Can you see it?

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If you like them, I'll order them for you. It's a nice one.

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That's the burn running across. Why is it white?

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It's a Christmas card. They've got snow there.

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How many Christmases is it since we had snow?

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-Shall I order them?

-Yes, please.

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Do you want to go into spotlight again? It's you without any glasses and a hat on -

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a little woolly hat.

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-All right. Fine.

-Do you want to use that picture again?

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Yeah, put it in.

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We've been out it so long, people'll think I've passed on.

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There's a letter here from Talent Television.

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They are going to do a thing called It's Your Funeral.

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And after the success of the first series, both critically and publicly,

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it's been recommissioned and they're doing insight into the lives of popular celebrities,

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revealing a side that is rarely seen through an alternative one-on-one discussion.

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They have a wide variety. The first guest was Brian Blessed,

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who surprised with a reading from his friend, Kenneth Branagh.

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They're in the studio from the 25th of November to the 30th of November.

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They wondered if you'd like to take part.

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I don't quite know what they want.

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They say it's "an edgy, thought-provoking and insightful series

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"of 13 half-hour shows that give some of Britain's best-loved personalities

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"the chance to talk about their lives and love in the context of arranging their own sendoffs."

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"It's a kind of This Is Your Life meets Desert Island Discs..."

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Sorry to break you up here.

0:22:380:22:42

-This is half an hour with me?

-Yeah. On a one-to-one basis.

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Basically saying, Eric, what you would like to send you off.

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No, darling. I'd say no.

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-I don't know why you don't...

-I'd rather you ditched that one.

-OK.

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And I'll go back to my up-the-servants' staircase with a 60-watt bulb.

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Any more of those letters and I shall go out the fire escape.

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This year, he's done a tour of Charlie's Aunt

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and went straight into rehearsals for Caught In The Act.

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He can't stop working.

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The whole of the summer, he was doing The Others with Nicole Kidman.

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Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise had gone to see Eric twice in the West End

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when he was doing Moliere, School For Wives,

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and also when he did Kafka's Dick.

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And whether it came from there, I do not know. It could. Eric's not sure.

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They just liked his performance.

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-This is Grace's point of view?

-Yeah.

-So you don't need to look there?

-No.

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And action, Eric!

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And then there was a phone call out of the blue, wondering if he'd like to take part in it.

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At the time, we were going into Charlie's Aunt.

0:24:230:24:27

Bill Kenwright was marvellous. He said, "No. Let him go. That's premier division stuff."

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He played the part of the gardener.

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You will be here.

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Eric, you should be this side.

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Fiona in the middle.

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The lovely director, Alejandro Amenabar, now, what a lovely man.

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And I think he was 26 when he started this venture.

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He wrote the screenplay, directed it AND wrote the music.

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Well done, Alex.

0:25:010:25:03

I'm just waiting for a picture of Nicole Kidman.

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I really do think she is the best actress,

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the best lady... Well, she's on a par with Hattie Jacques for me.

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I'd give her all the Oscars in the world for her performance in The Others and Moulin Rouge.

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I'd not only give her all the Oscars,

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if there's a Nobel Peace Prize, I'd give her that and a baronetcy.

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As you can see, the housework has been rather neglected since the servants disappeared a week ago.

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- They just vanished? - Into thin air.

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OLD LADY: 'Sometimes the world of the dead

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'gets mixed up with the world of the living.'

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It's very strange,

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but when I came down to London after the war, I thought London was ready for me, but I was wrong.

0:26:040:26:10

It was the worst winter we'd had for a long time.

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And I was walking along the Embankment, Friday night, with a penny in my pocket,

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and on Saturday morning, I had to pay for the week's lodgings. I was walking through thick fog.

0:26:190:26:25

I saw silent shapes pass, and then I heard, "Eric!" out of the fog.

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It was Bill Fraser in a thick-pea souper!

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I'll tell you how I know Bill Fraser. When the war was over, we all moved up to Schleswig-Holstein.

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There was a notice - "All those with theatrical experience put your name down."

