Every time a Morecambe & Wise nostalgia piece hits the airwaves, I twitch. Eric and Ernie offer the merriest of glimpses into the largely derided 1970s, and they remain the most successful double act in the history of British TV comedy. By the time they signed off their Christmas Day specials with “Bring Me Sunshine,” 30m smiley Britons were stretched out contentedly in the nation’s living rooms.
I watched, too, as a teenager in suburban Jewish northwest London—but with the exception of that one dazzling André Previn sketch (look it up), I didn’t get it. Was I alone? Should I have pretended when in company that I thought Morecambe and Wise were the pinnacle of comedic talent? Was my stony response a signal that I didn’t really understand most of my fellow Brits?
My parents were immigrants. My father had fought in the Italian campaign—at Monte Cassino,…
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