Born: June 25, 1941;

Died: April 2, 2020

EDDIE Large, who has died at the age of 78 after contracting Covid-19 in hospital while being treated for heart failure, became, with his comedy partner Syd Little, a staple of Saturday-night television viewing in Britain from 1977 onwards.

Even if the critics tended not to like the Little and Large show, viewers took to their unsophisticated but relentlessly cheerful comedy in their millions. The BBC had for a time seen Little and Large as filling the family-entertainment slot hitherto occupied by Morecambe and Wise, the much-loved duo who had, in 1978, jumped ship for ITV.

Eddie Large was born Edward Hugh McGinnis in Glasgow in June 1941. The family originally lived in a tenement in the Oatlands area. When he was 10 they relocated to Manchester; home was a red-brick terraced house opposite Manchester City’s FC Maine Road stadium (he would become a passionate supporter of the team, and remain one all his life). He attended the nearby Claremont Road school and on leaving worked as an electrician and a singer.

In the early Sixties Little (real name Cyril Mead) had a one-man show, singing and playing electric guitar at the Stonemason’s Arms in Wythenshawe. One night during a performance, Large, in the audience, shouted comic asides, implying that he could do better. Little called his bluff and invited him on stage. The impromptu performance proved a winner.

They teamed up, and began appearing in Manchester clubs, among them Bernard Manning’s Embassy Club, where they performed with another double act on the up – Cannon and Ball. They won Opportunity Knocks in 1971but even then it took a few years before they landed their own TV show, on Thames TV, in 1976.

When Morecambe and Wise were poached by ITV, the Corporation responded by bringing Little and Large in the opposite direction in 1977 for their Saturday evening show; that same year, the duo starred in the Royal Variety Show.

Large did the jokes, and Little was the straight man. In fact he said little. It was Large, with his exuberant stage presence, that made the act. Bow-tied, with wide-rimmed glasses, Little would shuffle onstage while the avuncular and curly-haired Large played up to the audience. The jokes were of variable quality but, like Large’s impressions, they were delivered with panache.

Their stand-up routine was fast moving and relied on quick one-liners. Large interrupted Little with cutting and jocular remarks - the format varied little from their days as pub entertainers. The routine included the best traditions of the music hall with Little desperately trying to play the guitar and Large deriding his rather feeble attempts.

It was Large’s hilarious send-ups of the US TV soap, Dallas – he specialised in hugely camp versions of Sue Ellen and JR – that got the audience cheering. He switched from one character to another and the audience joined in the fun.

The pay-off line was invariably when Large told a dejected Little that there was no time for his guitar solo.

The show never pretended to be classy or subtle but it brought pleasure to millions and relied heavily on Large’s ability to connect directly with the audience.

They were once described as “Britain’s least complicated comic duo” and some compared them to Morecambe and Wise. They never quite hit those heights, perhaps lacking the raw comic appeal of Eric and Ernie, but they remained excellent family-friendly entertainment throughout the 1980s.

Indeed, they became national figures with The Little And Large Show, which attracted over 15 million viewers during its 13-year run. In time, however, the rise of a new generation of younger, bolder comedians made the duo’s comedy look slightly old-fashioned. The show was axed in 1991 and a clearly aggrieved Large told a reporter, “The BBC kicked us out because the ratings went down to about eight million.”

The duo thereafter performed in pantomimes and clubs but there was a cooling-off in their friendship. Their friendship was, however, rekindled in 2014.

Large continued to appear in shows, notably making a cameo appearance in The Unforgettable Hughie Green on ITV. He was also a popular after-dinner speaker.

In his autobiography, Larger Than Life, he spoke in forthright terms of his partnership with Little and the glory days of the TV show. He related with much honesty the early difficult days in Glasgow and how he rebuilt his career.

In 2003 he had extensive heart surgery but in 2013 he was rushed to Bristol Royal Infirmary after a fall and doctors discovered he had pancreatic problems and a collapsed lung. He is survived by his second wife, Patsy Ann Scott, and their son. He also had two daughters from a previous marriage.