0:26:440:26:49

I'd had no theatrical experience, but it was better than the cookhouse.

0:26:490:26:55

Remember what it said, Eric? "It is proposed to put on a concert for Christmas.

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"Those wishing to take part, report to the skittle alley, Eindhoven."

0:27:010:27:06

And the auditioning officer was Bill Fraser.

0:27:060:27:11

We were in this rather cold, dirty skittle alley,

0:27:110:27:15

and there was a hunched-up little airman sitting in the corner.

0:27:150:27:19

I said to him, "What do you do?" He said, "I do drunks,"

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and fell about all down the skittle alley. And that's how he started.

0:27:240:27:30

So I knew him from then.

0:27:300:27:33

Then to meet him -

0:27:330:27:35

that was the first miracle.

0:27:350:27:38

A miracle! Not just a coincidence.

0:27:380:27:41

He was starring in a play called Between Ourselves at the Playhouse.

0:27:410:27:46

He kept me for three weeks. "Would you write for me?" I'd never written for anybody.

0:27:460:27:52

And I said, "Certainly." He was just paying me every week because he could see I was on my last legs.

0:27:520:28:00

So I went back home. But that was my first miracle.

0:28:040:28:08

And all those years that I'd been there,

0:28:080:28:12

my mother's still been looking out for me.

0:28:120:28:15

And I hadn't realised it.

0:28:150:28:18

I think that's another example... of my mother...

0:28:180:28:24

As I say, we never met.

0:28:240:28:28

But she's been looking after me all my life. There's been too many of these things to be coincidence.

0:28:280:28:36

All this body, this cadaver of mine,

0:28:360:28:39

is just a carrier of the gift that belongs to us both.

0:28:390:28:43

And she sees that I carry it out.

0:28:430:28:47

When my time's up, she'll say, "Come on, then."

0:28:470:28:52

And I shall be very happy.

0:28:520:28:54

# You'll be a little lovelier... #

0:29:120:29:15

LAUGHTER

0:29:150:29:18

Poor old Pluto. Look at that face.

0:29:240:29:28

Looks horrible. It's like Jekyll and Hyde.

0:29:280:29:32

-What's the matter now, Eric?

-Have you been using my Pluto soap?

-No. You left it in the water.

0:29:320:29:39

Oh, no, this has been used.

0:29:390:29:41

If I'd left it in the water, it'd be shapeless all over.

0:29:410:29:45

It's only his face that's gone.

0:29:450:29:48

When I came here in 1966, this was the most extraordinary building,

0:29:500:29:56

filled with writers and artists.

0:29:560:29:59

They all had their own rooms.

0:29:590:30:01

Room 6 was always Spike's room. He never changed rooms.

0:30:010:30:06

Others changed, he never did.

0:30:060:30:08

-What was he doing at the time?

-He was starting to do the Q6 series.

0:30:080:30:14

And he'd also started opening files - Spike's a great file man -

0:30:140:30:19

for his book Adolf Hitler - My Part In His Downfall.

0:30:190:30:24

And getting together on the Q series. But he never came out.

0:30:240:30:28

The original loner.

0:30:280:30:31

-What happened if anyone disturbed him?

-I put a note on the door. I won't tell you what it said.

0:30:310:30:37

SPIKE MILLIGAN: 'Oh, what a terrible tragedy it all was.

0:30:370:30:43

'I love the early morning in the park, don't you?

0:30:430:30:46

'What's this? A human leg...followed by a body that hasn't been lived in for a long time.

0:30:460:30:52

'It's me. Oh-ho.

0:30:520:30:54

'Anyway, I was heading north for the great outdoor parlours - the shaving parlours of Harry Secombe.'

0:30:540:31:01

I wrote with Spike.

0:31:020:31:05

Some mornings, we'd spend the whole time laughing.

0:31:050:31:09

And then we argued one day.

0:31:090:31:13

"It should be one word in." I said, "It doesn't need it."

0:31:130:31:18

He said it did, so we argued.

0:31:180:31:21

He picked up a paperweight and threw it at me. It went through the window and fell five floors.

0:31:210:31:28

And I was shocked.

