Sad news today as its announced that ERIC SYKES has died. I met him twice and he was a really nice and friendly humourous fellah in that cloud of cigar smoke ,a gent and as far as i'm concerned a comic genius. He got into writiing after an attempt to get into showbiz after the war along with everybody else filling the theatres and wireless waves in them days and a bit later the telly waves. He fell into writing and soon was writing for some big names of the time like FRANKIE HOWARD. Later he'd meet SPIKE MILLIGAN and they'd set up a writers co-operative and such comic luminories as GALTON AND SIMPSON, JOHNNY SPEIGHT and the DALEK inventor himself ,not DAVROS,but TERRY NATION and a variety of others through the years. SYKES helped MILLIGAN write his GOON SHOWscripts and actually on occassions took over the whole job ,when MILLIGAN was ill,or whatever. Whereas MILLIGANwas the achetype tortured genius throwing typewriters through windows ,or locking himself in offices for days on end, SYKES seems to have been a fairly level headed easy going bloke and wrote for many other peoples shows 'to help out'....He started his own show which became shortened from SYKES ON..... to 'SYKES' and with HATTIE JAQUES as ,originally his wife, but for comic freedom later becomming his sister at 28 SEBASTAPOL TERRACE ,EAST ACTON...ran for years. SKY are showing them again and i started watching them ,albeit unenthusiastically a year or two ago and i'd forgotten how witty and funny they were. SYKES was known for taking a simple premise and twisting it and stretching it to ridiculous lengths and it shows and that is the charm of the 'SYKES' series its not just another sitcom based in somebodies living room, its quite often a surreal universe with a settee in the middle.
The twisting an idea can be shown with two films he made ,the first a silent film about two labourers carrying a wooden plank ,aptly titled'THE PLANK',with his sidekick TOMMY COOPER and just about every British comedy actor there was. The other was 'RHUBARB.' Apparently when actors shoot a scene and are meant to be speaking in the background they ,so it was said , just repeat the word "RHUBARB,RHUBARB!"to each other. In his film all the characters throughout just said THAT word.
Sykes started having hearing problems in the 50's and had to learn to lip read. Funnily enough the big heavy spectacles he always seemed to wear weren't for his eyes and, apparently had clear lenses, but they were some kind of hearing aid. Years later when his eyes started going ,maybe they stuck something in his ears to help him see, i dont know.