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Little, Syd (1942-) and Large, Eddie (1942-)

Actors, Presenters

Main image of Little, Syd (1942-) and Large, Eddie (1942-)

Syd Little and Eddie Large, described by one newspaper as "Britain's least complicated comic duo", were never highly regarded by television critics. Yet by the 1980s, their Saturday evening BBC series Little and Large (later The Little and Large Show) - a family-friendly blend of impressions, slapstick, sketches, and special guests - attracted audiences of close to 15 million.

Syd (born Cyril John Mead, Blackpool, 1942) and Eddie (born Edward Hugh McGinnis, Glasgow, 1942) had teamed up as a singing duo around 1962, in a Manchester pub, under their real names. Or rather Syd sang and Eddie heckled. "I couldn't bear a moment of silence," Eddie later recalled, "so I'd joke about while Syd was trying to play seriously. We never really planned to be famous...we were quite happy with a couple of meat pies each - plus all the beer we could drink." Devoting themselves to comedy, and rechristened Little and Large, they turned pro in 1963. In 1971, whilst contemplating a return to their day jobs, they won the television talent contest, Opportunity Knocks; their own Thames comedy show, Little and Large Tellyshow (1977) eventually followed. In 1978, the BBC poached them to replace Morecambe and Wise, recently departed for ITV.

Little and Large's routine was built around a simple premise. Scrawny, bow-tied, bespectacled Syd would shuffle onstage to sing; podgy, curly-haired, hyperactive Eddie would emerge from the wings, fire insults at Syd, or interrupt him with comedy impressions. Eddie, like the audience, seemed aware that his jokes and impressions were of variable quality; but, in the early days at least, none of them lasted more than a few seconds. Syd, the unlikeliest of stage performers, would deliver stilted straight lines and grin awkwardly at the camera.

By 1982, Large sensed that traditional humour was threatened by the rise of the 'alternative' comedians: "I was watching The Young Ones on BBC2 the other night... marvellous. But I can't help worrying what this sort of comedy is going to do to the rest of us. Will we all have to be more outrageous to keep up?" In later shows, efforts were made to reinvigorate the formula, with mistaken attempts to prolong Eddie's impressions, move the duo towards sketch comedy, and, trickiest of all, to give Syd funny lines. But changing tastes in comedy saw the series retired in 1991.

Large's health problems finally brought the act to an end. Little, "hungry for some solo success", appeared with his guitar at Christian events, and penned an autobiography, Little Goes a Long Way (1999). Large eventually returned to work as an after dinner speaker.

Vic Pratt

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