0:31:280:31:31

And I went out and it was broken.

0:31:310:31:35

And I, stupidly, "Remember what day this was."

0:31:350:31:38

And I said, "From now on, YOU write one week and I'll write the other." So we wrote alternate weeks.

0:31:380:31:45

We were still great mates.

0:31:450:31:48

But he used to get this terrible depression sometimes.

0:31:480:31:53

-HATTIE: 'What is it now?!

-Can you get Mr Brown?

0:31:530:31:59

'Oh, not again!'

0:31:590:32:03

Room 5. This is where Ray and Alan used to be - Galton and Simpson.

0:32:030:32:07

And I can't remember what they were writing, but it was '66, so they would be doing Steptoe And Son.

0:32:070:32:14

Mind you, they had just finished working with Tony...Hancock.

0:32:140:32:21

I think he had room 4 when I first came here.

0:32:210:32:26

Room 4 downstairs.

0:32:260:32:28

So there was Spike there and Ray and Alan here.

0:32:280:32:32

Then we went up where Eric was.

0:32:320:32:35

' "U, V, W, X, Y, Z." And I said...'

0:32:350:32:40

"You're going back in the box!" "I'm not going back in the box...!"

0:32:400:32:44

I must stop smoking.

0:32:440:32:47

Is that loose...

0:32:470:32:49

..or is it my fingers going in and out?

0:32:500:32:53

This is where Eric used to be.

0:33:020:33:05

As I said, people changed around a bit, but Eric used to be here.

0:33:050:33:11

' - What the Dickens is going on? - Mr Brown, it's Eric. - What's the matter with him? '

0:33:110:33:18

His toe... LAUGHTER

0:33:180:33:22

It's not stuck in the tap again?!

0:33:220:33:25

It's only a little bit stuck. It took two hours to get it out!

0:33:250:33:30

It won't take you a minute, now you've got the hang of it.

0:33:300:33:35

I don't put a pen to paper until I have it all here.

0:33:350:33:39

FRANKIE HOWERD: The boss said to me, "I want you to collect some goods from the depot to deliver to Crewe."

0:33:390:33:46

I thought, "Oh, good! Crewe!" Cos I've always wanted to go abroad.

0:33:460:33:51

LAUGHTER

0:33:510:33:53

I was in repertory in Warminster.

0:33:530:33:56

This was in 1947, and I never actually met Frank. One of the lads who was with us phoned me up one day

0:33:560:34:04

and said that Frankie Howerd had been trying to get in touch with me.

0:34:040:34:09

"Frankie Howerd?" That was like a call from Buckingham Palace.

0:34:090:34:13

He said, "Do you think you could write for me?"

0:34:130:34:18

He was a messenger boy and he had to take two elephants to Crewe.

0:34:180:34:22

'But the way people stared!

0:34:220:34:25

'You'd think they'd never seen two elephants go down the underground!

0:34:250:34:30

'Here, listen!

0:34:300:34:33

'Titter, ye may!'

0:34:330:34:36

'Why does he want to put his toe there in the first place?

0:34:380:34:42

'He doesn't get much fun out of life.'

0:34:420:34:46

It was like a co-operative - the writers writing for the artists.

0:34:490:34:54

And they all put in 10%, so if a writer or artist wasn't working, they had something to draw on.

0:34:540:35:01

At least they could pay their rent.

0:35:010:35:04

Room 8, there were quite a lot of writers in this room -

0:35:040:35:08

not all comedy writers.

0:35:080:35:10

DR WHO THEME

0:35:100:35:13

Terry Nation was one of the writers here.

0:35:190:35:25

And he wrote the Daleks.

0:35:250:35:27

I'd forgotten how much children's stuff has come from this building.

0:35:290:35:34

You tend to think it's just comedy.

0:35:340:35:37

Of course, Spike did BadJelly The Witch and Eric did the voice-over for the Teletubbies.

0:35:370:35:43

-One...

-One...!

-..two...

-..two..!

0:35:430:35:48

-..three...

-..three..!

0:35:480:35:51

-..four!

