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Obituary: Eddie Large

Funnyman half of the prime-time television double act Little and Large whose shows attracted 18m viewers


LAUGHS: Eddie Large in a typically comic TV pose

LAUGHS: Eddie Large in a typically comic TV pose


LAUGHS: Eddie Large in a typically comic TV pose

Eddie Large, the comedian, who died last Thursday aged 78 after developing Covid-19 while in hospital receiving treatment for heart failure, reached the pinnacle of his career in the 1980s as half of the double act Little and Large, whose Saturday evening BBC One television show attracted audiences of up to 18m.

With its mixture of sketches and stand-up banter, The Little and Large Show owed much of its popularity to the force of Large's personality.

A standard routine was for Syd Little, wearing inch-thick spectacles, to set himself up to sing a sensitive song, whereupon Eddie Large, short, stout and feisty, would interrupt with a flow of caustic put-downs and impressions of Deputy Dawg.

With his perpetually grinning, roly-poly features, dense thatch of tightly curled hair, and quickfire delivery, Large was a natural comic with a talent honed in working-men's clubs.

However, as the 1990s dawned and mainstream comedy moved away from pantomimish themes and into more politically contentious areas, the pair began to drift out of fashion, until in 1991 the show was axed.

Eddie Large was born Edward Hugh McGinnis in Glasgow on October 23, 1942 and brought up in the deprived Gorbals area of the city.

When he was 10 the family moved to a terraced house opposite Manchester City's Maine Road stadium in the almost equally deprived Moss Side district of Manchester.

Educated locally, Eddie was a talented footballer and had trials for Manchester City and for Bury as a teenager. Then, after badly damaging an ankle in a bicycling accident, he began to frequent comedy clubs.

He met Syd Little in 1963 in a pub where Little was singing to an electric guitar. "I started heckling him because I thought I could do better," he said. "So he invited me up on stage to prove it."

Large, whose take-offs of pop stars would become a feature of his act, then launched into a Cliff Richard impression that wowed the crowd. He remained on stage to heckle the sad-faced, bespectacled Syd, now from close range. The comedic coup d'etat went so well that they decided to remain a twosome.

Calling themselves Little and Large, and drawing influence from Morecambe and Wise, they began to perform regularly around Manchester, including at Bernard Manning's Embassy Club, where they shared a billing with another as yet unknown act, Cannon and Ball.

After years on the shadowy club circuit Little and Large got their big break in 1971 when they were talent spotted in Liverpool at the Wooky Hollow club and won the television talent show Opportunity Knocks, after scoring 77 on the clapometer.

Soon they were regularly on television, featuring on the Royal Variety Show with Bob Hope, Julie Andrews and Shirley MacLaine. In 1976 they were given their own vehicle, The Little and Large Show, on Thames Television.

The beginning of the end for Little and Large came with the arrival of such shows as The Comic Strip and The Young Ones, which brought about a shift in the balance of power in British comedy, away from the traditional seaside postcard comedy world that Large represented. Undaunted, their careers having drifted away from the small screen, Little and Large found a natural home at clubs and holiday camps, and in pantomime - packing seaside theatres for summer seasons.

Eddie Large, meanwhile, who was 5 ft 4 in tall and at his heaviest weighed 17 stone, developed serious health problems.

In 1991 he blacked out at home and was subsequently fitted with a pacemaker. In 1993 he suffered heart failure, and in 1996 he had a mild stroke. In 2003 he underwent a heart transplant.

He continued to work as an after-dinner speaker, while in later years he turned up in television drama. Typically he would play a version of himself, for example as a game-show host in The Brief with Alan Davies.

Eddie Large is survived by his second wife, Patsy - a former singer and dancer whom he had met when they both appeared in Aladdin in Liverpool in 1977 - by their son, and by two daughters from a previous marriage.

© Telegraph