Bring me sunshine: The legacy of Eric Morecambe

This week, it will be 25 years since Britain's favourite comedian died of a heart attack – and still he retains his place in the nation's affections. Andrew Johnson asks these leading figures: Why?

Bruce Forsyth Veteran entertainer and host of
Strictly Come Dancing

"Eric's appeal will never die. His humour was always up-to-date, and he was funny on his own – he always had a lot to talk about and was a lot of fun in conversation. Morecambe and Wise's appeal is like that of Only Fools and Horses: as long as people sell television sets it will always be funny. You're either funny or you're not, and Eric was funny."

Angela Rippon Newsreader and guest on the 1977 Christmas show

" The Morecambe & Wise Show established the tradition of getting very serious people to do funny things. It was a way for people who are only seen in one particular sphere to be seen differently. Now we have Children in Need; but I think that really began with Morecambe and Wise, and it's had a terrific result."

Glenda Jackson Politician and actress; guest on the 1971 show

"Eric and Ernie could create a link between themselves and the audience that went right through the glass screen of the television so that the audience genuinely loved them. They were always straight with the audience – they never left them short."

Lee Mack Stand-up comedian

"I'm a massive fan. I'm going on Celebrity Mastermind soon and Eric's going to be my specialist subject. He is the funniest British comic of all time. Eric is the comedian's comedian. I don't know anyone who doesn't like him. It's the timeless thing and there's nothing cynical about him."

John Hegley Poet

"Luton Towndemoted but not down. We have the cup that overfloweth, plenty to still get us delighted: the pre-match pubbub, the half-time pies – even if there isn't a vegetarian option. Plenty still to shout about. What would Mr Morecambe say? Bring me Forest Green Rovers; bring me Ebbsfleet United; don't bring me Grays Athletic; bring me sunshine; get me delighted. Wise up."

Barry Cryer Comedy writer

"People felt they knew Eric. When he died I remember people saying that it was as if they had lost a friend. You can't fake that. Ernie had it as well. Eric's timing was as sharp as a razor blade. He learned every syllable of his script – although he could ad lib as well – and he used to get a bit impatient with Ernie, who was a slower learner."

Meera Syal Comedian

"I liked his innocence. He was like a toddler; there was an energy about him that was completely infectious – and really unfashionable now that we have postmodern comedy of cruelty. There was something kind and silly about Eric and Ernie. He and Ernie had an almost psychic connection, which comes from working for so long together. "

Nicholas Parsons Quiz show host and actor

"I knew Eric very well – he was president of the Lord's Taverners when I was on the council. He was the most delightful, warm, open, funny man I've ever met. He just charmed everybody. He was always giving of himself and turned everything into fun. A lot of comedians are different when they are off stage but Eric was the same whenever he was working or with the public. In some ways, he didn't quite relax. He wanted to see people smile and be happy."

Keith Harris Ventriloquist

"I was lucky enough to work with Eric for about three years. I did three tours with The Morecambe & Wise Show. We called him Mr Morecambe in those days because you respected the top of the bill. I was about 19 and he used to stand at the side and say, 'You need to do a bit more comedy rather than be clever'. I took that on and got better."

Eddie Izzard Comedian

"I always thought Eric was doing stuff that was just out of the box. In stand-up terms, he was just going in different directions – it was beautiful. When you're in a double act you're doing physical situation comedy. Eric was always looking for angles to get in double entendres."

Additional reporting by Victoria Richards and Rosemary Lobley

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