-..four!

0:35:520:35:55

Teletubbies!

0:35:550:35:57

Back in a couple of hours.

0:36:040:36:07

-OK.

-I'm late now!

0:36:070:36:09

Who was that?

0:36:160:36:19

Janet! Was that Eric?

0:36:190:36:21

-Yeah.

-He's gone without me!

0:36:210:36:24

Honestly! He really is the end!

0:36:240:36:27

Right, let's go. John Ballantyne will be there, won't he?

0:36:350:36:39

I first met him in 1962, maybe 1963.

0:36:590:37:03

At that time, he was doing his show regularly at Television Centre.

0:37:030:37:09

I used to go to the Centre three or four times a week,

0:37:090:37:13

just to mop out the ear and make it suitable for him to put the hearing aid in.

0:37:130:37:19

# Rolling down to Rio!

0:37:280:37:31

-# With a.. #

-QUACK!

0:37:310:37:33

# With a bounce! #

0:37:330:37:35

Thank you.

0:37:350:37:38

Woo-woo!

0:37:380:37:40

He'd already had major surgery on his right ear. But when the trouble flared up in his left ear,

0:37:470:37:53

there was a complication of this very long-standing

0:37:530:37:57

chronic middle-ear disease, dating back to his early childhood.

0:37:570:38:03

And it's known as the silent disease because it produces so few symptoms.

0:38:030:38:08

It's like a volcano which can sometimes erupt.

0:38:080:38:13

And it erupted in a big way.

0:38:130:38:15

And it's erupted because the disease started to penetrate the middle ear,

0:38:150:38:20

which is the basic source of the trouble, into the inner ear,

0:38:200:38:25

which is the basic organ of hearing and balance.

0:38:250:38:29

And this necessitated urgent surgery.

0:38:290:38:34

It was a life-saving operation that had to be done to prevent further complications

0:38:340:38:40

such as meningitis, brain abscess,

0:38:400:38:43

even death.

0:38:430:38:45

I wouldn't say I was religious,

0:38:550:38:58

but I did pray once.

0:38:580:39:00

In 1960, I went into the hospital for an operation.

0:39:000:39:05

And I came out of the anaesthetic and I was stone deaf.

0:39:060:39:13

And I prayed, not that I thought it was going to be cured,

0:39:130:39:18

I thought I'd never hear the birds singing or my children's voices.

0:39:180:39:22

I just prayed for the strength to live with it.

0:39:220:39:26

And I woke up in the morning, and the nurse asked, "How are you?"

0:39:260:39:31

I said, "I'm very well." She said, "You could hear me!"

0:39:310:39:35

He managed to get over it

0:39:430:39:45

with the help of the hearing aid.

0:39:450:39:48

And in the end, many years later,

0:39:480:39:52

he finished up with the bone-conducted spectacle hearing aid,

0:39:520:39:57

which he now wears, though it has no lens and he has no vision, virtually, to see through.

0:39:570:40:04

I brought you the Radio Times covers that I promised to look out for you.

0:40:070:40:12

Lovely.

0:40:120:40:14

This is my favourite.

0:40:140:40:16

-I was just saying to Eric the other day, didn't Hattie have the most wonderful smile?

-Lovely.

0:40:160:40:23

She not only lit up the screen, she lit my life up.

0:40:230:40:29

When you think that was almost a third of my life.

0:40:290:40:32

-Chin-chin.

-Chin-chin.

-Chin-chin!

0:40:320:40:35

To the next show, whenever that is.

0:40:350:40:38

Hopefully. Cheers!

0:40:380:40:40

I saw Hattie very frequently and got to know her quite well.

0:40:400:40:45

And she was always great company. She was a great actress.

0:40:450:40:49

Johnny Speight, he wrote this thing for Hat and me, this comedy we were doing.

0:40:520:40:58

And we were husband and wife.

0:40:580:41:01

I said, "I've only one stipulation, John,

0:41:010:41:04

"we're not husband and wife.

0:41:040:41:07

"We are brother and sister.

0:41:070:41:10

"On top of which, we are twins.

