Friday 6 September 2013

Birth of a Legend

A red-letter day in the annals of showbiz, for it was on this date in 1932 that Bernie Winters (Weinstein) was born. Bernie joined his brother Mike in what was arguably (out of a crowded field) the unfunniest double act ever to have been described as 'comedy'. Once, when Morecambe and Wise were asked what they would have done if they'd flopped in showbusiness, they replied 'We'd have been Mike and Bernie Winters.' And yet Mike and Bernie were, from the late 50s through to the early 70s, huge. They were even, mystifyingly, rated 'top comics for Britain's teenage audience' in 1957. 
  The brothers began as a musical comedy act, with Bernie interrupting Mike's solos with hilarious impressions of Jimmy Cagney and Charles Laughton, while Mike 'did' Cary Grant. Many years later, Grant dropped in on Mike backstage at the Bristol Hippodrome and remarked 'You know, Mike, that was the worst Cary Grant impression I ever heard.'
 The evolved (if that's the word) Winters double act consisted of Mike looking serious and smoking a pipe while Bernie looked like an imbecile and talked like an imbecile with a speech impediment. Backstage at a Royal Variety Performance, the Queen was introduced to the brothers and asked 'Do you speak French?' She must have thought that their being French was the only possible explanation for their comedy being that bad.
 After the brothers broke up - with much acrimony, apparently - Bernie replaced Mike with a 14-stone St Bernard, Schnorbitz, who was considerably funnier and became a bigger star than either of them. Schnorbitz once fell into Terry Scott's swimming pool and was rescued by Barbara Windsor. You had to be there.


  1. Bit before my time. Would you say they were unfunnier than Cannon and Ball? Even as a child, when I found any old rubbish funny, I knew Cannon and Ball were unfunny.

  2. Tough question Brit, but I think yes the Winters bros just edge it...

  3. The Winters were to comedy what Fry is to knowledge, perfectly in step with seventies fashion, naff.

  4. If the Winters take the palm Nige, where does that leave Little & Large? As I write there is somebody called Keith Lemon(the name fits him like a rubber glove)attempting to raise a laugh all on his own - it is a grim sight.

  5. I know, I know - Little and Large, Cannon and Ball, not to mention Les Dennis and Dustin Gee.... It's a crowded field. At least these deeply unfunny 'comedians' tend to work solo these days, being their own straight man as it were...