R.I.P The Plank

The Arts


Eric Sykes was really about the last of the great comedians left, and has died at 89. Despite being barely able to hear or see, his comic timing stayed with him to the end. There was something very Dad-like and logical about his frustrations and obsessions, a mild-mannered, exasperated everyman whose low-key high moments included getting his toe stuck in a bath tap and having endless trouble with a plank. Although he’s also terrific in a straight role, in ‘The Others’.

In the Golden Era of British comedy that is acknowledged to have run from Hancock’s Half Hour to Fawlty Towers, Sykes’s gentle humour caught the national mood. I was present at this recording of ‘Dinnerladies’, which featured Thora Hird, Dora Bryan and Eric Sykes as the gathered parents of the beleaguered canteen staff. Sykes turns up around three minutes in, although skipping to that misses out Hird’s delivery of the line; ‘Are you the one with cancer?’

8 comments on “R.I.P The Plank”

  1. Brian says:

    Over the last year or so I’ve noticed an increasing tendency for people to omit the final full stop when using initials such as U.S.A. and perhaps in old git mode always blamed the young. I assumed they were the victims of a failed education system.

    Imagine my horror when I saw Admin’s heading to this blog post. I had to sit down immediately and call to Theodora to bring me a gin & tonic.

  2. Pip Dickens says:

    Eric Sykes was perfectly cast in Amenabar’s classic ghost story ‘The Others’ – the device of using someone who is known as a comic or friendly character in a more malevolent role was just pitch perfect.

  3. Jez Winship says:

    He had another good late career cameo as the bewildered old man roped into the boys’ amateur film in Son of Rambow. I can just hear Hattie Jacques’ lovely voice in my head now saying ‘oh Eric!’

  4. Dan Terrell says:

    The lead recalls the old story about the vegetable canning employee who slipped off an elevated plank crosswalk and died when he landed in a huge boiler vat of sweet peas. You really don’t need me to go further…

  5. snowy says:

    I have a copy of Eric Sykes’ “Mr.H is late” on the table next to me, to watch later. I have never seen it before but it seems only fitting. For those that also feel similarly inclined, it’s also on the usual video streaming sites.

  6. admin says:

    It’s odd that you can always hear the voices of old comedians so clearly…

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    That’s a great observation. So very true. It must have something to do with the fact so many of them came from the stage. There they had to create, well, a stage presence, or recognizable brand, insisting of a delivery and mannerisms – physical and verbal – and project it out into the audience. And then so much of the humor was based on the “character” tha the comedian had created for himself.
    W.C. Fields is a good example. Cast him in anything and you can hear him. “Ah… yes, a rag, a bone, a hank of blonde hair, precious one.” Wiggles gloved fingers.
    You can write situations and lines for his character in you head, and then say them to yourself and it sounds right.

  8. Dan Terrell says:

    Jeez, I’m going to bed early tonight. That’s consisting and not “insisting” in the above. There a disconnect between brain and fingers and eyes today.

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