0:41:100:41:14

"We're not only twins, we're identical twins."

0:41:140:41:20

Good afternoon, everybody.

0:41:240:41:27

On behalf of Driver Sykes and his crew, we welcome you aboard Route Master 136.

0:41:270:41:34

There will be no smoking on the lower decks.

0:41:340:41:38

We will be travelling at about 9mph.

0:41:380:41:41

Our ETA is ten past eleven, our time.

0:41:410:41:45

We trust you will all have a pleasant journey.

0:41:450:41:48

The weather in Copshill is fine.

0:41:480:41:51

Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs.

0:41:510:41:55

Bienvenue, maitre...

0:41:550:41:58

TING! TING! Give me a chance to say it!

0:41:590:42:03

I didn't refer to her size because she was built beautifully.

0:42:040:42:08

To me, she wasn't fat, she was big.

0:42:080:42:11

And what she did, she moved so gracefully.

0:42:110:42:14

And to get cheap jokes out of something like that

0:42:140:42:20

is not my system. I think Hat appreciated that.

0:42:200:42:24

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's record time!

0:42:240:42:28

Our first record this evening has been requested by Mr Taylor,

0:42:280:42:32

who I believe is making his first trip with us this evening.

0:42:320:42:37

-Your first journey from Woodlane to Copshill?

-Yes. I've been spending an evening with friends.

-Jolly good!

0:42:370:42:44

Coffee, anyone?

0:42:520:42:55

Simpson and Galton used to say, "All your stuff is candy floss.

0:42:550:43:01

"It has no bite."

0:43:010:43:04

-Did that annoy you?

-No!

0:43:040:43:07

I said, "What you fail to recognise

0:43:070:43:12

"is that the stuff you do has a social point, a message.

0:43:120:43:17

"There's enough messages coming out of TV without you adding to them."

0:43:170:43:22

-Six o'clock in the morning, we leave the terminus. It's three o'clock now.

-But we haven't got a bus!

0:43:230:43:30

Not now, we haven't, but in a week's time, he'll be begging us!

0:43:300:43:35

Right, stand there. I don't care.

0:43:350:43:38

TING! TING!

0:43:380:43:40

The bottom line is are they laughing, are they enjoying it?

0:43:400:43:45

If they're not, go back to the cotton mill.

0:43:450:43:48

Good morning. Good morning.

0:44:030:44:06

Hello! Good morning!

0:44:060:44:09

Hello, dear.

0:44:090:44:11

I'm so sorry.

0:44:110:44:14

I have my own personal views on this and I think everything was secure. Everything was nice.

0:44:140:44:21

Eric likes everything secure in his life.

0:44:210:44:25

It manifests itself in the writing.

0:44:250:44:28

Hence that secure feeling that you have when you see Eric and Hattie.

0:44:280:44:33

Oh, I'm so sorry. We're full up.

0:44:330:44:37

So sorry. We'll be back in three hours.

0:44:370:44:40

That series is like my philosophy - in every dustbin there's a daffodil.

0:44:530:44:58

And this was the daffodil in this dustbin

0:44:580:45:02

where we lived.

0:45:020:45:04

And life is what you make it.

0:45:040:45:07

I just had a happy world.

0:45:090:45:12

She radiated happiness, I'd say.

0:45:120:45:15

The company was... As soon as she came in, you smiled.

0:45:150:45:20

I don't know why and I can never explain,

0:45:200:45:24

but when we come here, we always walk through the park.

0:45:240:45:28

When we're going back, we always walk along the Bayswater Road.

0:45:280:45:33

Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes' office. Good afternoon.

0:45:590:46:03

This is her office. Norma Farnes manages both of them.

0:46:030:46:10

I'm sorry. People say it only takes 20 minutes, but I've got 40 people saying that. It's just not possible.

0:46:140:46:22

Now, then, if I don't reply to these, they'll think I'm dead.

0:46:270:46:32

I'm sorry...

0:46:440:46:47

it...took...me...some weeks... to reply.

