Bernie Winters – ‘Top comic for teenage audiences’


Nige remembers one half of “the unfunniest double act ever to have been described as ‘comedy'”…

This coming Saturday is truly a red-letter day in the annals of showbiz, for it was on 6 September 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.

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About Author Profile: Nige

Cravat-Wearer of the Year Nige, who, like Mr Kenneth Horne, prefers to remain anonymous, is a founder blogger of The Dabbler and has been a co-blogger on the Bryan Appleyard Thought Experiments blog. He is the sole blogger on Nigeness, and (for now) a wholly owned subsidiary of NigeCorp. His principal aim is to share various of life's pleasures.

10 thoughts on “Bernie Winters – ‘Top comic for teenage audiences’

  1. Worm
    September 4, 2014 at 11:29

    what a shame that I was too young to experience this comedy ‘genius’! What did Schnorbitz do exactly?

    September 4, 2014 at 12:23

    It was your good fortune to be born later than both Nige and myself, Worm. Our family viewed these quarter-wits on a 14″ Ecko B/W, one of only three televisions in our street (I suppose we must have been middle-class). My Nan loved these two ‘clowns’, and as I loved my Nan, I loved them too. Looking back tho’, there was very little to love – Bernie’s catch-phrase “Shuddup, or I’ll smash your face in” is fairly typical of the level of ‘humour’ available, but what passed for entertainment in those days was fairly thin gruel. Brucie, Lionel Blair, DJ’s Pete Murray and David Jacobs, Harry Worth….did somebody just walk over my grave?

  3. Brit
    September 4, 2014 at 13:26

    “Shuddup, or I’ll smash your face in”

    A pretty wit indeed.

    John Halliwell
    September 4, 2014 at 15:17

    My dear old Mam, in those pre-school, monochrome, days of the late forties, often took me to the local fleapit in midweek to teach me how to scratch without drawing blood; she explained that the combination of a deceased flea, a week’s muck under the fingernails, and the debilitating effect on the immune system of 90 minutes of Jewel and Warriss – Masters of Comedy, could be life threatening, and that I must learn how to combat the threat until Mike and Bernie Winters emerged, at which time all would be lost and I should kill myself. Needless to say, my demise occurred in 1959……

    September 5, 2014 at 01:46

    Wasn’t he also calling his brother ‘choochy face’?

    I didn’t myself find any of the 1960s and 1970s comedy acts especially funny, but I know my parents liked Mike and Bernie Winters.

    I think most of us put up with poor fare then. Yes, there was Tommy Cooper, but he was exceptional, and things got interesting in TV comedy only around 1990.


    September 5, 2014 at 02:11

    “Bernie replaced Mike with a 14-stone St Bernard, Schnorbitz, who was considerably funnier and became a bigger star than either of them.”

    The obituaries of Donald O’Connor, some years ago, said that he decided to quit the “Francis, the Talking Mule” series of movies after they had made four and the mule was still getting more fan mail. Yet O’Connor had a good deal of talent.

    September 5, 2014 at 09:53

    Italian cut mohair suits, mid Atlantic accents, ‘gags’, not humour, no worse than the average of the time. Only, there were two of the twerps. The early stages of the media’s learning curve which, today, in it’s mature phase, offers many delights, such as F. Boyle, or is it boil.

    At around the same time, residing in the airwaves, were Jimmy James and Eli, hilarious and surreal, not, of course, for today’s pc brigade.

        September 5, 2014 at 18:49

        John, magical, my father used to sing I’ll take you home again Kathleen for my mother. Ever the pedant she would point out that, in fact, her name was Catherine. Ever the one for a peaceful life he nicknamed her KItty, blowing out of the water any link to a song.

    John Halliwell
    September 5, 2014 at 19:33

    Such a pity about the need for Kitty, Malty. I suppose after the nickname change he could have sung What’s New, Pussycat?

    My dad’s demeanour brightened immediately he learned that Jimmy James was top of the bill on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. How we laughed! He was less excited by this lot:

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