0:46:470:46:54

Eric's my best pal. No matter where I am, there's hardly a week goes by

0:46:570:47:04

when I don't phone him.

0:47:040:47:06

He's got a lovely way of writing. You open the letter and it's funny.

0:47:060:47:12

Where the address would be - same address but the roof leaks.

0:47:120:47:17

And I hope...

0:47:170:47:19

this letter...

0:47:190:47:22

will make up...

0:47:220:47:24

..for it.

0:47:280:47:30

The letter...I have in mind...

0:47:320:47:37

is...

0:47:370:47:40

H.

0:47:400:47:43

The Goons learned from Eric, truly.

0:47:450:47:49

It doesn't seem possible cos it's all down to Spike and Michael.

0:47:490:47:54

But they learned from Eric.

0:47:540:47:57

It was such unusual stuff.

0:47:580:48:01

He was trying to take an elephant on the tube.

0:48:010:48:07

He got so much out of it.

0:48:070:48:10

We had the Olympic Games and he did this thing with the pole vault.

0:48:100:48:16

And he wanted to get on the bus with his pole. It was screamingly funny.

0:48:160:48:21

Very good.

0:48:210:48:23

And original thinking. He was doing stuff no-one had thought of before.

0:48:230:48:29

He still does it now!

0:48:290:48:32

Have you ever seen his guitar act?

0:48:320:48:35

# Without a golden wand

0:48:350:48:39

# Or mystic charms... #

0:48:400:48:44

I met Eric after the war, when he was writing for Frankie Howerd.

0:48:440:48:49

I said to Frank, "Any chance of your writer writing for me?"

0:48:490:48:54

There were terrible setbacks.

0:48:590:49:02

He was stone deaf.

0:49:020:49:05

# ..It's magic... # One.

0:49:050:49:09

LAUGHTER

0:49:090:49:13

And in that time, he brought up a family of five -

0:49:130:49:17

his wife and four kids.

0:49:170:49:20

# ..Why do I tell myself...? #

0:49:200:49:24

We've lived side by side, and I don't know if you remember the thing they used to do in the Readers' Digest,

0:49:240:49:32

they asked about your most unforgettable character.

0:49:320:49:37

Mine has got to be Eric.

0:49:370:49:39

# ..The magic is my love

0:49:390:49:42

# For yo-o-u. #

0:49:420:49:51

I'm proud of my OBE.

0:49:530:49:56

I'm proud of my honorary fellowship of Lancashire University.

0:49:560:50:01

I'm proud of being a member of the Royal and Ancient.

0:50:010:50:05

I'm proud of a lot of things.

0:50:050:50:08

I'm most proud of my family -

0:50:080:50:11

my wife, my four children. I live through them. They're wonderful.

0:50:110:50:16

Well, I can show you on my magic machine.

0:50:160:50:21

I've got a lovely picture of my family

0:50:250:50:29

when two of them were young children.

0:50:290:50:33

I don't know who that is.

0:50:380:50:41

Oh, yeah, that's my wife!

0:50:420:50:44

By jingo, isn't she attractive?

0:50:440:50:48

And that's me. I had a child on my back. That's Susan.

0:50:480:50:52

She's nearly 50 now.

0:50:520:50:55

And Cathy there, who's nearly 50.

0:50:550:50:58

How did you meet your wife?

0:50:580:51:01

Well, I was in hospital and she was one of the nurses.

0:51:010:51:05

And she would do things like post a letter and things like that.

0:51:050:51:10

When I got out, I asked her out for a drink.

0:51:100:51:16

And she's from Canada, you see.

0:51:160:51:19

They all realised, which is lovely,

0:51:230:51:25

that to write comedy, to perform comedy, for stage, screen and television,

0:51:250:51:32

there are no hours to that job.

0:51:320:51:34

It goes on and on.

0:51:340:51:36

Maybe I've spent more time on that than helping to bring up the children.

0:51:360:51:43

My wife...she brought them up well.

0:51:470:51:51

I really just stood back and enjoyed watching them grow.

0:51:540:52:00

The absentee landlord.

0:52:000:52:02

Cos I was away working all the time,

0:52:050:52:08

the children used to think I was something in the City...for years.

0:52:080:52:14

When people say, "I made up my mind to be a comic when I was 12,"

0:52:310:52:36

I think, "No, no, no."

0:52:360:52:38

The AUDIENCE makes you a comic, not YOU.

0:52:380:52:43

There's people with the funniest material in the world,

0:52:430:52:47

but they aren't households names because the audience haven't quite taken to them.

0:52:470:52:54

And so it's the audience who make you a comic, not you.

0:52:540:52:58

# ..Beautiful dreamer

0:53:030:53:07

# Awake unto me-e. #

0:53:070:53:16

I've never known a comic yet who thought he was funny.

0:53:160:53:21

One thing they have in common is they never wanted to be comedians.

0:53:210:53:26

They wanted to do something else.

0:53:260:53:29

Frankie Howerd wanted to be a straight actor.

0:53:290:53:33

And he went for an audition at RADA, and "to be or not to be" -

0:53:330:53:38

HOWERD VOICE: "No, no, listen..." They laughed and he didn't get it.

0:53:380:53:43

'Jimmy Edwards wanted to be an MP.'

0:53:430:53:46

There's a traffic jam there as well.

0:53:460:53:49

'Tommy Cooper wanted to be the best illusionist in the world.

0:53:490:53:54

'So he didn't want to be a comedian.

0:53:540:53:57

'The money he spent on suits - he was always immaculate.

0:53:570:54:04

'But he would walk into the room and do his, "Arr-hrr," and they started to laugh.

0:54:040:54:10

'And at first it used to upset him because he thought he was walking in like OO7.

0:54:100:54:16

'He only became a comedian when they started to laugh at him.'

0:54:160:54:21

Oi, oi!

0:54:210:54:23

TOMMY COOPER: Yeah, it's all right. Come on.

0:54:260:54:31

Janet! Can you bring me some water, please?

0:55:000:55:05

I have to be careful writing to old friends.

0:55:250:55:28

Because... in case they died last week.

0:55:280:55:33

When you and I made films together - Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, Monte Carlo Or Bust,

0:56:220:56:29

you always played the part of the jolly chap, the cuddly person,

0:56:290:56:36

and I always played the dirty rotten bu...dirty rotten chap, cad, I should say.

0:56:360:56:43

Whereas in real life, this isn't so, this isn't true, it's quite the reverse.

0:56:430:56:49

BELL TOLLS

0:56:510:56:54

-Here's your water, Eric.

-Thank you.

0:57:010:57:04

You've also got the Standard here. There's a lovely advert for the show in the middle.

0:57:060:57:13

I thought you might like to see it.

0:57:130:57:16

What do you think of that?

0:57:160:57:19

-Oh, that's marvellous!

-Lovely, isn't it?

0:57:190:57:22

I'll read that later, thank you.

0:57:220:57:25

LAUGHTER

0:57:570:58:01

Eric, what do you do for relaxation?

0:58:010:58:04

I play golf.

0:58:060:58:08

I know what you're going to say - "How can you play golf if you can't see the ball?"

0:58:100:58:16

My daughter, Julie, caddies for me, and SHE keeps her eye on the ball.

0:58:160:58:22

# That night I heard the wild goose cry

0:58:290:58:33

# He'd got mixed up with the riders in the sky

0:58:330:58:36

# Tried to sleep, but it was in vain

0:58:360:58:40

# Have you ever tried sleeping on a mule train...? #

0:58:400:58:44

CANNED LAUGHTER

0:59:140:59:16

I thought I'd hit further than that.

0:59:200:59:23

Give me the six-iron.

0:59:230:59:25

-How were that?

-You're in the bunker.

0:59:510:59:55

There aren't any bunkers on this hole!

0:59:550:59:58

You're not in this hole. You're in that one.

0:59:581:00:02

You know the most amazing thing?

1:00:141:00:17

I forget - he's so good at it -

1:00:171:00:21

I actually forget that he can't see and can't hear.

1:00:211:00:26

Whereas quite a lot of people know that, a lot of people don't know that he had a quadruple bypass

1:00:261:00:34

about four or five years ago.

1:00:341:00:37

So he's just an amazing man.

1:00:371:00:39

Spike said it and he's absolutely right, he has the courage of a lion.

1:00:391:00:44

He can't see, can't hear, and he's in the West End now.

1:00:441:00:49

It's amazing.

1:00:491:00:52

All of these things, I have a feeling... They're hiccups,

1:00:521:00:58

no more than hiccups.

1:00:581:01:00

Because, again my philosophy, you have two choices -

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either walk with your head up or your head down.

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If there's a light to go towards, then you go towards it.

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My idea of our theatre, stage, screen,

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is like going into a wonderful palace where all the people go in. It's lit with chandeliers

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and they all stand on the first landing and go, "Hello! Hello!"

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And then they go up the second flight, not too many people now,

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and then eventually they go upstairs to the ballroom.

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Well, in my career, I've gone up through the servants' staircase

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under a 40-watt bulb.

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Now I'm nearly at the top landing.

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I can see a bright light underneath the door of the top landing.

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That's the ballroom.

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But now that I've enjoyed my walk up the staircase, I'm not sure if I want to dance.

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What?! That's the middle of the night!

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Well...another day, another dollar.

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"Just like that!"

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Look at all these cigars. I gave up smoking three years ago.

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Look at all those boxes.

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I can't bear to throw them away. There's not a cigar in them.

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I'll tell you what IS in them.

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Well, that's my fix for today.

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Arrivederci.

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'It's a long road from Eindhoven to Drury Lane, but, my God, you deserve it and good luck!'

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'A rare treat. A giant from any age of comedy you wish to talk about.

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'He's a prophet, a sage, an angel of the age - Mr Eric Sykes!'

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'He's a master of comedy. The king of the visual gag - Eric Sykes!'

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'Ladies and gentlemen,

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'we gotta get him up here - Eric Sykes!'

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'Eric Sykes is one of the funniest men I've ever been in a room with or played golf with.'

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'He made his name as a scriptwriter and went on to become one of Britain's best-loved comedians,

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'described as having the desperate charm of a con man on the run - Eric Sykes!'

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Pet horse initially throwing master.

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Seven letters and the third letter is M.

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-Third letter is M?

-Yes.

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-Pet horse...

-Initially...

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Well, horse, initially - H.

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Third letter's M, so it's H blank M.

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Pet as in hamster.

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Master - an anagram of master.

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-OK. And H for horse.

-H for horse.

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Can't be doing with all this intellect down here.

1:05:541:05:58

Norma's going to be going, "Wait a minute! Don't rush away!"

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'Mr Sykes, your call to the stage.'

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VOICES ECHO FROM STAGE

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BELL RINGS I'll open the door. It's safer.

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LAUGHTER

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APPLAUSE

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Subtitles by Graeme Dibble BBC Scotland - 2001

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E-mail us at [email protected]

1:07:341:07:38

Writer, performer and director, the late Eric Sykes was the renaissance man of British comedy. This episode of Arena opens the doors of the room that was his creative home for forty years.

"The minute I come through this door and I close it, then I'm in my world of creation. I can't tell you how many shows or how many films - it's all here, I can feel it, it's almost tangible", he says in the film.

Post-war Britain saw Sykes catapulted to fame in the hugely successful Variety Bandbox and Educating Archie. He quickly became the country's highest paid comedy writer. When Spike Milligan was going through a period of stress, Sykes helped him with The Goons, sometimes writing whole episodes and typically eschewing the credit. Later, his television series with Hattie Jacques, Sykes And A... ran for 20 years attracting gigantic audiences.

Aged 78, he starred in a UK tour of Charley's Aunt; appeared with Nicole Kidman in The Others; introduced The Teletubbies and returned to London's Theatreland, appearing eight times a week in Ray Cooney's hit, the uproarious farce Caught In The Net.

The film takes him through a day at his beloved office, an Aladdin's Cave of triumphs and treasures. There he muses on his life and career, and the other greats he knew and worked with.


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